Monday. 29/8/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / David Hodari

Power of good

When I wrote my first story about nuclear power a few years ago, the power source was seen as the global energy family’s gawky cousin who nobody wanted to get stuck next to at dinner. Nuclear-power companies were struggling with project delays and bankruptcy, and erstwhile advocates Japan and Germany were cutting and running after the Fukushima disaster. Now, against a backdrop of a climate crisis and war, nuclear’s fortunes are undergoing a remarkable turnaround.

Last week, Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida asked a government panel to look at equipping new nuclear reactors with additional safety mechanisms as part of Tokyo’s carbon-neutrality efforts. And, in the year that Germany’s last three reactors were meant to be switched off, chancellor Olaf Scholz said that extending their use could help soften Russia’s ability to weaponise gas exports. Countries that stuck with nuclear energy regardless of Fukushima – the US, France – are pouring money into miniature reactors. All of this is to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy independence, particularly given the litany of dictatorships and failed states among the world’s major oil and gas producers.

Nuclear’s lack of appeal over the years has been understandable. It’s not as easy to use as fossil fuels and when it goes wrong the consequences can be awful. And because plants generate nuclear waste and require emissions-intensive concrete in their construction, it’s not as clean as wind or solar power. This, and its association with warheads, explains why it’s not received support from eco-activists. But my response to nuclear’s resurgent popularity is, “Well, duh.”

Beggars can’t be choosers and the world’s clean-energy storage capacity is nowhere near developed enough. In its generation, nuclear power’s emissions are almost zero and more reliable than intermittent solar and wind. If the developed world intends to salvage both the environment and democracy, nuclear power is the obvious choice.

David Hodari is Monocle’s business editor.

Image: Getty Images

Space / USA

Countdown is progressing

At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Space Launch System and the Orion crew capsule it’s designed to carry are due for blastoff later today. Fifty years after Nasa’s last Apollo mission, it marks a potential new era in which astronauts will return to the moon. This time around, Nasa’s $4.1bn (€4.1bn) “megarocket” won’t leave with any crew members but the combined spacecraft will be sent around the moon and back to Earth on a six-week test flight. While this rocket is the most powerful ever built by the US space agency, much of the hardware necessary for astronauts to make the trip is about three years off completion. Still, anticipation is high: “If all goes well, this time next year it will carry humans and in 2025 we will land on the moon,” space scientist David Whitehouse tells The Monocle Minute. “This time we’ll be back to stay.”

Hear more from David Whitehouse about the new mission on today’s edition of The Globalist on Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Transport / Germany

Making a move

Germany’s summer travel experiment – a €9 monthly ticket that allowed you to use all forms of public transport and regional trains across the country throughout June, July and August – comes to an end this week. Nearly 60 million tickets were sold over the first two months and another 38 million in recent weeks. That’s not including the 400,000 or so single tickets Berlin’s public transport authorities admitted that they sold in June and July despite the deal, probably to ill-informed tourists.

The ploy marked a rare positive in a summer when the cost of living has been rising sharply; many politicians are now clamouring for it to be extended. Chancellor Olaf Scholz says that talks for a follow-up are underway with Germany’s 16 states. The biggest challenge is who would foot the bill: finance minister Christian Lindner says that it would cost €14bn a year. In the meantime, some regions may go ahead on their own; Berlin’s mayor, Franziska Giffey, is among those mulling an extension until the end of the year.

Image: Felix Brüggemann

Design / Tunisia

Building optimism

The Mediterranean city of Tunis has a glorious mix of architecture from Islamic arches to modern skyscrapers – but the modernist post-independence edifices don’t always get the care they need. Now the city’s architects and campaigners are coming to their defence: “We count more demolished historic structures than restored ones,” says architect Khaoula Stiti, vice-president of Édifices et Mémoires, a non-government organisation that advocates for the preservation of Tunisia’s built environment. One example is the abandoned Hôtel du Lac (pictured) constructed by Italian architect Raffaele Contigiani in the 1970s. “It’s an architectural icon that stands for post-independence modernity,” says Sami Aloulou, a Franco-Tunisian architect who campaigned against its demolition in 2013. Other structures commissioned in the mid-20th century by Tunisia’s first president, Habib Bourguiba, remain in a similar state. Despite all this, there is optimism for their revival: Tunisian creatives are increasingly returning home after stints abroad. Their goal is to preserve and improve these characterful buildings.

Read more about Tunisia’s preservation efforts in the September edition of Monocle magazine on newsstands today.

Image: Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

Culture / USA

Smart cards

The late American minimalist artist Ellsworth Kelly was a transformative figure in 20th-century US art. Now a recently discovered part of his oeuvre is the focus of a new exhibition at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas. Until 7 September the museum is hosting collages of Kelly’s holiday postcards, a medium that he loved but that hasn’t been explored or exhibited in as comprehensive a way as this before.

Kelly made about 400 of these works over nearly 60 years as he travelled the world for his illustrious career and more than half of them have come into the museum’s possession. “It is a rare opportunity for any art historian or curator to get access to a body of work from such a well-known artist that is a new discovery,” exhibition curator Ian Berry tells Monocle. “These postcard collages reveal another side of him.”

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown

Mauritius

Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco looks at the top songs in Mauritius.

Monocle Films / Global

Welcome to the Auberge Monocle

Monocle has so far resisted the temptation to open a hotel – but that doesn’t mean that we don’t spend time thinking about who we’d hire to oversee a renovation, run the bar or design the uniforms. With this in mind, here are the six house rules we’d strictly enforce to keep things civil and serene around the pool, in the lobby and on the balcony.

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