2020 Aug 02 - UAE's Barakah Nuclear Power Plant

There are a couple of good things to come out of the Covid pandemic: there's no pressure to go to the gym, we know that China can unfortunately manufacture things that last longer than 6 months, and most importantly, Greta Thunberg hasn't been getting any media attention, although I guess that when airplanes are grounded it's pretty hard to fly around the world spreading your hypocrisy. But the environment is out there still, at least that's what I hear, I've not left the house much these past few months. This week I thought I'd look at two examples in the news of what the green agenda has left us with, and they're both pretty scary. It's like when you ask where the George Orwell memorial is Google tells you you're living in it. That kind of scary.

First of all to the United Arab Emirates. It's a fairly quirky place with crazy mega-projects and I always thought that if I was designing something there I'd make sure I had a small child on the design team to make sure it was eccentric looking enough and needlessly tall to the point of absurdity. But they can do it because they're a country where a passport and the American Express Platinum Card are synonymous. It's quite easy to spend money when you're sitting on top of that much oil and gas. However, Mae West once said "too much a good thing is wonderful" and the UAE really wants more and more energy (carbon friendly energy!) and so therefore this week saw the UAE start up the Arab world's first nuclear plant at Barakah, just next to the border with Saudi Arabia, a country already embroiled in conflicts with Yemen and Iran. It's probably worth noting that if you look up the UAE in an illustrated book of countries, the country right beforehand is Ukraine alongside the iconic B&W photographs of Chernobyl. This is the sort of management viewpoint akin to when the BBC put Jimmy Savile in charge of a kids tv show with the thinking of "what could possibly go wrong?".

The next power station that doesn't burn oil or gas is in China. It's the 3-gorges dam that is one of the largest things ever constructed by man, if you don't include the EU constitution or the US national debt. It's the world's largest power station and as a point of comparison, take the £16bn Sizewell C reactor: the 3 gorges dam is 6 or 7 times that in terms of output. Dam indeed. Nonetheless there's a lot of talk online including pictures and leaked information from defectors to the west suggesting that shoddy construction and an especially bad flood season make it quite possible that it could collapse, killing millions in the process and causing the sort of economic damage that make President Trump's proposed Covid sanctions look like a tap on the wrist. On the other hand, the deaths of million and final destruction of the economy is hardly out of the ordinary for a country that's communist and I have to sympathise with the engineers who had to interpret the instruction manual all written in Chinese, we've all been there I suppose.
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