Tastefully Appointed Nuclear Waste
Nuclear waste is one of those things, like abortion and fetish porn, that you know exists somewhere, but which is mostly kept out of sight because it makes people really uncomfortable. Not so in the Netherlands — at least with regard to nuclear waste.
This is the Habog waste-storage facility, located within bicycle distance of everything else in the Netherlands and stuffed to the gills with reprocessed fuel rods (read: plutonium), which is going to be emitting instantly lethal amounts of radiation for over a century, with still-unhealthy amounts leaking off for thousands of years after that.
Dutch Central Organization for Radioactive Waste (COVRA) administers the site, which was designed in the early 1980s as an interim solution to the problem of storing radioactive waste for up to a century while smart people think up a better solution.
Like all nuclear waste storage facilities, the Habog site is really a monument to kicking the can down the road. At present, there is no safe way to dispose of nuclear waste; the only thing we can do is put it somewhere and wait a few thousand years for the radioactive isotopes to decay.
Given that we’re sticking the future with quite a cleanup bill for the cheap-energy party we’ve been throwing, we might as well wrap it up in a nice package, which is where the artistic conceit of the Habog facility comes in.
The large and, one hopes, heavily shielded building acts as a vault for the waste. The exterior of the building is deep orange – which is the Netherlands’ national color – and is scheduled for repainting every 20 years. Each repainting will be a somewhat lighter shade of orange, until the year 2104, when it will be painted white as part of the imposture that the rods are safe to handle.
Inside the vault, visitors are treated to a gallery of paintings on the theme of transformation and decay, as well as a gift shop, which is also dedicated to the theme of transforming your wallet and causing your bank balance to decay.
Enema Of The People
We’ve previously brought you a list of terrifying things to come out of Russia. The enema statue in Zheleznovodsk is of a piece with that tradition, though this bronze monument to colonic irrigation has (so far) stayed safely in Russia.
This monument works on several levels. On the surface, it’s just silly – real people have raised real money to build a statue in honor of enemas. The installation makes a little more sense when you learn that Zheleznovodsk is a getaway town famous for its mineral springs, and that this pure water is used in its health spas, which mostly distribute enemas to clients who pay a premium for the service. Common sense satisfied, the statue gets weird again when you consider that a team of Botticelli-inspired cherubs is holding the enema bulb on top. Why cherubs? It’s Russia, that’s why.
The monument isn’t just silly; it’s expensive. From the solid plinth at its base to the tip of the enema syringe, the whole piece stands 6 feet high, weighs 800 pounds, and cost a reported $42,000. The statue was commissioned by, and it stands proudly in front of, the Mashuk-Akva Term spa building, one of the largest colon scrubbing operations in Zheleznovodsk. Since one bizarre expression often begets another, a large banner in the town commemorated the statue’s dedication, reading: “Let’s beat constipation and sloppiness with enemas.”