A Walk In the Nuclear Woods
Energy and how to provide it in a way that doesn’t choke our children or maim the whales is the major issue of our day. Sitting in the middle of this debate, like some kind of benign but potentially evil troll, is nuclear power. The industry was once a byword for Stalinist secrecy, both in the Soviet Union and in the western world. This secrecy was blown apart in the east by the Chernobyl disaster and in the west by the catastrophe at Three Mile Island in the United States. Workers at Chernobyl had been told that the disaster in the US was a result of capitalist contempt for “the human factor”, so they probably felt a little bit let down by the Socialist dream when they realised that Soviet care for “the human factor” involved enduring an apocalyptic meltdown before you died of cancer.Unsurprisingly, public and political support for nuclear power cooled a little. But nuclear power is sustainable and its carbon emissions are relatively low, so when governments finally started to take note of climate change, our once maligned friend squirmed its way back on to the agenda. With renewable energy targets to meet (or try and get anywhere near), nuclear has marketed itself as the efficient way forward. “You could have wind power, but it’s unreliable and no one likes the sight or sound of the turbines,” says Mr Nuclear, a hand on your shoulder, a reasonable tone wafting into your ear. “Of course there’s solar power,” it adds, “but when is it ever sunny in Britain. And you’re not gay are you”? Tidal power? “That’s just made-up. It’s like elves, fairies and JT Leroy.”
So now Obama and Brown are behind nuclear power and new stations are to be built in the US and the UK. We don’t know where the waste will go, but maybe nuclear will be our drooling, unpleasant but ultimately effective saviour. With that in mind I headed out to Sizewell, in Suffolk, which is already host to a working nuclear power station and likely to be host to one more, which will be run by French company EDF.
This area of woodland is being cleared in preparation for the new plant. The wood is very old and much beloved by the local population, who are unwilling to see more of it destroyed by a power plant.
Through the trees, like some kind of shining, round white tit, is the top of the power station. A squirrel looked at me as if to say: “Yes, I know my days are numbered. But I have radioactive claws now so I can kill dogs if I get hungry”.
I spent the whole time pretending I was in the Tarkovsky film Stalker. I strode up to this sign, written by The Man, and felt like the guy in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square. Then I started thinking about Tarkovsky, and I hoped that I wouldn’t die prematurely of cancer, like he did.
These bollards come from happier times. The Second World War, to be exact; the idea was that if the Germans landed on the North Sea coast, their tanks would run into these and our chaps would win the day. In your face Jerry!
Here she is. Taking up the prime spot by the beach. This grass is unusually hot by the way.
A new dawn, a new power… This is the kind of photo EDF’s promotional literature should be full of. It’ll really erase those images of radioactive children stumbling around Belarus wondering what the fuck has happened to them.
I respect the rules, so I didn’t go beyond this sign.
This fucking family of hippies don’t respect the rules, so they walked just inside the boundary of the power station, like the beatnik rebels they are. One of the kids had ginger dreadlocks and an orange Spiewak hoodie. Take that, society!
There were families playing on the beach in front of the nuclear site. You don’t see that happening next to coal power stations. Unless it’s coal day and everyone’s playing a nice game of “coal thy wanton neighbour to death”.
Peaceful, grassy, sustainable?
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