Accepted Paper:

Nuclear Undertakings: Decommissioning as Social Laboratory   

Author:

Sergiu Novac (Central European University, Budapest)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores how decommissioning, seen as the last road in the management of ‘nuclear things’, influences what, following Foucault, might be called the politics of managing life, based of the case of the Greifswald NPP decommissioning project in Germany.

Paper long abstract:

This paper engages with nuclear decommissioning as a point of tension between a complex set of technological and economic strategies for producing nuclear waste and a laboratory for enabling social re-production.

The case study is that of the Greifswald NPP decommissioning project, which has gathered the longest experience in Germany, while its relevance goes far beyond the German experience. 'We have been observing Greifswald for quite a while now. It is in many ways a kind of social laboratory' a senior engineer working in decommissioning for a Finnish energy company tells me during an interview. This state-managed project has worked as an experiment on several levels: on one hand, gathering experience with different approaches to decommissioning, while at the same time trying to facilitate a smooth transition in an economically disadvantaged region where the power plant was the largest and main employer. The scope of this paper is to analyze how these different levels are intertwined and how different - often times even conflicting - temporal horizons are put at work in this process.

The topic is approached along the lines of recent anthropological engagements with energy more broadly (Boyer 2014), rather than taking a radical constructivist approach to 'laboratories' (Latour 1986). Thus, while taking technology seriously, the paper is rather concerned with how decommissioning, seen as the last road in the management of 'nuclear things', influences what, following Foucault, might be called the politics of managing life.

Panel T093
Infrastructures of nuclearity: Exploring entangled histories, spaces and futures