Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A nuclear power station tucked away amongst the folded hills or every hill and mountain in the photograph covered with wind turbines which will still be producing less electricity than the power station? : Photo The decommissioned Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power sation in North Wales.
Supporters of the desecration of our uplands and seascapes with wind power plants often say ‘Well...it’s better than having a nuclear power station isn’t it and besides; I find them rather beautiful!’ As if having thousands of identical 3/400' steel towers rooted in swimming pool size plinths of concrete and linked by tracks gouged out of the fragile earth, substations and powerlines are ‘beautiful’.Well...it certainly doesn't chime with my Ruskin-esque idea of beauty!
Yesterday I was at back of Moelwyn Bach, the rarely visited south face which falls outside of the popular paths which link the Moelwyn peaks, and I found myself looking across the undulating empty landscapes which sweep across to the south and which held in its green maw,the decommissioned Trawsfyndd Nuclear Power Station. As someone who proudly sported a smiley face ‘Ynni Niwclear- Dim Diolch!- ( Nuclear Power-No Thanks!) in my VW Camper, I remember how elated I was when Trawsfynnd closed down. In those days I was a big supporter of wind power although back then, I never appreciated the environmental impact they would have when the new generation of super-turbines would be erected across many of our wildest and most beautiful areas.
What struck me yesterday was that here was a nuclear power station tucked away in the landscape and yet you would have to cover every hill and mountain within that photograph with wind power plants and even then they would still only be producing a fraction of the electricity output of the nuclear power station. Certainly from an aesthetic and energy output point of view, the nuclear option wins every time. However, Nuclear’s Achilles heel is its perception as a dangerous time bomb which has the potential to unleash hell upon an unsuspecting public.
Ironically, it took the Fukushima nuclear disaster to convince leading environmentalist George Monbiot that nuclear power was the only feasible option for a low carbon energy future. His argument being that if the very worst nuclear accident scenario-an earthquake and tsunami-could be controlled and dealt with with relatively limited impact, loss of life and ecological degradation, then it was a risk worth taking if we want to reduce our Co2 emissions and prevent out of control global warming.
My own perspective is somewhere between the two extremes. I’m not a huge fan of nuclear power but as someone who does not want to see our quiet spaces trashed any further than they already have been by the insensitive location of wind farms, then aesthetically,as stated above, a single nuclear power station over thousands of wind turbines has to be a better option. Of course, if western societies could get to grips with the 40% of electricity produced which is wasted through corporate, municipal and domestic mismanagement then the choice between nuclear and so called renewables becomes less an issue. Quite simply, wasted energy dwarfs the output of both energy sources and stands-like food waste-as a criminal misuse of resources.