Thursday, 29 October 2009

The case for nuclear power

Welly welly welly welly well, unfortunately the hippies have scuppered the chances of Britain having a sizable amount of our power needs met by nuclear means, this means we are left with one impossible choice. We can forget our pledges to reduce carbon emissions and rely on the unreliable coal and gas resources. But do these costs outweigh the dangers of going nuclear.

Like me, most people reading this will not remember the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown because we were all but glimmers in our then fancy free parents eyes (some possibly potent embryos nestled snugly in the womb). Suffice to say, it was a big disaster and a lot of people died from radiation poisoning and lead their lives with a higher propensity to develop thyroid cancers (ie. now, twenty-three years later). The entire city of Chernobyl had to be abandoned and the neighbouring town of Pripyat had to be evacuated, the fallout from the explosion has lead to a 17mile exclusion zone around the city with experts suggesting up to 200 years before the land would be safe for re-use and 20,000 years for the area housing one of the nuclear reactors. I think this probably outlines the catastrophic dangers of nuclear power, but in the interests of integrity I shall go a step further. Radioactive material was first detected the following day as far away as Sweeden when Sweedish nuclear workers arrived to work and were found to have radioactive particles on their clothes, it was at this point that the outside world became aware that a large scale nuclear disaster had occurred somewhere within the Soviet Union. Although "nuclear rain" was detected as far away as Ireland, some 60% of the nuclear contamination fell on Belarus due to weather conditions, again leaving some areas uninhabitable.

Presently, 15% of our power needs are met by nuclear sources (compared with gas 45% and coal 35%) from ten nuclear stations, however four of these stations will be out of action by 2015 and the rest by approximately 2020 unless they are given brief life extensions.

Gas is the favoured source of energy for the UK, plants are cheap and relatively fast to build however they have one glaring drawback; they are wholly reliable on gas to operate and we are about to run out of that, which makes us entirely reliable on foreign sources. North sea gas production peaked in 1999 so from then on we have been officially running out, therefore garnering more unreliable Russian sources, this reliability on gas leads to unstable energy prices as gas is often linked to the cost of oil. One of the main sources of European gas is Russia and they are notoriously unreliable and often use gas supply as a political tool, they often reduce supply to countries that make unfriendly decisions, by 2015 we could be importing up to three quarters of our gas as the North sea runs dry.

Coal is our next option but the carbon emissions it produces are contrary to our climate change agreements, it also upsets the same groups that disapprove of nuclear power. Failure to meet our carbon reduction targets could unsettle international agreements on carbon reduction most notably with developing countries that we are trying to discourage from fuelling their growth with the same power sources that we fuel ours.

As our power needs grow so must our energy production, by 2016 we will inevitably have gaps between these two points and a gap between these two points can mean only one thing, lights will start to go off. We are currently running so close to capacity that in 2008 when two power stations failed at the same time (one gas and one coal) the country experienced nationwide blackouts, experts say this unequivocly points to a system under stress.

The choices are undeniably simple, gas or nuclear. Both have drawbacks but for me the political issues raised by Russian gas make the choice an easy one, Britain needs a long term, carbon friendly and reliable solution to our energy needs and nuclear meets this criteria, whilst the redevelopment of our nuclear system will be slow it will ensure that the lights stay on once the infrastructure is there.


Sunday, 18 October 2009

The Bvalgari

Robert Anthony Fischer left his house on Tuesday the 20th October 2009 in Knightsbridge, he followed the same route he had undertaken the past 15 years of his life, he passed the same gleaming white houses that used to remind him of his success but now fade into the day to day narrative that facilities his opulent façade. He turned the corner of Chesham Place onto Belgrave square where he was greeted, as he had been for the past 5,568 days that he had made this same journey, by a large Proctor & Gamble billboard, not just any Proctor & Gamble billboard, this was the heart of London's elite, people that bought their car insurance from exclusive clubs did not appreciate billboards emblazoned with nodding dogs, the billboards of Kensington carried items of sophistication, the height of elegance and fashion.

This particular advertisement carried the image of a tall slender man, hair slicked back in the typical yuppie style, a strong defined jaw line, clean shaven, wearing a black handmade suit (most probably Saville Row due to the cut Robert decided), a crisp white shirt with a large open collar. At the bottom of his left arm a Louis Moinet Magistralis rested comfortably, the defining piece of the picture, the exquisite time piece rested effortlessly promising to count the hours and minutes of a lifetime lived to the greatest excess, the watch was less of a time piece than it was symbol of who one was and who one would always be. Robert's attentions now the Bvlgari his wife had bought him, he felt somewhat embarrassed at the piece, it was brash and loud, it was jewellery, had no culture, no esoteric value and therefore had no place on a man of his stature, a piece he deemed barely suitable for the counterfeiters on the southern coast of Spain and the northern shores of Africa.

