Nuclear Bomb Researchers Accidentally Blow Up Building

Don't worry, it wasn't with a nuclear bomb! Last week, researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory accidentally blew up part of a building with "a gun which acts like a Civil War Cannon". Even crazier, in a way.

According to an "Occurrence Report" obtained by the non-profit Project on Government Oversight (POGO), researchers blew up their building with a powerful cannon used to study the types of forces produced by a nuclear explosion:

"On December 16, 2009, Shock and Detonation Physics Group researchers heard a loud unusual noise from Technical Area 15, Building 562 after firing a shot from a large-bore powder gun (LBPG).... the researchers conducted surveillance outside TA-15-562 and observed that two doors had been blown off the facility and concrete shielding blocks on the west and east side of the building were separated from the wall."

Although no one was hurt, a POGO source puts the damage at around $3 million. We're going to say it: That was $3 million of taxpayer funds well-spent. Forget those stem cell thingies. Blow up a couple buildings every month and we'll have high school students flooding science classes like they were Jonas Brothers concerts.

After Noah Shachtman's Danger Room picked up the item, a representative from the National Nuclear Security Administration sent a testy email to the blog claiming that "no building at Los Alamos was destroyed in this incident and any suggestion otherwise is the sort of irresponsible hyperbole we've come to expect from [POGO]." (They're probably a little defensive due to the string of embarrassing safety lapses POGO has exposed at LANL over the years.)

OK, now we are getting into the semantics of destruction: The spokesperson was criticizing a press release POGO sent out titled "Los Alamos National Researchers Accidentally Blow up Building with a Cannon." (Greatest press release ever?) That does not necessarily mean the WHOLE building was blown up, right? The Occurrence Report itself said that "two doors had been blown off the facility"—presumably in an upward direction? Furthermore... Oh, screw it, what the
hell are we even talking about: SCIENTISTS BLEW UP THEIR OWN BUILDING WITH THIS CANNON:

Click to view

(From the Los Alamos National Laboratory Shock and Detonation Physics Group website.)

Here is the entire Occurrence Report. You'll note that a building being blown up with a civil war-type cannon rates as "Significance Category 2". We'd hate to see categories 3-10:

Nuclear Bomb Researchers Accidentally Blow Up Building

(Pick via Chadh's Flickr)