The Life Scientific: Steve Cowley on Nuclear Fusion @bbcradio4

From BBC Radio 4 today:

Steve Cowley has said that “fusion is arguably the perfect way to power the world”. But he’s had to add that “it is hard to make fusion work. Indeed, after more than 60 years of fusion research, no device has yet made more energy than it consumes”.

But Steve Cowley isn’t giving up. He’s spent over 30 years working towards making nuclear fusion a viable way of generating energy. Steve Cowley has done theoretical research on how to contain the incredibly hot material you need to get fusion going. As the Director of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy he guided the British contribution to research. And he has led the UK’s participation in ITER, an international experimental reactor being built in France that is planned to be the next step towards making nuclear fusion commercially viable.

Jim al-Khalili discusses with Steve Cowley, now President of Corpus Christi College in Oxford, why nuclear fusion, which has such promise as a clean form of energy with no dangerous waste, has proved so hard to achieve.



Power In The Land Research Residency @ACAAllenheads – Allenheads Contemporary Arts in Northumberland.

Following the recent success of delivering Power In The Land as a touring exhibition and publication – last week we took up residence at Allenheads Contemporary Arts, a rural arts centre in Northumberland.  As a group of artists who live geographically far away from each other in the UK and abroad, meeting together at ACA gave us the opportunity to re group, evaluate and discuss plans for further developing the project.


Image shows Allenheads village set within the North Pennines landscape

Allenheads is a rural and industrial landscape in the North Pennines, which is located far away from Wylfa Nuclear Power Station in Anglesey – which was the starting focus for Power In The Land as a project back in 2014. Meeting in a different environment and away from the now decommissioned nuclear power station allowed us to objectively reflect on our interests in revisiting Wylfa and Anglesey as a nuclear landscape, as well as talk about how we can bring in influences from our wider art practices.

The residency centred around each of us giving presentations about our own research and the work that we have been producing as artists alongside Power In The Land whilst also allowing time for questions and constructive conversation amongst the group. On the other days we discussed the strengths and criticisms of producing Power In The Land as a body of work, whilst reflecting on the outcome of the exhibition tour and the practicalities of how we could further work together as a group of artists. Informal conversation continued during cooking meals and exploring the wild industrial landscape of Allenheads.

Power In The Land will now take the form of a research platform while we develop the next phase of the project.  Thanks to our ACA hosts ( Alan Smith and Helen Ratcliffe.

#Powerintheland #Artist – Ant Dickenson: GEIGER COUNTERS #1


His response to the experience of visiting Wylfa and taking numerous sound recordings is a sound sculpture in which a series of manipulated Geiger counters are ‘played’ as electronic musical instruments. Altering the circuitry produces varying tones and pitches and the removal of diodes and replacement of resistors and capacitors with different values allows sustained sounds and different pitches of clicks to be produced.

Based around the idea of giving a voice to measurable radiation and attempting to control something unpredictable, this piece involves programmed motorised rails used to control the distance of test sources from the Geiger tubes. The closer the test source, the greater the reading and therefore the denser the audible oscillations from the Geiger counter circuitry. The proximity of the test sources is automated via an Arduino and a custom patch written within MaxMsp software.

Image shows Ant Dickinson’s work ‘Hacked Geiger Counters #1’ A geiger counter with altered electronics/Sound, 2016 at Bay Arts in Cardiff.


#Powerintheland #Artist – Tim Skinner: CAMOUFLAGE STAIN

Multiple layers of self-recorded videos are used in the creation of my pieces; for Camouflage Stain I wanted not to focus my filming on the power station but record the colours and landscape surrounding the plant. If the plant doesn’t want to be seen then why should I film it? Turning the focus on to Wylfa’s natural landscape, the land that will be burdened with the manmade stain. Camouflage Stain is an abstract look into the feeling, movement, texture, colour and rhythm of Anglesey’s northern coastline; but echoing this ghostly stain, a dialogue between power and the land.

Image shows Tim Skinners’s work ‘Camouflage Stain’ Digital video on continuous loop, at Bay Arts in Cardiff.

#Powerintheland #Artist – Teresa Paiva: NUCLEAR VOIDS

teresa blog

In Nuclear Voids Teresa focuses on issues concerning the long term storage of nuclear waste. Her modular sculptural installation draws inspiration from the convoluted tunnel architecture of underground high-level waste repositories such as Onkalo in Finland – to date, the only permanent solution of ‘voiding’ the end result of nuclear production and subject of the thought provoking documentary film ‘Into Eternity’. “This hiding place should never be disturbed “, the tagline from the film, reads to accompany Teresa’s installation, reinforcing the sense of confusion and irony inherent in the piece.

Conceived with the aim of being continuously assembled and disassembled, intentionally precarious and formally confusing, these copper modular forms hint both at the puzzling and complex nature of the subject matter and at the use of copper inherent to nuclear waste encapsulation. Through the collective action of diverse local audiences, the sculptures will shape-shift as they travel to each location, becoming in essence testimonies of a tentative project – plans for constructions that could never be cohesively concluded.

Image shows Teresa Paiva’s work ‘Nuclear Voids’ Copper pipes and fittings currently at Bay Arts in Cardiff.