Aircraft carriers and Severn barrage – a solution

24Oct10

Last week, energy secretary Chris Huhne ruled out government financial support for the long-proposed Severn barrage. Running from Weston-super-Mare to South Wales, it would harness the tidal power of the Severn to generate almost 5% of the UK’s current electricity demand, at a cost of £30bn-£35bn English.

New nuclear power stations, any one of which can provide almost as much juice at a cost of around £5bn, are now likely to go ahead. Mostly these will be on the sites of existing nuclear facilities in order to get round the inevitable planning battles.

The Barrage was always controversial, not least because of the wildlife habitats it would destroy. The Bristol Docks Company wasn’t mad keen on it either as ships coming in to Portbury and Avonmouth would have to pass through some sort of gate in the barrage.

Personally, I’m disappointed. There are all manner of excellent financial, ecological and technical arguments against it, but at least it was visionary. It had an Isambard Brunel-esque glamour to it.

This loathsome new age of austerity doesn’t just punish everyone who’s not a hedge fund manager. It shrivels our ambitions, impoverishes the public imagination, makes us mean-spirited and timid.

So instead of a magnificent work of civil engineering, or any of the smaller but equally visionary tidal energy proposals, we’re probably going to have EDF – that stands for Électricité de France, as in the French state-owned nuclear power firm – build us a new generation of nukes at Hinkley Point and Oldbury. Whoop-de-bloody-do …  And while the Energy Secretary promises there’ll be no state subsidy for these, there’s bound to be something in the small print. Either way, future generations will have to do something with all the radioactive muck produced by the reactors. Imagine how not just our children, but our great-great-great-great grandchildren will judge us for leaving them the cost and hassle of dealing with our nuclear excrements, just so’s we could watch X-Factor or Tweet or test our friends about what we were having for breakfast. Lol, as they won’t say.

This situation is only matched in its surrealism by the fact that Britain is to build two state-of-the-art aircraft carriers which for years will have no aeroplanes. When they do get ’em, the betting is that, with further cost cutting, they’ll be flying Dassault Rafales. More profits for the French state!

So here’s one solution.

Bristol should now adopt another ill-fated scheme. In the late 19th century, a lot of thought and money went into abortive plans to dam the mouth of the Avon and so extend the city’s Floating Harbour all the way to, well, Avonmouth. Known as ‘dockisation’, the plan was taken really very seriously indeed, so instead of the brown, mud-lined tidal Avon from Cumberland Basin to the sea, there’d be a great big harbour-ey, lakey-thing. (Also brown.)

So, give us one of those useless aircraft carriers. It’ll be big enuff to bung up the Avon at the mouth or maybe a bit further in. Its deck could then be used for the new Bristol City stadium, and the arena. The vast areas below decks could be turned into low-cost apartments.

You could also bore a few holes in the hull to install turbines which could be used to generate enough power to run the apartments and the football stadium.

Job done.

I’ll accept my freedom of the city in cash, please.

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One Response to “Aircraft carriers and Severn barrage – a solution”

  1. As you may recall the plan to dam the mouth of the Avon and cover over the mud was seriously being suggested as recently as five years ago. From memory the loss of important wildlife habitats was the issue here too. I believe that the aircraft carrier suggestion is all you own. I am not sure if they have still have a crows nest on a modern warship, but if they do then you may have solved both the engineering and the habitat issues – for the crows at least. Regards, Dan


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