A Critical Problem | Cheryl Rofer
The metal rods in the top photo are plutonium. Rods can roll. These rods could roll closer to each other and perhaps produce the kind of runaway neutron reaction that killed Slotin and Daghlian. Putting a hand in to separate them could make the reaction worse because the water in a human body reflects the neutrons.
I had formal safety training, informal discussions with more experienced people, and made it a point to internalize rules of thumb. Keep pieces of plutonium separate. Abide by glovebox limitations; every glovebox has a sign with the limits of plutonium allowed in it. For solutions, keep them dilute and in flat containers. Flat/thin is safer; the closer a shape is to spherical, the less material is needed to go critical. IIRC, there were racks to put rods in if you were working with that shape of metal, so that they didn’t accidentally roll together.
That photo is at the center of two articles from the Center for Public Integrity (NMPolitics.net, Washington Post). They are based on an investigation reported here. According to those articles, a technician ignored glovebox limits and arranged the plutonium to take that photo for management.
(incident de 2011 désormais tout va bien)