The Anonymous Widower

Britain Goes Nuclear

With the delaying and possible demise of the Severn Barrage, it would appear that we are going to bet on nuclear for our energy for the next few decades.

I don’t particularly mind, as I believe that nuclear is totally safe and of course carbon-free if it is properly designed, built and managed. THe only question is will the opponents of nuclear power stop the stations being built.  Or if they don’t stop them from being built, will it be the decision that gets the coalition turned out at the next election? The public always feel that anything nuclear is dangerous.  That is why you have an MRI Scan at the hospital, rather than an NMRI one. The N refers to the nuclear resonance of the molecules in your body to the magnetic fields imposed on them.

I still think that the Severn Barrage will be built but it will be very different to any scheme so far proposed. Except possibly the one by Sir Frederick Snow.

It will of course have a high and a low lake split by a central spine, so that reversible turbines can either generate electricity as water flows downhill or store energy by pumping water from the low to the high lake.  The trick that makes wind energy viable is being able to store the excess and pumping water uphill is the easiest way to do it.

Whether the spine will have an airport is a more difficult question to answer.  I think it will, and as the need to airports decreases through this century, if the fast rail (Note not high-speed!) was there, then it could replace airports at Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham and to a certain extent, Heathrow.

As I reread my reflections on my trip to Scotland, then this could be an alternative south-western terminal of the West Coast Line. After all, the airport would be within two hours of most of London and Birmingham.

All this says is that we need to think boldly! In fact, we need to think very boldly!

We tend to base our planning on what we do today, not what we will be doing in thirty years time.

I’m just about to watch football on the television.  In 2040, will I be watching any match I want to in some form of immersion 3D system? And will I use the same technology to have business meetings with colleagues and clients?

October 18, 2010 Posted by | News, Transport | , , , , | 3 Comments

The Severn Barrage

It is being reported that the government is abandoning the building of the electricity-generating barrage of the River Severn between Cardiff and Weston-super-Mare.

Years ago, I did a job for Frederick Snow and Partners and at the time, they were proposing a bold barrage of the river to generate up to 10% if the UK’s energy needs. When the barrage was being discussed a couple of years ago, I had a letter published in The Times about the scheme.

Sir, The proposal shown in your paper today is timid. We have an energy crisis, an energy storage crisis, a landfill crisis and an airport crisis in this country and I believe that if we use the resource of the River Severn properly, we can help to solve all of them. A proper solution would also mitigate the problems of flooding in the Severn Valley.

I have knowledge of the proposals put forward by Frederick Snow in the 1960s. He felt that a central spine with a high and a low lake would be the best solution. Turbines would run between the lakes and could provide power when required, but they would also be capable of pumping water back to store energy. In these days of wind turbines relying on winds that don’t always blow, this would be a sensible way of storing the energy from wind power and releasing it as required.

Snow proposed putting energy-based industries such as chlorine and hydrogen production on the spine — but his major proposal was to site a very large airport on it. Could it with proper engineering be built on landfill? After all, it does face in the direction of the prevailing winds and it would be several kilometres from any centre of population, so noise pollution would be reduced to a minimum. As Brunel designed the Great Western to be virtually straight for high-speed running, trains à la TGV could do the journey to London in well under an hour. We either dither or we formulate a bold vision of which Brunel would have been proud.

I suspect that by cancelling we may only be delaying a scheme that will eventually go ahead.  As time passes Snow’s scheme for a central spine and airport will become more not less economical.

  1. The need to store energy from wind turbines and nuclear power stations will become more important.
  2. The high-speed railway to Bristol and Wales will have been electrified.  Also, a properly designed barrage will give another rail route to Wales from London.
  3. A higher percentage of the flights out of the UK, will go to the west. as those to the east will be more likely to be replaced by trains through the Channel Tunnel.  This will mean that an airport in the Bristol Channel will cut carbon emissions by a few percent, due to the shorter journey to the American continent.

October 17, 2010 Posted by | News, World | , , | 9 Comments