by Frank Schnittger
Tue Jun 23rd, 2009 at 04:12:45 PM EST
Kids 'power plant' sparks nuclear alert - The Irish Times - Tue, Jun 23, 2009
A toy nuclear power plant built by two six year-olds sparked a public alert in Germany, only for authorities to discover the would-be security threat was the shell of a computer with a radiation warning sign stuck to it.
Fire services and police cordoned off several streets and told residents to stay indoors in the western town of Oelde after the two boys left their mock power station on the street when they went home for dinner yesterday evening.
"It wasn't a prank, they were just playing," a local police spokeswoman said today.
"The boys tried to go back later to carry on but the fire brigade wouldn't let them through."
The lock-down of the area began when a passer-by saw the metal object with the yellow and black symbol on it, took fright and alerted authorities, the spokeswoman said.
Police sent out warnings on local radio for residents to remain in their homes while a radiation detector was rushed to the scene to investigate the old computer casing and the warning sign, which the boys had printed out from the internet.
After the object had been identified, the boys' parents explained to police the children had gone out to "play nuclear power station" that evening, the spokeswoman said
Perhaps Jerome could finance a project to distribute toy wind turbines to kids.
However this story also illustrates the power of symbols. Presumably everyone knows what the shell of a computer looks like. It is a familiar object which shouldn't cause much excitement. But put a radiation symbol on it and suddenly the police alert local radio stations without even taking a good look at it first.
But of course the two six year olds were very bold. They left their toy on the street whilst they went off to dinner. Either their parents didn't teach them to tidy up after them, or they had immense faith that no one would steal their toy. Either way they disturbed Germany's famous Ruhe und Ordnung. No dinner next time!