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Another meaning for ‘nuclear waste’

SANTA FE, N.M. — We missed this bit when it first aired last year. But it was replayed on the NPR radio comedy-news show “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me” on the Fourth of July.

The show has a regular feature called “Bluff the Listener” where its panel of comedians/writers/celebrities try to confuse a contestant calling in from home. One member of the panel colorfully describes a real news story and the two other panelists come up with fake, funny ones. The listener tries to choose which of the three stories is real.

Swheat Scoop kitty litter was used in nuclear waste drums packed at Los Alamos.

Swheat Scoop kitty litter was used in nuclear waste drums packed at Los Alamos.

As part of an “all-animal” edition of “Wait, Wait,” a listener from Hickory, N.C., was presented with three stories about cats by “Ask Amy” newspaper advice columnist Amy Dickinson, comedian and screenwriter Adam Felber, and actress and “The View” talker Rosie Perez.

Perez described a New York venture capitalist who’s starting cat salons offering pedicures and kitty nail polish in colors like Purrfect Pink.

Felber’s story was about a cat made famous in a video for saving a toddler from a vicious dog, but which eventually was found to be racist, bristling and spitting at blacks, Latinos and an Asian news anchor.

Both of those accounts were fake. The real story was presented by Dickinson. She began, “Cat lovers know there are times – special times – when the Friskies just go down wrong and your kitty produces explosive nuclear pooh.”

It turns out, she continued, that the nuclear waste cleanup industry “has been using kitty litter for years to stabilize and store toxic sludge because they just can’t pretend to ignore the smell or blame the dog the way we do.”

Of course, Dickinson was providing her version of the infamous radioactive leak at Carlsbad’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, caused after packers at Los Alamos National Laboratory mixed potentially volatile organic kitty litter (made from wheat) into nuclear waste drums instead of the clay-based litter that was called for.

“And like so many well-intentioned ideas, this one blew up – literally – in a mini-mushroom cloud of blame,” reported Dickinson.

“Turns out, while the organic kitty litter might make the technicians feel greener and more virtuous, it does a terrible job of stabilizing nuclear waste.”

And “their frightening solution” for the resulting drum leak, she said, “falls into the ‘it’s so stupid might just work’ category.

“They’re storing the drums now inside of bigger drums. What could possibly go wrong?”

The guy from North Carolina chose wisely and nailed Dickinson’s account as describing an actual news item.