Peter Dutton has been urging Australians to have a mature debate about nuclear power whilst continuing to pour scorn on the Government’s commitment to solar and wind energy. Whilst it could take as long as eighteen years to establish a major nuclear power plant here, his enthusiasm has not waned.  You would assume he has looked carefully at the pros and cons of nuclear power in other countries like the UK and Japan but I am wondering if there is some other motivation behind his fervour for fission and fusion.

When the US dropped their atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing around 200,000 people, the majority of them civilians, the world was aghast. The devastating power of nuclear warfare was revealed to all and, as other nations acquired the bomb, the paranoia of the cold war set in. While the threat of a nuclear apocalypse permeated throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, there was also a corresponding affection for all things ‘atomic’.

Atomic bomb exploding over Hiroshima. Image: wikipedia

The word soon frequented the popular vocabulary, not just for weapons of mass destruction but to describe everything from coffee makers to toy zap guns. It was a label for the new exciting post-war technology and the cutting edge of science but also applied to a certain groovy design chic. The atomic age and burgeoning space exploration all combined to influence everyday design, be it furniture, lighting, fashion or even the gigantic fins on some automobiles.

As the humanitarian disaster of the Japanese bombings was viewed more and more as a military triumph by the victorious countries, there was also a bizarre admiration and reverence for the bomb itself. The Louvin Bros equated salvation with Jesus from the mushroom of destruction in their early ‘60s recording, ‘The Great Atomic Power’, and kiddies could play with a ‘giant, safe, harmless, cap shooting atomic bomb’.

Atomic Reactor toy. Image: supplied

At a time when radioactivity was often regarded as more your friend than a deadly threat, another nuclear favourite was The Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab. Designed for the junior scientist and performing more than 150 experiments, the set came with four types of uranium ore and three different radiation sources. In more recent and enlightened times it’s been described as “world’s most dangerous toy”.

While Peter Dutton and his coalition colleagues are probably not old enough to have ever owned a toy atomic energy lab or ‘junior’ reactor, the nostalgia of the ‘50s and ‘60s for all things ‘atomic’ might still have influenced their thinking – albeit in a subconscious way. The word ‘nuclear’ is ingrained in our psyche as a panacea for many of the world’s problems, be they simply keeping the lights on or solving some of the great medical challenges. Ironically it also evokes fear and anxiety when applied to modern day weaponry and a possible war to end all wars.

Atomic Lab toy. Image: supplied

Dutton has yet to announce just where his proposed nuclear power plants would be located and any safety issues that might arise. Naturally, any mention of Chernobyl, Fukushima or Three Mile Island is highly unlikely when the sites are finally revealed. There’s bound to be some resistance from local residents when the locations are announced and now is probably an ideal time to revive the atomic nostalgia of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Call it propaganda if you like, but I can see the pro-reactor supporters embarking on a subtle PR campaign in areas like the Hunter Valley, hotly rumoured to house one of the nuclear reactors. Hundreds of mini reactors and toy atomic labs distributed free to local schools, the Killer’s ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’ blasting out over street speakers and a giant inflatable Godzilla emerging from the local Olympic pool – it’s all part of the theatre of conversion to thinking nuclear and ditching those unsightly solar panels on your roof.

Glow in the dark Chernobyl souvenir snow globe. Image: Etsy

The atomic age could well be reborn in eighteen years time as you brew up the morning coffee on one of those fashionable Atomic Coffee Makers, give your Chernobyl souvenir snow globe a shake (yes they do sell them) and put the finishing touches to that bomb proof underground bunker that now graces your suburban backyard.

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