Extreme Makeover: Nuclear Power Plant Edition

- As the world seeks low-carbon forms of energy production to reduce the emissions blamed for global warming, the champions of nuclear power have been rebranding the industry as one of the world’s greenest.

In October, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency said “nuclear energy is virtually carbon-free” across its life cycle and “the only carbon-mitigating technology with a proven track record on the scale required.”

Now, more than two decades after accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, some people in the industry are backing a makeover for nuclear power stations in an effort to transform the industry from an industrial pariah to an environmental savior.

EDF Energy, a French nuclear operator, has arranged for presentations by architectural firms to improve the visual impact of plants, World Nuclear News, a news service for the industry, reported in September.

That move “lit hopes that improving the appearance of new nuclear power plants could perhaps help to recreate some of the excitement that surrounded nuclear technology in the 1950s,” W.N.N. said.

At the same time, W.N.N. started a competition called “Be a nuclear architect” to encourage readers to submit designs of the future that “change the face of nuclear power.”

Have your own idea for prettifying nuclear power? Send your sketches here. We’ll publish a selection of them in a later post.

Some of the results, published this week, seek to replace boxy looking reactor housings and brutalist concrete cooling towers with sunken structures and new “skins” that are translucent or are covered in vegetation and shroud the facilities.

Of course, it still is early days for the so-called nuclear renaissance. Even so, if nuclear power is about to soar in popularity, that could mean plenty of work for architects.

In its recent report, the Nuclear Energy Agency said it foresaw the possibility of almost four times the current supply of nuclear-generated electricity on tap by 2050.


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