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K1’s “Critical Generation”

An explosive topic

An explosive topic

Wondering what Professor Emyln Hughes does when he’s not creating mass amounts of Froscanity? So were we. We heard that Hughes and a team of undergrads traveled to Europe to film a documentary about nuclear energy while Hughes worked at CERN, so we sent our expert on all things Froscane, Sarah Thompson, to investigate the  finished product.

Last summer, six undergraduates under the direction of Professor Emlyn Hughes were placed in rural France near CERN and were instructed to make a documentary regarding the state of nuclear energy (and survive). The documentary, Critical Generation, formed the basis of the K=1 Criticality Project, named after the critical mass needed to sustain a nuclear chain reaction, and the members of the project and think-tank hope to “encourage discussion based on the facts” with the film.

Many of the students gathered in Pupin 428 last night hoped to receive extra credit for FroSci, whereas I went out of a sense of guilt that my statements to two major media outlets were crafted in a way that helped blow Froscanity out of scope and portray the brilliant Hughes in a negative and critical light. I think I’ll still get extra credit, though.

The documentary began with the recent Fukushima disaster, as shots of rubble and affected people flew by, along with anxious news anchors reporting that the severity of the event was approaching that of Chernobyl, producing a “panicked search for answers.” Those interviewed suggested that there are three major issues surrounding the current and future usage of nuclear energy—security, economic, and environmental issues.

Malcolm Keay, of Oxford’s Institute for Energy Studies, elaborated on how the Fukushima disaster aided in swaying the public perception on nuclear energy’s environmental concerns, which has stagnated political action on nuclear power since. Countries debate where and how to dispose of nuclear wastes, and politicians must constantly weigh the advantages and disadvantages with those of other energy sources.

Most will agree, according to the documentary, that alternatives to nonrenewable resources will become essential in the coming decades and centuries. Speaking about the economic side of the issue, Astrid Schneider—head of the Energy Working Group of the German Green Party—noted that we dare not ask “should” we invest in energy infrastructure, but rather “where” we will. People will debate whether “we want ze nuclear or do we want ze renewable,” (she said it in a charming German accent).

There’s no doubt about certain political hesitancy towards nuclear proliferation, yet nuclear energy in the future remains a mostly open question, the documentary states. The world will naturally approach the issue country by country—some European countries have already started reducing reliance on nuclear energy, whereas large countries with developing economies like China, Russia, and Brazil have displayed increased interest.

Education and discussion remain key to how the US and our generation will approach these “less comfortable questions.” Although Emlyn Hughes lit up a campus and a nation with discussions on his stunt, this documentary and the K1 Criticality Project desire to do the same with discussions on nuclear energy and proliferation.

The dawn of a new age via Shutterstock

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3 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous “for them make a documentary” seriously bwog proofread

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous what about thorium reactors?

  • emlyn says:

    @emlyn Excellent article!

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