Nuclear Power Plants Are Due for a Makeover

The industry seeks to retire the "flour mill" look.

Back in March, Laura Onstot wrote a cover story about the people trying to bring about the dawn of a new nuclear age and the image problems still associated with atomic energy. John Ritch, director general of the London-based industry trade group World Nuclear Association, understands those image problems. Which is why, when industry leaders from around the world met in London last week, he told the assembled crowd, "Many plants look little more inspiring than a 100-year-old flour mill. We can and should do better." Ritch's point is that while nuclear technology has advanced, the image of nuclear reactors has not. When most people think of plants, they probably envision those same flour mills, or something that looks like the isotope-branded cooling towers owned by Montgomery Burns. So in order to "create a new aesthetic, equal to the excellence of our technology," Ritch and the WNA have organized an old-fashioned design contest. The winning entry will have to be practical, beautiful, futuristic, and submitted by December 1. "The nuclear industry may always face a measure of public concern simply because its technology involves powerful, mysterious, and unseen forces," said Ritch. "But what the industry can certainly control is what the public does see."

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