Climb a Mountain of Nuclear Waste in Missouri
Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail | Weldon Spring, Missouri
The largest explosives factory in America once stood on land just south of Weldon Spring, Missouri. Ten years later, the same property was occupied by a plant that refined uranium for Cold War nuclear bombs. The site was abandoned in the late 1960s. Twenty years later, when the EPA showed up, what they found was a big, filthy mess.
That mess included 1.48 million cubic yards of PCBs, mercury, asbestos, TNT, radioactive uranium and radium, and contaminated sludge and rubble. Rather than Those tasked with cleaning up that mess came up a novel solution: they would entomb it right where it was, inside a man-made mini-mountain.
Today, you can climb it as a tourist attraction.
The Weldon Spring Site Remedial Action Project Disposal Cell -- its official name -- covers 54 acres. From the air, it looks like a huge, white, trapezoidal spaceship that has landed on the surrounding green grasslands. A single stairway and path leads to its summit, the highest accessible point in St. Charles County.
An adjacent visitor center offers a closer look at the cell and its contents. A cross-section of the hill, showing its thick protective layers of clay, liners, sand, gravel, and rock "rip-rap," extends from floor to ceiling. Displays help visitors become intimately familiar with the membranous "geosynthetic" lining that envelopes the waste in the cell like a giant trash bag. You're never clearly shown exactly what it is that's entombed beneath your feet, but displays of vintage Geiger counters and gas masks suggest that it has never been considered safe.
If you can’t visit soon, don’t worry, the cell is designed to remain exactly the way it is for a thousand years.


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