Thursday, August 03, 2006

meanwhile, uptown, the dj plays…

Looking at a huge picture of a new submarine in the paper at the weekend I was impressed (words but sadly no picture). Here we are, the pinnacle of technology, nuclear powered (relatively cleanly too, it seems) and capable of circumnavigating the globe without the need to surface. Here is the power of man, engineering at its most astounding. But, just wait a moment, what are we building this for again…?

Let’s see now. Clearly we, a faded empire, a small island nation clawing at past “glories”, have no need of such projects. Who are we guarding against? Who were we ever guarding against? The strange, the unknown, the different… What for? What for? Why are we spending £3,492m on three new submarines, and then more on another four? What for? Surely not just so that we can look in the paper and be impressed by a big fuck-off picture of a steel leviathan, our own kraken capable of fighting giant sea monsters and enemy ships with equal ease? Ah, defence, yes. Defence? Defence? Defence? What are you talking about?

New subs, new missiles to replace trident, new nuclear reactors to fuck up the future even further. Why? What has happened to logic and thought? What is wrong here? It cannot be stated clearly enough: there is no reason here, there is no enemy to fight with these cold war M.A.D. machines. Are you going to shoot ICBMs at a terrorist cell trying to bomb a major city? Perhaps we should look instead at, bear with me here, the root causes of such attacks? Still, at least we’ll carry on looking like a big, grown-up nation, breaking treaties and pacts just like a real player! Yay for us.

Meanwhile, the reactors creep up. Blair pledges his allegiance to the atom. To more dodgy pseudo-private industry, helped at every step by the government and tax breaks. I’m a scientist, I’m not afraid of nuclear power, I’m impressed with the physics of its operation, I’m awed by our power of creation… but I’m not so taken with our flaky sense of responsibility, our lack of plans for any form of proper waste disposal or de-commissioning of old reactors. Hey, let’s leave it for someone in 50 years’ time! Yes, what a good idea, we’re handling the old generation of reactors oh so well ourselves! Short-termism: quick fixes abound. And will the uranium mines run dry now that everyone is enamoured with nuclear again? And do the sums add up? Is nuclear really cleaner than fossil fuels once you take into account the carbon debt incurred by construction, transport, de-commissioning?

And the waste! Of the future, of the present, of money and time and ingenuity and you fucking morons; to spend just a fraction of that money thrown at military and civilian nuclear on renewables. Just imagine, all our energy needs covered by rooftop solar panels and micro wind turbines on every house. But it will never be, where is the interest for business in that plan? Where is the centralised industry with big buildings and order and control? It is gone my friend, gone like the power mad pig-dogs who built it all in the first place… if only.


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