They're back! Nuclear power stations that is - not the Spice Girls or dropped hemlines.
Time magazine reports on the comeback of nuclear energy and plans worldwide to build a new generation of 'zero-carbon' reactors.
The U.K. Government is making the running, with a recent announcement by the Business Secretary that he hopes to have a new reactor completed by 2020.
Time once again to ask a question that teams of designers, artists and others wrangled with in 1994 in the U.K. in a project I ran called Power to Change.
Four teams of architects, landscape designers, engineers and others, including environmentalists, writers and artists were invited to brainstorm the future of the site of a decommissioning nuclear power station in Snowdonia, Wales.
The Trawsfynydd Magnox power station was opened in 1963, generated power for twenty-eight years, closed in 1993 and it was estimated that it would take 135 years to dismantle.
The question posed by the project was
What should Trawsfynydd become and how might the future of its site bring new prosperity to the community?
After a year of design brainstorming, community projects, access to the station and exploration of its surrounding landscape, a series of ideas was born, critiqued by local people and a panel of experts that included design guru Cedric Price and artist Rachel Whiteread.
Team 1 proposed celebrating, not burying the site and turning it in to a model decommissioning factory.
Led by architect Will Alsop and artist Bruce McLean, the team included writer Mel Gooding, theater director David Gothard, engineer Matthew Wells and regeneration developer Roger Zogolovitch and argued:
If the Tate Gallery can open branches in relevant artistic communities like St Ives, Cornwall, the Science Museum should have a presence in a place which will witness one of the most significant developments in twentieth century technology.
Team 2 was led by Ove Arup & Partners and proposed burying the station's turbine halls in hills of slate, vegetating it, then up-lighting the surrounding hills with narrow beams of projected light.
James proposed turning the site in to a resource and polemic on the global lack of information on waste management.
He proposed ripping down the turbine halls, greening the surfaces
of the station, instigating research in to water contamination,
cleaning up the site using phyto-remdiation and creating an International Energy Communications Center to hold relevant data on the decommissioning of all the world's nuclear stations.
Team 4 was made up of architects Ushida Eisaku, Kathryn Findlay, engineer Tim Macfarlane and music composer Gavin Bryars.
Their response - the fruit of video-conference visioning between the U.K. and Japan - was
rather than leave two large, stainless steel skips in the landscape, let's get dermatological!
The team proposed turning the site in to a media center, exploiting the skills of electrical engineers, Snowdonia as a popular film location and the value of the site as a place of technology and solitude.
And using the metaphor of right brain intuition and left brain logic
We'll cover the reactor halls in a podded, white PVC skin and enclose certain activities. By covering the outmoded technology of the station with the new technology of our centre, we'll stimulate the brain's constant replacement of dead cells and strike up a new connection with the surrounding landscape - its "body".
Fourteen years ago, climate change and the cult of zero-carbon weren't understood as the context for either the construction or de-construction of such sites.
Architectural design may also have been slightly stuck in a groove of making and remaking facades.
But now that energy and economic cycles have created a new logic for nuclear power, a challenge remains for designers, landscape urbanists, politicians and engineers alike.
And it continues to be best expressed by Basil Spence, the original architect of the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station in a question he asked back in 1963: