David Watson

Nuclear Power

I started atomic_trends to explore what nuclear power will do for humanity in the coming decades. Here’s how it’s gone so far.

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A few months back, I wrote that the old dreams about nuclear power are dead, and it is time to make some new ones. I expanded on this idea in a YouTube video called .

Not happy with that, I started working on a Pinterest board, searching for positive, forward-looking imagery to represent nuclear power in the 21st century. I collected images around a range of themes such as , , , , and

“But I don’t see how your board is about nuclear,” people said.

“That’s the problem,” I replied. …


The nuclear industry is haunted by symbols of fear. Is it time to dream up some new ones?

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Symbols save time

Civilisation is a complex thing. There are 8 billion people out there, and almost everything we do involves at least one other person. We work in teams, we negotiate with clients, we move in crowds.

Imagine if every time you wanted to collaborate with someone, you had to explain what you wanted them to do from first principles. Take driving: what if every time you came to a T-junction, someone had to be there to tell you to stop?

That would be ridiculous. Instead, we use symbols.


Nuclear Startups

Kärnfull plans to do for nuclear power what Spotify did for music.

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Marty Neumeier is a legend in Silicon Valley. He cut his teeth helping companies like Apple, Netscape, HP, Adobe, and Google build their brands, and now runs his own design firm. The best thing about him is he shares his secrets and encouragesyou to steal his ideas.

To help visualise how controversial ideas are adopted, Neumeier talks about the


A New Zealand pop group need your help to crowdfund pro-nuclear remake of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.

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Just when you thought you had seen everything, here’s four semi-naked New Zealanders on a beach singing the benefits of nuclear power to the tune of reality TV’s tearjerker staple, .

The song’s authors describe themselves as “New Zealand’s most iconic topical pop group”, and have put out other YouTube videos in recent months, including one mocking ticket sales company Viagogo. You might say they’re the 2020 inheritors to the comic geniuses that were Bret and Jemaine in

is four minutes of surrealist farce, with the band members often wearing nothing but a leaf or a carefully-placed guitar. Despite the light-hearted tone, the song does a good job of portraying how society’s opposition to nuclear power is holding us back in the fight against climate change. …


The public is always asking of nuclear, ‘what if it all goes wrong?’ Data from Chernobyl and Fukushima have now provided the answer.

This past 11th of March 2020 was the 9th anniversary of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. Fears of radiation from the triple meltdown led to the long-term relocation of over 100,000 people. In a landmark study completed in late 2017, a group of UK scientists set out to find the truth about the risk of nuclear. They showed that not only was the scale of this relocation far too large, but that the evacuation itself led to thousands of unnecessary deaths from mental and physical exhaustion.

Despite initial interest from UK and US authorities, little has changed in the way governments plan to deal with future nuclear accidents. In this deep-dive interview with the group’s lead author, I look at why, almost a decade on, governments, regulators and the nuclear industry are so resistant to change, and whether this means we might be sleepwalking into another nuclear public health disaster. …


Second of two French nuclear reactors to prematurely close following pressure from the Greens.

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This 30th June 2020, Fessenheim 2 will finally fall quiet. Connected to the grid in 1977, by the end of 2019 Unit 2 alone had supplied 217,035 GWh of clean energy. Assuming the reactor prevented France adopting coal power like its neighbour Germany, Fessenheim 2 saved the same amount of carbon as taking almost 38 million cars off the road for the year.

If this feels like , it’s because Unit 1 faced the same fate only a few months ago. The combined loss of Unit 1 and 2 is staggering. …


Why your wood stove might be giving you more than just a warm, fuzzy feeling.

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I love a good fire. Who doesn’t?

The dancing flames, the crackling wood, the heady woodsmoke. Fireside stories with old friends. Toasted marshmallows (usually charred to a crisp). Curling up with a book. Simpler times.


As renewables projects grow ever bigger in scale, the desire for clean energy is rubbing up against the needs of wildlife.

There’s a lot of talk of a “Green Revolution” for the post COVID-19 world. What does this mean?

With the UK economy likely entering an historic recession, there’s a search for ideas to kickstart the country. A green recovery is one driven by investments in clean energy to tackle carbon emissions, lower air pollution and restore nature. A noble goal.

So then, it’s “all systems go”, solar panels in every field, a wind turbine on every hill, right?

It’s what renewables advocates have been telling us we should do for years. But this week something weird happened. …


It’s normal to feel guilty about climate change. The important thing is to get things right from now on.

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Extinction Rebellion calling for truth. Will we find it? (Photo by Joël de Vriend on Unsplash).

We’re right to feel guilty about climate change. For years we had the evidence it was taking place but did nothing. When you look at the scale of what we need to do to reduce our carbon emissions, we’re effectively doing nothing. We are not moving anywhere near fast enough to prevent dangerous levels of warming.


How our fear of the misunderstood is putting us in danger.

There are few things in life with a worse public image than nuclear power. It’s a close call, but I think I might have found one.

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Some say it was the success of Steven Spielberg’s classic movie “Jaws” that created today’s widespread fear of sharks. Others, that a handful of serial attacks in the early 20th century are to blame. Wherever it came from, around the world millions of people avoid surfing or swimming in the sea because they fear they’ll be attacked by a shark.

The chance of even the most regular swimmer or surfer being attacked by a shark is extremely low. There are millions of people around the world using the sea for work and leisure, but in 2017 there were only 88 unprovoked attacks by sharks on humans, and five fatalities.

About

David Watson

Chartered Physicist, nature-lover, believer in pedal power. Ecopragmatist. Editor@Generation Atomic. All views strictly my own.

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