Accepted Paper:

Radioactive waste containment: aesthetics of material and social spillover into public space  
Petra Tjitske Kalshoven (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

In the context of an ethnography on decommissioning in the nuclear industry, I discuss radioactive waste depositories in the UK and the Netherlands to compare practices of radioactive containment, arguing that its aesthetic spillovers speak eloquently to conceptions of public space.

Paper long abstract:

In the context of a wider-ranging ethnography on social values and perceptions involved in processes of decommissioning in the nuclear industry, I draw on my experience with two radioactive waste depositories to compare practices of containment. The sites of comparison are the UK's Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR) close to Sellafield in West Cumbria and the Dutch Central Organisation for Radioactive Waste (COVRA) close to the Borssele nuclear power station in Zeeland. Both sites are in the business of containing low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste through encasement in concrete-filled drums—COVRA is also responsible for containing high-level waste. Whilst technical and safety discourse and practice at the two sites are quite similar and couched in international regulations for appropriate care, local integration of waste infrastructures shows interesting differences. In addition to its claims to practice 'the art of storing', COVRA provides storage space to museums. It also invites artists to organise nuclear-themed exhibitions on site, and its buildings have been designed and painted in playful reference to their function of containment. LLWR, although less forthcoming to the general public, emphasises strong relations with surrounding communities and highlights the environmental potential of nuclear landscapes. Paying attention to these diverse aesthetics of material and social spillover, I argue that COVRA's and LLWR's missions of containment reveal distinctive modes of self-representation and contextual embeddedness that reflect differences in preoccupations with public space and public involvement.

Panel P085
Containers / Containment