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The Kernel


What Would A Nuclear-Heated Spa Look Like?

An example of how DALL·E adds a new layer of reality.

I recently made the case that developers should put community spaces at the heart of future nuclear power projects. I believe this could help break down some of the mystery and stigma surrounding nuclear power.

I talked about how, in Iceland, people pay good money to bathe in a geothermal waste pool at the famous Blue Lagoon spa. The use of the pools for bathing was actually fiercely resisted by plant management at first (it was said to be “dangerous” and “toxic”), but it has done more to normalise geothermal power in Iceland than any PR campaign could ever have achieved.

Blue Lagoon is really just a bunch of geothermal waste ponds (Photo by Doruk Yemenici on Unsplash).

It is entirely possible to build a spa like Blue Lagoon but fed with heated water from a nuclear plant that would otherwise be thrown away (into the sea or a river, usually). No one has ever done it (or even tried, so far as I know), so we don’t know what that would look like.

Now I’ve got access to the DALL·E artificial intelligence image tool, we can bring that idea closer to reality and create some nuclear spa imagery. As Blue Lagoon is pretty cool, I decided to use it as inspiration for our nuclear spa.

By feeding in a base image of Blue Lagoon, deleting a section and then asking DALL·E to fill in the space using a prompt I provide, we can get the images we are looking for.

The DALL-E prompt guide explains how to edit an image in DALL-E.

So, I fed in a photo of Blue Lagoon, deleted part of the background and gave the AI this prompt:

“Steaming sci-fi nuclear power cuboid glass structures feeding hot water into a bright blue lake with people bathing in it”

This was the result:

DALL·E made us a nuclear spa. Original image by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

Those are some pretty cool sci-fi structures. Interestingly, DALL·E took the columns of steam and turned them into cooling towers/chimneys. Clever stuff.

There is a function in DALL·E called “variations” where the neural network looks for relationships within an image and generates its own ideas. Sounds weird, I know, but it does come up with some surprisingly original imagery.

Let’s use DALL·E to generate some variations on our nuclear spa:

I love that curvy, white building at the back.
If you squint, this is a steam train!
Cool, but the red chimney doesn’t look so friendly.

Notice that the variations are less like a photo and more like art. If we then do a variation of a variation, we get something different again; we’re letting the AI pick out themes and run with them, using them to inform brush style, colouring and composition.

Feeding your generated image back into the algorithm leads to interesting results.

DALL·E’s neural network has brightened the blue of the lake, softened the lighting and brought in some warm colours. You can keep going like this, generating variations of variations, with the products getting more abstract each time. Groovy.

First of many

The above is just an example of the kind of creativity DALL·E unleashes; it’s almost like adding a new layer of reality, or at least of possibility. I’ve lots more ideas in the works, so follow me on Instagram as I continue nuclear dreaming in the coming weeks and months.



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David de Caires Watson

David de Caires Watson

Nuclear futurist, chartered physicist, safety engineer, amateur birder and pedal power enthusiast. Writer for The Kernel mag. Founder of Atomic Trends.