Monday, November 22, 2010

It’s Good to Be the Queen

calder-hall Because you get to do fun things like this:

Ground was broken yesterday on the UK's Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who used virtual reality to operate a digger.

And what might this freshly dug Centre do?

The new facility is intended to "help UK companies become global leaders in the production of components and systems for the new generation of nuclear power stations" said the University of Sheffield. The other main collaborators in the project are the University of Manchester, the government and Rolls-Royce as lead industrial partner.

Rolls-Royce again – see the post below for more on that company. But what about Queen Elizabeth? It turns out she’s been hanging around nuclear energy plants as long they’ve been in England. Here she is in 1956:

The Queen has opened the world's first full-scale nuclear power station, at Calder Hall in Cumberland.

A crowd of several thousand people gathered to watch the opening ceremony, which was also attended by scientists and statesmen from almost 40 different countries.

That event spurred considerable optimism:

The Lord Privy Seal, Richard Butler, described the event as "epoch-making".

He added, "It may be that after 1965 every new power station being built will be an atomic power station."

And if that had occurred, some of the larger conversations taking place today would be considerably muted. Certainly, the need for energy security would remain much the same – unless cars switched to flux capacitors – while concerns over global warming might be less urgent.

Or not. ‘What If’ is a fun game, with part of the fun being able to ignore all factors except the ones you want to include. The world would always be a better place if it were organized according to our personal interests – wouldn’t it?

Anyway, it remains a fun notion to think of the queen being there at the beginning of nuclear energy in England and still there to see it through to a new generation. I fully expect her to be there when it is her hologram running a virtual digging machine to build an avatar of a nuclear energy plant.

The Calder Hall plant. It operated until 2003, just shy of its 50th birthday.

1 comment:

Tim Chapman said...

Thanks for the write-up, Mark - HRH did seem to enjoy her experience with the VR system (not sure how she'd feel about some of the reports comparing her to Lady Gaga, though).

If you need more info about the Nuclear AMRC, please see -
http://www.namrc.co.uk