How not to provoke a forest of crime fighting trees

If you were a White Wizard going over to the dark side and you wanted to produce an army of ugly guys to conquer all the known world, where would you get the power to run your armory?

You could chop down the neighbouring forest. All the wood is probably rich in energy. It's certainly cheap and easily accessible. But there are some drawbacks.
  1. All the particulate and gaseous emissions from the furnaces are probably not good for health and safety. A happy orc is a productive orc.
  2. If this neighbouring forest happens to be filled with walking, talking trees, who hold a grudge, you might end up getting your just desserts Lovelock style.
  3. All the fire coming out of your domain will give away what you're doing. As a key piece of military infrastructure for the forces of the Black land, remaining covert is best.
Now a small fission reactor may be just what Morgoth ordered. Perhaps a CANDU if you can't spare the resources for enrichment. All emissions are contained so you keep the operation invisible. You keep the air clean and don't have to chop down the forest, thereby not provoking your neighbours. If they do decide to attack you regardless, you can keep the reactor sealed underground so even breaking the dam and flooding the surface won't affect your operation.

Nuclear in general is pretty low key. With fossil fuel power, you have smoke stacks bellowing out large amounts of nefarious matter. With big wind, where once was a large area of unspoiled country now lies a field of large metal spikes. But with nuclear you have a tiny area of land containing a few buildings and big golf ball. Far less shipping of fuel in and waste out too makes the whole place much quieter.

You could probably green it up a bit more too. Perhaps a bit of turf on the containment structure, maybe some flora on it. Okay, you would probably need to do a little engineering to make sure everything didn't slip off. Stick a tree or two on top and you have the latest concept in modern architecture: nuclear hobbit holes.

If that fails, you could just paint the thing with a big nature motif. It would fit the rebranding advice over at Potential Energy. This way, the place doesn't stand out so much amidst the greenery surrounding it, something not possible with fossil fuels and big wind.

It would answer Greenpeace's concerns (if such a thing is ever possible short of catastrophic global cooling in Mordor) about terrorist threat. How could any terrorists fly an airliner into the reactor if they can't find it?

Now that's positive thinking.

Metals and nuclear testing

I usually don't go into issues surrounding nuclear weapons because I don't particularly care to defend them. But there is a rather fun myth going around, usually told as a practical joke. It was tried on me today.

I was observing a technician at one of BP's contractors and he tried to sell me on the notion that the Hiroshima bomb magnetised all the metals on the surface of the planet. As proof of this, he used his screwdriver to lift a screw. Hazaaa!! Both politeness and not thinking about it too much when he said it meant I just nodded.

Apparently, because of this, a tool made from metal recovered from beneath the sea, shielded from this terrible effect somehow, is worth three times as much as a tool made from the horribly deformed magnetised metal from the surface.

The notion, of course, that a nuclear explosion can magnetise anything is bunk. There is such as thing as an electromagnetic pulse, which is a burst of electromagnetic radiation. Metals and electrical equipment can act as antennas for this energy, producing very high voltage power surges, which is damaging to electronics, hence the value of the gamma ray bursts as tactical weapons.

What a bomb can also do is irradiate either through the blast of neutrons or through the dispersal of fallout. Strictly from the untrustworthy grapewine, this irradiation has caused problems for nuclear power stations, whose materials are strictly regulated. The radioactivity in regular metals is too much for it. Any waste from this metal, such as segments of piping, that has not come into contact with any core materials, must be treated a low level waste with all the extra expense that entails.

But magnetising the metals on the surface? No.