Like it or not, nuclear days are almost certainly here again, thanks to a combination of climate change, dwindling oil and gas reserves, and dawdling renewable energy policies. Last month, France’s EDF Group staged a £12.5bn takeover of British Energy, which operates the UK’s eight nuclear power plants. With the government’s blessing, EDF has pledged to build at least four more, most likely including one at Sizewell and another at Hinkley Point, Somerset.
The political lines on these issues are clearly drawn, but nuclear power stations pose some tricky questions in design terms. For one thing, they must be sited in remote coastal locations, like Sizewell – not just to ensure minimal vaporisation of the population in the event of an accident, but also because stations need access to sea water, the primary coolant in modern designs. As such, most of Britain’s nuclear power stations are smack-bang next to nature reserves or national parks, the last places you’d want to find them. It’s hard to think of any other type of building that is allowed to occupy such sites, let alone without stringent aesthetic guidelines.
Today’s architects face a dilemma. Should they play a role in making these facilities look more palatable, or decline to get involved on ethical grounds? Even for pro-nuclear architects, these are not the kind of projects that look good in the portfolio, especially when you’re pitching to build, say, a nice green low-energy school. But to avoid the issue could be self-defeating – effectively arguing that they should look ugly, because to make them look nice would be a tacit admission of approval. If we do have to have new nuclear power stations in the landscape, shouldn’t we try to make them acceptable aesthetically, even if they’re not politically?
My impulsive reaction is – what sort of ninny has deep problems discussing this?
The politics are the easy bit. How do you choose your clients? Presuming they’re looking for you in the first place. After that, the engineering constraints, setting and use govern what is possible.
Everything else is petty-bourgeois psychologizing at best, neurotic navel-gazing.
The article is readable, considered within context, an exercise that doesn’t exist outside the EU.