The Soapbox

This page written circa 1 June, 1999.

Absolute Power

A happy thought occurred to me the other day, as I ruminated on the scandalous size of the latest electricity bill, that in the land of the brave, a man might actually be free to build his own nuclear power station. By a man I mean a real techno-man, not one of the peon class, who have been fitted by nature to the task of packing and shipping the stuff that techno-man orders over the web.

Now, those of you that have bothered to put in the tiny amount of intellectual effort needed to stay current in the atomic power field will have already realized just how easy this task is. As evidence, I submit the fact the not-very-techno-men of various eastern bloc countries have accomplished the task not once, but many times.

For those who weren’t paying attention, this is what you need to do. In a suitable containment vessel, arrange a sufficient quantity of nuclear fuel along with a moderator. The moderator prevents the whole thing from blowing up, and can even be used to shut down the reaction in the absurdly unlikely event of something going wrong. So a suitably moderated reaction in the fuel produces heat, which is applied to water to produce steam, which is then run through a turbine which runs a generator which produces power. Simple really, as the North Koreans and even the French have managed it.

The thought was handmaiden to the deed, and Tony and I immediately assigned the plan an operational status. Two thousand lead (graphite) pencils were procured from Scribbles R Us to act as a moderator. A thick stainless steel cylinder was procured from Iraqi Superguns R Us to act as the containment vessel, and this was given a very tasteful brick veneer in case of safety inspections. A whole bunch of pipes, valves etc was obtained from Al’s Weird Plumbing Shit, along with a second hand turbine. Most of the plumbing stuff had already been used in nuclear power plants, so we knew they were safe.

As noted above, the reactor needs a steady supply of water, and this requirement dovetailed perfectly with our earlier feasibility study regarding digging a well. The well will provide the cooling water, and also with a perfect site for disposing any coolant that might become slightly irradiated. It stands to reason that a nuclear power station will produce nuclear waste, and there’s a lot of fearmongering whipped up around this fact. My feelings are that this will be a very small plant, and once we get the stuff into the groundwater, they’ll have buckley’s of tracing it anyway.

Those of you who have followed this far will undoubtedly be thinking that the proposal lacks an essential ingredient, viz. fuel, and that the whole thing has just been another techno-flop. But that’s the best part! In the USA, if a man rings up the Atomic Energy Commission, says he’s from Hewlett Packard and that he needs a fair sized lump of enriched uranium for an undisclosed but pointy-headed reason, then they just ship him some overnight. God I love this country!

As it happened, Gregor was visiting at the time that the scheme was set in motion. Naturally, Tony and I invited him to be part of the great enterprise, but to my surprise and consternation he refused! Of course, he offered some semi-plausible excuse regarding ionizing radiation, damage to DNA etc. I hastened to reassure him that we had already purchased a supply of lead underwear from a survivalist outfit in Montana, but nothing we could do or say would persuade him to join in.

Now tact is not a word that is normally associated with me, but I handled the situation rather well. It is true that I called Gregor a wuss, a coward and a techno-fear baby, but I think I got away with it.

Naturally, we are not going to let a refusenik like Gregor get in the way of our magnificent project. Work proceeds apace, and future visitors can confidently expect a guided tour. However, failure is not a word in the HP lexicon. Any namby-pamby types who have equipped themselves with Geiger counters will be shown the door.

The contributor of this Soapbox, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that it was dictated to them by Jonathan in a dream one night. I cannot attest to its authenticity, but chose to include it for hysterical, sorry, historical interest... Kay.

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