Apocoalypse now: Subterranean students flee from radiation threat
The following article is parody. It is not intended to be taken seriously.
Kelsey Gobroski / Fun Star Reporter
March 29, 2011
Stale air filtered in through vents and stirred the dust over dozens of greasy heads. A philosophy student began weeping. Students hunkered down in the utility tunnels for the fifth day in a row Saturday, March 26, in response to coal radiation fears, despite admonishment by administrators, Facilities Services, and displaced voles.
“Jeremy started going all ‘Survivorman’ on us by day two, eating his shoes and cursing the frigid temperatures down here,” said Madison Young, computer sciences senior, of her fellow survivor, Jeremy Smith, a journalism senior. “I don’t know how much longer we’ll last without Subway.”
The Atkinson Building houses a 47-year-old coal power plant with a 50-year life expectancy. Coal power stations can generate more radioactivity than nuclear power plants, according to the magazine Scientific American. Students responded to rumors of imminent “apocoalypse” by organizing a March 21 pilgrimage. The students manipulated Facility Services’ underground maze into a fallout shelter. Young, the refugees’ spokeswoman, said the students plan to stay underground until UAF receives 100 percent of its power and heat from solar energy.
“I mean, coal emits 100 times more radioactivity than a nuclear plant producing the same amount of energy,” said Ashleigh David, an English sophomore, as she clutched a bowl fashioned from ventilation tubing.
David raised the bowl to a flickering EXIT sign, capturing water droplets. She blew on the soup and sipped. “If things can go south fast with that nuclear stuff, where does that leave coal?”
Hunger pangs struck the crowd when the Lola Tilly Commons closed Monday evening, the “first night in this awful place,” David said. Everyone planned to spend the night under the pool at the SRC. Fellow students struck the pipes beneath the SRC with discarded wrenches, hoping the metal straws would deliver milk and honey.
Chlorine sprayed into the tunnels, forcing students to higher ground and alerting campus authorities of the underground movement.
“We don’t know where the vandals lurk on West Ridge, but this fiasco risks student safety,” said Tom O’Brien, a UAFPD officer.
Campus police fear the students may be holding ducks from the Biological Research and Diagnostics Facility hostage. Electrical engineering students rewired some of the student traps to envelope trespassing officers with metal grating.
Chancellor Brian Rogers offered mixed praise for the students.
“I commend the students for their proactive attitude,” Rogers said. “The university recognizes the need for clean energy. We plan to have algae-powered dormitories by 2020. But someone broke into my house’s utiliduct and stole my Perry Mason DVDs. This has to stop,” he said with a drooping mustache.
By the third day, students began to adjust. Many compared the foraging experience to searching for that last pack of instant coffee before doing a store run. Once the engineering students MacGyver up some radiation detectors, they’ll accept food donations from aid groups. Young stepped on a discarded CAUTION – ASBESTOS sign and surveyed the crowd, the new crow’s-feet around her eyes tightening into a smile. “We’re trying to stay connected,” she said. “This is the first fallout shelter with its own hashtag.”
Aboveground, UAF students continue to monitor other known radioactive threats. Bananas remain a disproportional source of radiation, according to student organization Stop Living Off Bananas (SLOB).
“Don’t forget about bananas because of this hullabaloo,” said Antonio Torres, SLOB president. “Eating three bananas gives you a year’s worth of coal radiation. Bananas are the real threat to America.”
Some students blame the Sun Star’s “sensationalized” reporting of the ailing coal plant, Vitya Romanovsky said. Romanovsky, a cosmetology student, feared coal’s health consequences after reading a Sun Star article describing the plant’s disturbing “rocket ship” noises, he said.
“We never should have used that nuclear comparison chart as last week’s xkcd,” said Andrew Sheeler, the Sun Star Editor-in-Chief. “We knew something like this would happen.”
Local authorities deny any evidence that radiation levels are above normal, but they are taking precautionary steps. The Environmental Protection Agency’s spokesperson Gwen Lake alluded to changing times in the wake of a possible coal plant meltdown:
“But, I mean, and this is totally unrelated, we’re keeping an eye out for Santa, if you see him. You just can’t throw coal around like that anymore, especially when kids are involved.”