Today in the news: the government is in favour of new, privately-built nuclear power plants. It’s not really news, because the media’s been trailing it for a few months; but today’s the day that the government decided to admit it.
What puzzled me, though: the Prime Minister was on the news, speaking about nuclear power. And he said: we need to reduce Britain’s dependence on foreign fuel.
That’s all well and good – but in what alternative reality does nuclear power do this? The Sellafield plant does recycle nuclear waste and produce nuclear fuel – but the recycled fuel it produces isn’t, so far as I can tell, suitable for any British power plants. Moreover, you can’t recycle fuel like that more than once or twice. We don’t have any uranium mines in Britain, as British readers have probably noticed. Unless the government’s invitation is for companies to build fast-breeder reactors,* nuclear power is only going to make our foreign dependence worse. So why did the prime minister claim the opposite?
* like the now-closed experimental reactor at Dounreay, on the north coast.
The Parents have always been fans of gadgetry. Moreover, whenever they get a new gadget, they become strangely devoted to it. I can still remember, when I was small, and The Parents bought a dehumidifier. My mother set it up in the middle of the kitchen with its back off, sat down in front of it on the uncomfortable kitchen stool, and watched it operate: watched the ice slowly and imperceptibly build up on its freezing tubes, before melting off again into the collection bucket.
My dad’s always been worst, if anything, so I knew what would happen as soon as his latest toy was fitted. A solar water heating system, complete with dials and gauges and sensors and settings to tweak. As soon as someone gets in the shower, Dad is in the airing cupboard watching all the sensors slowly change, checking that the solar pump starts up at the right point,* watching the water tank temperature, the solar collector temperature, the glycol flow rate, the system pressure, monitoring all the dials he possibly can. And, as soon as you get out of the shower: “Was it hot enough? The tank temperature was down to fifteen degrees – the pump activity reached 90% because the collector was still up around thirty”.
He loves it; he loves tracking all the various numbers. But, as a wise person once said: just because something is measurable, or tweakable, doesn’t mean it’s worth measuring or tweaking.** Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if, the next time I see him, he’s started drawing graphs.
* Yes, we have an energy-efficient environmentally friendly solar water-heating system now: so why does it need an electric pump, powered by our local gas-fired power station no doubt, to run it?
** I have no idea who first said that, but I’m sure I first read it in Essential System Administration.