a drizzly Saturday, we boarded the rickety train to Sellafield from
Barrow. My old school pal, Katy, was visiting from the metropolis
of Derby and I hoped Sellafield Visitors Centre would provide a
fun day out. (Well have you got any better suggestions??)
visited Sellafield in 2000. Since then, the Visitors Centre has
had a major overhaul and the threat of terrorism now means that
access to the site is limited (last time I got a full tour of the
up as a scientist
2003, London's Science Museum was commissioned to update the activities
in the centre. I was interested to see what changes they would have
time, it was all bouncing, cute fluffy atoms. Atoms aren't cute
or fluffy. Putting a smiley face on them is just silly.
aim of the Visitors Centre now is to provoke debate among all visitors
about how we should provide power for people in the 21st century.
we got off the train, it wasn't clear where to go. We walked until
we met some security guards who called a car for us. There is a
pool of drivers whose job is to do short hops like this around Sellafield.
It's quite a walk from the station so make sure you take advantage
looked like a ghost town - it's huge and the large number of staff
is distributed so it seemed that no-one is around.
reception at the Visitors Centre, we booked into a talk about the
site. This was the sort of the thing you'd have on a school trip.
Quite dry and boring but slickly presented by a woman who knew her
then entered the main exhibition area through a silver tunner. We
emerged into a large dark space where words were being projected
onto the floor in front of us.
pals reading words
words were opinions about alternative energy production. They swirled
and swept across the floor.
being temporarily hypnotised by this, we made our way down into
the exhibition. The first thing we spotted were piles of uniforms!
up in police uniforms
sure these full-size outfits are for kids but we couldn't resist
trying them on. Iain dressed as a policeman, I went for a geeky
scientist look while Katy opted for the largest rubber gloves she
we swapped around and took photos of each other. A group of Brownies
appeared so we grudgingly left the uniforms ready for them.
then tried out the games and quizzes around the exhibition. These
were designed for younger brains than ours and were very educational.
it was time to immerse ourselves in the interactive cinema. We each
sat at a computer monitor in front of the 180° screen.
actor appeared on the screen. It looked like he had been filmed
walking on the spot and then superimposed and moved about on a CG-background.
We all looked at each other and tittered.
the presentation, we used our monitors to choose the best locations
for nuclear power stations and wind farms. A vote took place to
decide which alternative energy form we preferred. The winner: wind.
reading the computer screen
all, you'd think we were sitting through a propaganda video for
wind power. We all came out confused - weren't we at a nuclear power
computer turns the page
sat in large armchairs wondering what to do next. In front of the
chairs were huge computer screens which you read like a newspaper.
subject matter was quite boring - news articles - but I had fun
asking the computer to turn the page.
noticed children visiting the centre were rushing about with a booklet
and pencil. "Why aren't there activity books for us?"
I asked a staff member.
was happy to let us have the booklet! We scampered about doing the
'mystery objects' quiz (Katy was fastest), the maze (Iain was quickest)
and the wordsearch (I won that one).
and Katy in overalls
then had to draw a design for a T-shirt promoting our preferred
energy source (Iain's said: "Eat Beans For Wind Power"
then handed back our booklets to be marked. We all got everything
correct - and were awarded the prize - a sticker and A6 spiral notebook.
exhausted all possible entertainment, we made our way up to the
café. The café area has a clear view on all sides
across West Cumbria.
were outnumbered by staff but we had a reasonable lunch of soup
(me), baked potato (Katy) and pies (Iain).
stop, the gift shop. I bought postcards, Katy bought a haematite
pendant and Iain had to be restrained from buying toys.
pre-booked driver arrived and we were taken to the station in good
time for our train, proudly wearing our "I'm a Bright Spark"
stickers (see photo!).
concluded we'd had a good - and free! - day out and were glad we'd
saved time by taking the train and not the car. The exhibition is
much more modern than the previous display and so politically correct
it hurts. Still, this is preferrable to nuclear power propaganda.
not a whole lot to interest adults who've covered all the issues
in their school days but we had great fun doing the kids' activities.
by Suzanne Worthington
the Sellafield Visitors Centre website,
you'll find out more what you can do at Sellafield.
directions to Sellafield, click
Sellafield Visitors Centre
Tel: 01946 727027
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