Workshop on “Nuclear fun: banalising the atom in public display”

June 21-22, 2017 Tatiana Kasperski and co-organizers Jaume Sastre-Juan and Jaume Valentines-Álvarez held a workshop on “Nuclear fun: banalising the atom in public display” at the University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain. Can nuclear technologies be fun? This was the central question that the participants tried to answer in a series of papers covering the experiences of England, Spain, Portugal, Ukraine and elsewhere. Since the 1950s, the circulation and social acceptance of nuclear technologies has not only been shaped and mediated by techno-utopian dreams of cornucopian abundance and the awe of technological sublime, but also by a playful familiarisation seeking to overcome resistance, distrust and fear of an apocalyptic future. The goal of the workshop was to explore the history of ‘nuclear fun’ and to analyse the role of entertainment, ludic and participatory displays in shaping the cultural representation and the material proliferation of nuclear technologies.

Fieldwork in Moscow, Obninsk and St Petersburg, Russia

May 13-29, 2017 Egle Rindzeviciute spent two weeks visiting atomic heritage sites in Russia. She worked in the archives of the Polytechnic Museum in Moscow, explored the world’s first commercial nuclear power plant in Obninsk (1954) and interviewed atomic heritage professionals as well as scholars studying nuclear legacies in Russia. A formerly secret science city, Obninsk is home to the Institute of Physics and Power Engineering which is developing a memorial complex dedicated to the origins of peaceful applications of nuclear energy in Russia. (By a decree of Stalin, the nuclear physics Laboratory V was founded in the Obninsko settlement in 1946, and in 1956 Obninsk obtained city status – see picture below.) On 15 May Rindzeviciute gave a lecture on nuclear heritage in Russia to the postgraduates at the School of Cultural Studies at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics, Moscow.

Visit to the Zion station, USA

May 5, 2017 Together with colleagues from Stockholm University, Anna Storm visited the Zion station located on the shore of lake Michigan, about an hour’s drive north of Chicago. The nuclear power plant is currently undergoing decommissioning. Many of the structures are already gone, and soon also the two reactor buildings will be torn down. All radioactive waste is relocated by ship or train transport, except for the spent fuel stay which stay on site in so called dry cask storage. When decommissioning is finished, most of the site will be replanted and the beach will be opened for public use.

Fieldwork in St. Petersburg and Sosnovy Bor, Russia

April 23-29, 2017 Andrei Stsiapanau, the project research fellow, went on field work in St. Petersburg and Sosnovy Bor to conduct interviews with participants and key actors of the discussions over the construction of the radioactive waste depository. Russian corporation «Rosatom» considers to build a radioactive waste underground depository on the shore of the Gulf of Finland which extends between Russia, Finland and Estonia. The planned location is the city of Sosnovy Bor, with 67 thousand of population, 40 kilometers away from St. Petersburg, near the Leningrad nuclear power plant. Sosnovy Bor became a nuclear city in 1973, when the first unit of the Leningrad nuclear power plant was launched. The start of the first unit of the new Leningrad nuclear plant, which will replace the old RBMK reactors, is scheduled for 2017. In addition, within the city three nuclear sites – Research Institute, which is now testing the ship’s nuclear power plants, the melting plant of radioactive metals “Ecomet-S” and the radioactive waste repository of the Russian North-West region are located.

During the visit April 26 to the Sosnovy Bor Andrei Stsiapanau attended the Chernobyl disaster commemorative meeting and ceremony with the participation of the former liquidators of the Chernobyl disaster consequences, of the Leningrad NPP and Sosnovy Bor city administrations.  The same day at the Center for Independent Social Research in Saint-Petersburg Andrei Stsiapanau gave a talk in which he shared with the public his thoughts about very different representations about Chernobyl disaster in political discourses in Belarus and Russia.

Conference in Freiberg, Germany

April 26-28, 2017 Anna Storm participated in the conference Authentizität und industriekulturelles Erbe – Identitäten, Grenzen, Objekte und Räume in Freiberg, Germany, and gave the keynote lecture “A landscape of home and a landscape of viewing: Simultaneous realities in the post-industrial situation”.

Photos by Nikolai Ingenerf

Fieldwork in Fessenheim, France

February 20-24, 2017 Florence Fröhlig and Anna Storm went on fieldwork to the small village of Fessenheim in the Alsace region. The dominant presence of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant and the stately energy company EDF was visible not only by dominating the skyline but also, for example, in the local football clubhouse. The two reactors were commissioned in 1977 and 1978 making them the oldest ones still in operation in France. Recurrent anti-nuclear demands as well as political promises to close the plant down have so far not been realized. It is located right next to the Grand Canal d’Alsace where heavy ship transports continuously pass by, and within 1.5 kilometers from the German border.

Fieldwork at SKB/SFR in Forsmark, Sweden

December 12, 2016 Anna Storm went on fieldwork to the final repository for short-lived radioactive waste in Sweden – SFR – managed by the company SKB. The repository is located in the bedrock under the Baltic sea, next to the Forsmark nuclear power plant and to the so-called Biotest lake (see blog post below). In a forestry area close by, the final repository for the most highly radioactive waste, the spent nuclear fuel, is prospected. A frog species that has to be relocated because of the prospecting has been moved to new-built pools and a “frog hotel” a little further away (the earth mound that can be discerned in the picture below right.)