Atomic Power

Atomic Power

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In our current reality, you may have a Masters in Project Management and an interest in building new plants that produce energy or you may have a Masters in Public Administration and a desire to regulate energy production; either way, on any given day, prepare to be either Saviour or Pariah.

What a difference sixty odd years can make.  When we think of nuclear energy or atomic power or however you want to refer to it, we think of a political football.  It's either a dangerous, failed technology that has an unjustified survival; or it's an imperfect but invaluable energy resource that has been unjustly ignored and vilified. 

Every attempt build a new plant is a bugle call for renewed controversy.  If it's in the West, it's a battle between an energy-hungry community and the environmentalists.  If it's in certain unsavoury countries, it attracts the jaundiced eye of the great powers suspicious of clandestine nuclear weapons programmes.  If it's in my back garden, then there's clearly been a screw up somewhere.

 
Note the itty bitty reactor that the middle guy is working.Of course, it wasn't always like that.  Before the Second World War, atomic power was just a theoryand one that even the greatest experts in the world knew almost nothing about.  What was known is that Albert Einstein's famous equation of E=MC˛ demonstrated that if you could convert matter into energy, there would be a helluva lot of it.  You could make an ocean liner circle the world on a glass of water.  You could move a mountain with a piece of coal the size of a cricket ball.  You could run an electric toothbrush until the end of time on a ton of pasta, but that would be silly. 

With that sort of potential, it's no wonder that atomic power became the thing of dreams even though the best minds that the Nobel Committee could fork out prizes to weren't even sure that splitting the atom was any more possible than squaring the circle.

Sign of the timesMind you, when atomic energy did show up, it was something of a mixed bag.   It was revealed to the general public with a literal bang.  It was the weapon that won the war.  It was a tremendous power that would turn deserts into gardens and provide man with limitless wealth and leisure.  Or it was a a threat to the very existence of life on Earth that would lead to nuclear meltdowns and phenomenally bad Jane Fonda movies.  In the depths of the Cold War, the optimistic and pessimistic views mingled like the lion lying down with the lamb, but, to paraphrase Woody Allen, the lamb didn't get much sleep.

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