Friday, March 18, 2011

Plutonium Glow: 'A terrible beauty is born', again

Nuclear power is perhaps the most invisible, the most invincible force there is.

Is it curiosity, fascination, hubris - a combination of these - that has led humanity down this toxic, radioactive road? How is it that we have allowed the building of these lumbering, monstrous facilities in our towns, backyards, most especially in regions that have long histories of earthquakes and tsunamis? The latest:

Disaster in Japan: Latest developments, March 18

Japan battles nuclear, humanitarian crisis

Japan's Once-Powerful Nuclear Industry Is Under Siege

Q+A: Risks at each reactor of Japan's stricken plant explained

In 1997 I wrote Plutonium Glow, inspired by a Google search of nuclear payloads that were being sent into space. At the time, there were online forums, discussions and newspaper articles about the dangers of a possible release of nuclear material from these payloads, and concurrent calculations as to the risks of its spread and dispersal (wind speed, cloud coverage, distance, etc.)

The need to utilize these types of equations has today, tragically, sadly, become our 'unforeseen' reality.

A glowing pellet of 238PuO2
During my research, I read about The Hanford Nuclear Plant which was mired in much controversy regarding their handling of Plutonium, the element that inspired the album's title and lyrics. Plutonium - a byproduct of the process of generating nuclear energy - is both tantalizing and terrifying. The artwork for 'Plutonium Glow' was inspired by my readings and reflections on Plutonium, and the idea of a 'terrible beauty', twin qualities which are often unalterably and hideously conjoined.

While we've become adept at calculating dispersal clouds, it's the unforeseen events that we've neglected to factor in, yet, these "unimaginable" - or unimagined - scenarios keep occurring. Perhaps it's time to team up the architects who design these facilities with artists, writers and film makers? In hindsight, the imagination is, perhaps, the one missing element that could have led to a more resilient and robust design of these reactors.
Unbelievably, as of today, 14 years after the release of Plutonium Glow - a Google search of 'the hanford nuclear plant' leads me down a horribly familiar and incredulous rabbit hole:

Long outage scheduled at Hanford nuclear plan 

A question remains: where will we go from here? Forward, toward progress? Or backwards, against all common sense and logic, making the same deleterious and deadly mistakes, again, again, again...?

The Hanford Nulclear Plant,
Polaroid from 'Plutonium Glow'


1 comment:

George Hook said...

I felt this odd, intuitive sense that Plutonium Glow (on Oxygen, even) did have something to do with nuclear matters, V. Strange, too, how the pellet resembles one of your candles. Love the look of your website these days. George