"Nothing like this will be built again"
January 24, 2003 7:17 PM   Subscribe

"Nothing like this will be built again" is the summary, by sf author Charles Stross, of his tour of the Torness nuclear power station in East Scotland.
His enthusiastic descriptions of the extreme coolness of the technology, the combination of near Victorian style brass plumbing and advanced nuclear engineering, go some way to demystify and humanise what I always regarded as one of the more terrifying pieces of architecture I had ever seen when I lived in the area.
posted by thatwhichfalls (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
just to be on the record, sure something like this will be built again. and it WILL BE BIGGER
posted by Peter H at 7:25 PM on January 24, 2003


Peter H

You're right of course, although I think that Stross was referring more to the particular design of this reactor (the AGR - efficient, cool, horribly complex) rather than nukes in general. Once the fossil fuels run out nuclear power will pretty much be the only game in town unless some serious investment is made in renewables in the (fairly short) meantime.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:33 PM on January 24, 2003


brobdingnagian ?

Very interesting article,
I'm actually feeling pretty safe after reading about all the safety measures they have...
Somebodys going to have to do an fpp on the rail bridge after this...
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:38 PM on January 24, 2003


It should be mentioned that Charles Stross is one of the best, if not the best, science fiction authors alive. If you don't believe me, go read "A Colder War", which is one of his best stories.
posted by vraxoin at 7:40 PM on January 24, 2003


beat this, sassenachs!
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:50 PM on January 24, 2003


sgt.serenity

you forgot to link to this excellent book as well - best thing Iain Banks ever wrote I think.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:58 PM on January 24, 2003


I wish I could be a nuclear tourist...
posted by tss at 8:13 PM on January 24, 2003


what cool links, tss and thatwhichfalls. Today's a good day on the 'Filter.
posted by Vidiot at 8:28 PM on January 24, 2003


This post makes an important point! Hopefully, the days of one-of-a-kind, custom-built nuclear power plants, where you're constantly re-inventing systems in response to new technologies, are over. Instead, the plan is to start building smaller, simpler nuclear plants, and to incorporate new technologies into multiple plants built on the same standardized designs.
posted by sheauga at 12:51 PM on January 25, 2003


"A Colder War" has long been one of my all-time favorite sf stories — it's hard to beat for sheer creepy fatalism. I never realized Charles Stross was the author, and I never realized he had a web site. Very cool.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:52 PM on January 25, 2003 [1 favorite]


Seeing as one of the major limiting factors in operating these plants safely appears to be humans' ability to maintain huge plumbing projects without leaks, the passive design concept "relies on natural forces like convection and gravity flow of emergency cooling water, reducing or minimizing reliance on pumps, valves, emergency diesel generators."

(Don't know of any corresponding breakthroughs regarding packaging the waste, or the human factor of sound administration for large enterprises. This Plain Dealer article reporting that many NRC staff feel concern about raising safety issues is the sort of thing that bears looking into.)
posted by sheauga at 1:05 PM on January 25, 2003


A Colder War is a pretty good story, if you get all the references. There are, unfortunately, a lot of them. It would be cool to see an annotated version with extensive hyperlinks to source material. As much as I like the story I'm skeptical that he's the, or even one of the, best living SF authors. He's young yet and there's quite a few way more accomplished great SF writers still among us.
posted by wobh at 4:47 PM on January 25, 2003


Wow, really nifty. (The naval nuclear power operator stretches his fingers and begins typing.)

First of all, the link is great. I wish I could peruse that plant.

Second, Sgt. Serenity, you have no idea. The amount of safety things they thought of for my plant is amazing. True, a few things a different for a civy core: they're made to produce a lot more power, they use different fuels, they are overseen by Nuclear Regulatory Commission vice Naval Reactors, but I think many things work the same. Such as the fact that our cores are inherently stable. Not automated stable, but by the physics that they are constructed by, stable. Our procedures are pretty good, and the original guys that thought this stuff up and crammed it in a little boat were geniuses.

All this, and run by 19 year olds. Heck, I teach nuclear power on a live reactor and I'm 20.

But I could only wish for a victorian design.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:48 PM on January 25, 2003


Lord Chancellor:

Such as the fact that our cores are inherently stable. Not automated stable, but by the physics that they are constructed by, stable. Our procedures are pretty good, and the original guys that thought this stuff up and crammed it in a little boat were geniuses.

Fine and dandy. You go live next to it. I prefer not to.
posted by mark13 at 2:59 PM on January 26, 2003


I will.

*sticks out tounge*
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:10 PM on January 26, 2003


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