Squirrels are so cute. What could they possibly have to do with nuclear meltdowns?

I’m not sure exactly why the big gray squirrels have been mostly replaced in our woods by smaller red squirrels. Both normally live in this area, but generally, the bigger Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is the dominant species. They are bigger and pushier. The number of red squirrels has been gradually decreasing wherever both species inhabit the same area. Except here, where the population balance has shifted.

According to National Grid, the most damage done to our electrical wiring, other than through the typical neglect by the electric company itself, is squirrels who have a passion for gnawing on wires. They aren’t gnawing wires for nutritional purposes so maybe the big wires are something like chewing gum for squirrels.

The problem is our beautiful Blackstone River has become a major source for nuclear generators. All those dams and the sharp drop and twisting of the river make it perfect for generators, so when the mills moved south, nukes moved in. Nuclear generators are less poisonous and lethally polluting than were the mills and factories, but the generators are aging.

The time is coming — in some cases has already passed — when these old generators will have to be (or should already have been) dismantled. We have to wonder what will be done with the leftover nuclear rods when the generators are taken down and replaced or whatever. Who knows what’s being planned? No one tells us anything.

Sometimes, I think if we were to stand outside with hands over our heads, we might light up. Big human lightbulbs. There’s a lot of nuclear energy roaming about this bucolic little valley.

Despite all these years of building nuclear generators, no one has figured out what to do with nuclear waste products. They were planning to bury them under the desert in Nevada, but for some obscure reason, Nevadans didn’t want to become the repository of who knows how much nuclear material. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Currently, this stuff gets loaded on trucks and moved from truck A to truck B and ever onward. I know this because I wrote the manual for a software product called “Cradle to Grave” that tracks the progress — or lack thereof — of nuclear rods. That’s how I learned they are eternally in transit with no end in sight. One day we will have a huge traffic jam comprised of trucks full of old nuclear stuff. What happens if a couple of these trucks collide?

Forget squirrels. Think meltdown.

Didn’t we have enough to worry about without adding squirrels and a nuclear meltdown?

Squirrels who get too enthusiastic about gnawing wires get nuked. Is that why we are seeing Sciurus vulgaris (aka, red squirrel) rather than the Eastern Grays? Are the big gray guys too busy chewing nuclear power lines? Do they want to go out in a blaze of glory?

Meanwhile, we have a crop of baby squirrels discovering our seeds. Our deck is the very first place outside the nest they have ever eaten, so I think they will keep coming back forever. They are our children. Our furry babies.

Categories: Animals, Blackstone River, Blackstone Valley, Gallery, Photography, Squirrel, Technology, Wildlife

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23 replies

  1. You have some gorgeous squirrel photos but they all appear to be grey which surprises me when you say that where you are the reds are dominant? Here in the UK the grey squirrels have completely wiped out the red in much of the country, there are just small pockets of them in the north and I have only ever seen a couple and never yet managed a photo. Meanwhile our local parks are full of the greys which some people don’t like (because they have taken over from our native reds) but I still find cute – and much easier to photograph!

    The issue of nuclear waste is a toughie. It’s one of the greenest forms of energy in some ways but we’re storing up problems for the future if we can’t find a safe way to deal with the waste. And when things go wrong (think Fukushima) they go VERY wrong.


  2. ooh your red are like our grey.


    • The grey ones don’t have that red face or that black moustache and the red ones also have a double curled tail. But in fact, all squirrels do resemble each other. Even the flying squirrels, when their gliders are closed just look like smaller versions of regular squirrels, though they don’t have quite such a puffy tail.


  3. MARILYN, you got it wrong, the gray squirrels went on a diet, since your feeding was so good, then the red ones saw fat bellies on their gray friends, we could do with some of that,and they go to the famous restaurant,and so on, as for nukes, that’s awkward, same as those refugees,nobody seems to care too much about or the Palestinians living in east Jerusalem,being evicted from their homes, it’s the world, amen


    • Oh, I care. I can’t do anything much about it. I care about a lot of things that I can’t fix. I always want to fix things. Unfortunately, I have no power to fix anything and that is a pity. I think many “regular” people have great ideas. What we don’t have is either money or power.

      Liked by 1 person

      • words can be very powerful Marilyn, as we put the words down, other ideas come to hand, and then they leak out in conversation, it’s a case of being thoughtful towards the needs of oppressed, amen, God does exist, this you can be sure of…


  4. I’m not sure about the linkage of the nuclear generators to the change in squirrel distribution but the question of nuclear looms large and brooding over us. Half-life in more ways than one.


    • I know. It’s one of those issues that it is much better to NOT think about, especially if you live in an area heavily laced with nuclear generators. We can’t even run away. There’s nowhere to go.

      I keep wondering why the switch from gray to red squirrels. We see the gray ones once in a while, but the red ones far more often. This is exactly opposite to the way it is going everywhere else. I’m sure there is a reason, but I don’t know what it is. But they really DO chew on the wires. I wish they wouldn’t do that. It is unhealthy.


      • I’m sure they have other good material to gnaw to keep their ever-growing teeth in check so this habit of chewing on wires is baffling.

        Do they cut right through the wires? Are there a lot of frying squirrels hanging around?


