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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Cumbrian artist Conrad Atkinson's nuclear dump vision

Cumbria’s most famous living artist fears an underground nuclear repository will end up being a 19th-century solution to a 22nd-century problem.

Conrad Atkinson painting photo
Conrad Atkinson’s work hanging in the Tate Gallery in London. Click here to view larger image

Conrad Atkinson, who is originally from Cleator Moor, was speaking to the News & Star after he “freshened up” a study as part of a series in London’s Tate Gallery called “For Wordsworth For West Cumbria”.

Mr Atkinson, a professor of art in California, said: “It was part of a 16-panel piece of work each measuring 24x30 that hangs in the Tate.

“I painted it in 1989 and it was to look at the high culture and the low culture in relation to the deprivation and problems in west Cumbria and the difficulty the area has in attracting jobs.

“Sellafield is reflected in the piece as is the Lake District which is seen as this pristine place without any problems.”

Mr Atkinson, who has a home in Carlisle, says he has been back in this country for 10 days and has already had requests for a reproduction of the work.

“I’ve had to say no but I have dug out the studies for it.”

Mr Atkinson says he has “mixed views” on whether west Cumbria is the right place for a nuclear repository.

He said: “For me I would not have got to college if it hadn’t been for Sellafield. My dad worked there in the 1950s and I worked there in 1957 between school and college.

“It may be that Richard Branson will be making a billion a year from sending the stuff into space in 15 years.

“I’m not sure how much the tunnelling and repository in Cumbria will cost but in the US and near me in Seattle, Deep Space Industries are seeking sponsors and customers and hope to send up prospecting craft in 2015 to mine the asteroids for gold and silver. Planetary Resources [in Seattle] has announced plans to mine “near earth asteroids” backed by Larry Page and others.

“But as I understand it there’s really at least 10 years to go at which point I think there will be visible signs of the investigation.

“At this point some are saying that there will be several hundreds of holes filled with dynamite at regular intervals throughout the Lake District. From here, however, I reserve my case but it does look like a 19th- century solution to a 22nd- century problem.”

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