Holistic decommissioning in the nuclear industry
Projects 5th February 2018
Key contact: Petra Tjitske Kalshoven, Dalton Research Fellow, The University of Manchester
This project, funded by an Endowment from British Nuclear Fuels, addresses current debates in the decommissioning of nuclear facilities and storage of nuclear waste in the UK and will explore social and cultural features of organisation that might help explain prevailing understandings of risk and innovation. More generally, we are interested in human powers and politics of imagination and conceptualisation in and around nuclear and postnuclear landscapes.
Our methods will include extensive ethnographic fieldwork in and around the nuclear installations at Sellafield, West Cumbria, paying attention to its organisational, political, social, and ecological context. Energy production at Sellafield has come to an end and the focus is now exclusively on reprocessing, which will be discontinued in 2020, and decommissioning – which will be a long, expensive, and technologically and socially complex process.
Themes that we plan to address include:
- Infrastructures of disposal: What gets bound in place and how? What concepts and practices of bordering, containment and circulation (dis)-connect the material and the social throughout the supply chain and across the regional economy?
- Material politics and the threat of the uncontained: How do material vitalities of leakage and containment engage expectations and possibilities of technological transformation, on the part of both scientists and ‘the public’?
- Social values, skills. and transformation: Which political, organisational, and behavioural issues are at stake in processes of transformation? Who are the players in these processes, what is the basis of their authority, and what are the rules that are followed or negotiated? Which skill sets come into play in furthering or contesting transformation?
- Emergent ecologies: What life forms and forms of life come to the fore in sites of displacement – what thrives and what dies in the spaces where nuclear energy provision is being undone?
- Nuclear futures: how might nuclear futures be imagined and more fully engaged by wider politics and society?
Research team: Petra Tjitske Kalshoven, Penny Harvey and Damian O’Doherty