  5. so full of joy and full of sorrow. I couldn’t live with nuclear power being ‘fabricated’ next to us – and the miracle of having more red squirrels over the grey population is so great that I don’t want to think about the ‘bad’ stuff…. Your deck seems to be THE place for the small furry, feathered, two and four-footed guests!


    • They were going to build another one a few years ago but THIS time all the towns in the Valley got together and said NO WAY. Put it somewhere else. We have too many nukes already.

      The problem is the river, you know? It’s got a lot of long drops and a lot of already-built dams for generating power, so it’s perfect for nuclear generators. Perfect for almost any kind of factory or mill that wants to generate power from water. AND all the dams are controlled to allow more or less water to come through them. Never think that the 1800s weren’t sophisticated. They didn’t have electronics, but they were much better at building dams, boilers, factories, and mills than we are today. Those old mills are absolutely beautiful. Not just big square dark buildings. They were designed with mahogany carvings in the walls and plenty of big windows for lots of air. WAY nicer than modern factories which are mainly prefab and ugly from the get-go.

      The problem weren’t the buildings but pollution. The poison from tanning hides and dying fabrics was every bit as lethal as any poison we use today, maybe worse — and it lives on in the dirt on which the dams are built. Which is why they can’t remove the dams because it would release all that hazardous, polluted soil and all the work they’ve done to clean up the river would be instantly undone. Since this is also a watershed and provides drinking water to much of Massachusetts and parts of northern Connecticut, they can’t remove those dams. Too dangerous.

      As for the nukes, I have mixed feelings about them. I don’t like them, but I also understand that of the many possible scenarios for producing large amounts of energy, they are the least polluting. Except for the problem of their lifespan and what to do with the old nuclear rods.

      A nuclear generator, presuming it was properly built in the first place, has about a 25-year life, give or take five years. After that, it has to come down and be rebuilt, but no one has any idea what to do with the old, used-up rods. They stay “hot” for thousands of years and we have NOWHERE to put them. NO ONE has anywhere to put them. Everywhere in the world, they’ve built nukes and they have the SAME problem. Switzerland is almost entirely electrified by nukes, for example, as is Russia and most of Asia.

      I think they thought they could just shoot the stuff into space, but that got nixed (though who know who is really doing what and where). In the meantime, all these old and creaky generators are still standing because they really don’t know what to do with the rods. They will need THOUSANDS of years of storage, not just human generations.

      Who knows if there will even BE people around for all that time. It’s an enormous problem and everywhere on earth from Japan to Italy. Name the place and there are hidden nuclear generators, many of them getting old and dangerous AND sitting on earthquake faults in or right inline to be wiped out by tsunamis.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are right and I totally agree with your reasoning. As for poluted ‘everything’ from the leather tanning industry I have a scary story to tell: The beautiful and immensely talented daughter of friends of us got her dad to set up her own ‘studio’ in the garden of her family’s home. She makes gorgeous leather bags, but also saws lovely pouches and evening bags with leather bits. She got so ill that still now, after quite a long time (we’re speaking of years….) her lungs only function at a very low percentage, her lungs are ‘wasted’, her body destroyed – all for breathing in and working with those tanned and died leathers, the storage in her ‘shed studio’ and certainly also a lack of proper airing. I complained every single time I visited her about terrible headaches, dizziness and I blamed it on the ‘raw materials’ – NOW they realise that it IS and WAS the ‘poison’ in the hides that made the young woman so ill. The family nearly died with her over the tragedy of it all but still; they didn’t realise that they had to make great changes to the set-up of said ‘studio’…. Her mother, a dear friend of mine, is repeatedly suffering from cancer too and I’m quite convinced that the ’emissions’ of their daughter’s work place ‘helped’ the development of said cancer cells. It’s a story of great sadness and I feel terribly sorry for the whole family. Another daughter went to live elsewhere with her partner, for not to get ill too.


        • It’s also the treatment that preserves and softens the leather. It’s absolutely hazardous. It’s probably worse used in a closed space, but it’s lethal regardless. It’s in the soil in all those dams on our river and the ground is so horribly polluted, they are afraid to go near it. As long as it’s supported and contained by the rocks in the dams, it isn’t killing anyone, but they will never be able to remove the dams because it would release all that hazardous pollution. Just imagine what it was like when the pollution from all those tanning factories were just released into the river — which was and is a major part of our water source. People died young.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I feel especially terrible because I’m very sensitive to noise, smells, and IMMEDIATELY upon my first visit of said daughter I said YOU MUST ADD WINDOWS, A STRONG AC AND AIR THE PLACE FREQUENTLY as I got a horrible headache, and a violent reaction (asthma, cough) within seconds. They claimed that at this time they couldn’t afford to do more….


            • That’s a really bad reason. Even if they just knocked holes in the walls to let air in it would have been better. Also, if you are going to work on something like leather, she certainly should have checked on the lethality of the material with which she was working. That is so sad and so foolish.

              Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I did some research on this when they were trying to build a new generator and there was an outcry. That was when I realized what all those barbed wire fences near the rivers were about and all the warning signs to keep out. They hide them in the woods so you can’t see them, but they are there. A lot of them, well hidden and getting old.

      It’s a global issue and I don’t think there IS a solution. I think it’s on our international shelf of “let’s not think about it, maybe it’ll go away by itself.”

      Liked by 1 person

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