Tuesday, April 26, 2011

25 years since Chernobyl

Twenty five years have now gone by since the major accident at the Cheronbyl nuclear power station.

The thing that I have found most striking is the scenes in the evacuated zones around the power plant where nature has been able to start reclaiming the built up areas. Pictures from the BBC and the Kid of speed website really show how striking an empty city can look. The area has now been opened up to controlled tourism as many of the radioactive materials released are reaching their half-life meaning that the radiation levels are declining. Although the plutonium released means that there will be a very prolonged legacy of radiation in the area.

These scenes really remind me of Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker, even though that film was made seven years before the accident at Chernobyl.

One of the most important things is to learn from the mistakes made in clearing up after the accident as well as the flaws in the design of the power station. Particularly as nuclear energy seems set to have a major role in future electricity generation as fossil fuels become more expensive and renewable sources still need more effective ways of collecting and converting energy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fifty Years in Space!

Fifty years since Yuri Gagarin's first spaceflight, though manned spaceflight has stagnated a bit since the 1970s and the end of the Apollo programme in my opinion though the ISS is being used for plenty of scientific programmes.

It is always a question of whether manned missions are the most appropriate given the cost and difficulty of supporting life in such a hostile enviroment, particularly when unmanned missions like Cassini-Huygens have been so successful. But to the romantic in me the appeal of mankind travelling to the stars still appeals.