The weight of the watch now bore down on Robert and he was unable to concentrate on much else, how abrasive he felt, as if he had offended the culture of this elite neighbourhood, if anyone was to ask him the time... Disaster. He often asked the time of strangers, he would examine their response and what their wrists carried, a great feeling of satisfaction would arise when he saw some of the pieces displayed, how could a man truly look himself in the mirror with a digital wristwatch on, the embarrassment of it, the embarrassment of looking like an illiterate child in a world of educated and competent men.

Robert now began to compare himself to the man in the advert, the tall, strong willed gentleman, timeless in his appearance but the height of modernity in his essence, a staple of effortless perfection that Robert could never achieve. "What had the woman been thinking when she picked this out?" Robert muttered under his breath. He contemplated that it in no way fit his appearance, the image of the timepiece against his fair skin burned onto his mind, bore away at his self consciousness, the size of the face almost seemed to be increasing in his head, the dominant Bvlgari logo was relentless in its testament to all who beheld its image and the open chrome mechanics constantly in a state of movement almost gave the piece an unstoppable life force.

Robert thought back to his father and the wristwatch he had worn his whole life. A low key affair. It was a brown Seiko that mechanically displayed the day and time. He specifically remembered the broken wrist strap that had split into three parts, the leather exteriors and the material frame that lay in the middle. More importantly he focussed on the coppering that occurred on the strap hinges because they were not only cheap but mass produced, a generic piece that captured his fathers heart and seemed now to define his person, a person in stark contrast with Robert's own mentality that success is an external issue. He was a man that could afford any watch he wanted, any artefact he fancied but was contented with this singular and ever reliable glass faced Seiko. When all else had failed for him the Seiko was an ever present and enduring reminder of who he was, nay, is, that stood the tides of wealth and even defeat. The weight and implications of the hideous Bvlgari bore into Robert's mind, its increasing presence was beginning to unstitch the character he had created of himself, a blot on the narrative of what he deemed to have been an otherwise spotless existence.

Out of habit Robert reached his left arm out to collect, from the same vendor as he had always done, the early morning edition of the day's Daily Telegraph as he left Wilton Crescent and made his way up Wilton Place. Instinctively he reached forward as he left the thoughts of his father behind him, at the same time he felt the icy brush of his cuff against his left wrist and immediately thought of the horror that lay beneath, his inadequacy would be exposed to all if he were to reach forward. Robert pulled his arm to his side and placed his hand into his left trouser pocket ensuring it was deep enough to entirely cover the the bottom of his arm. Robert had now stopped and was violently and repeatedly depressing the power button of the mobile phone that sat in his trouser pocket, the seeming weightlessness of the phone only made him think deeper about the magnitude of the Bvlgari, the sheer size, weight and power compared to its function. He stepped forward and with his right hand placed a two pound coin at the vendors till then picked up his newspaper, he briskly moved forwards with the paper tucked under his right arm to avoid any possibility that the vendor could offer him any change and thus force him to reveal his unoccupied left arm and possibly behold the Bvlgari on the stark November morning.

Robert looked down at the paper he now held in his right arm, he was unable to concentrate on the images in front of him, the dense black fonts that depicted the atrocities of the world and the failings of his own country contorted across the page, the thin paper became dampened from his fingers as he tried to make sense of what held in his hand. The Bvlgari swarmed with the images of violence and the Prime Minister's contorted face, his heartbeat was intrinsically matched to the mechanical movements occurring on his wrist, all were now in unison, each second his eyes flicked past another line of the text, "workers to cope in the pre-Christmas period but is... crippling services in the weeks leading up to Christmas... One military official told CNN troops had seized control of... The army is up against 10,000 battle-hardened ... backed by "elements linked to the global arrogance" – a euphemism for the United States and Britain... Many members are furious about the “retrospective” limits... 15,000... 85,000... 120,00 members... 60 million items..."

In his sense of frustration and alienation Robert looked down at his wrist to see how much time had passed during this episode, his wrist was bare, only wisps of blonde hair faced him, the time of his age. His watch quietly and eternally ticked on his dresser.