Cultural challenges of visualising radioactive waste storage

AUTOGENA, Lise (2013). Cultural challenges of visualising radioactive waste storage. In: InSOTEC Berlin Stakeholder Seminar 2013, Berlin, 12 -13 November, 2013.

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Abstract

This paper introduces the work of the artist James Acord, an American stone carver and artist who campaigned for greater openness and cultural engagement in the long-term dangers posed by nuclear waste storage. Acord felt that the planning of long term radioactive waste storage could not be carried out by science alone, as there were wider cultural issues at stake. Acord promoted the role of art as a historical context, approach and method of addressing the nuclear waste issue.

The presentation provides a brief visual history and overview of Jim Acords engagement with the nuclear industry, from his initial experiments to extract uranium from Fiesta Ware ceramic glaze in the late 1980s to his designs for radioactive waste storage and proposals to transmute technetium 99 to ruthenium 100 as part of a transformative work of art, that he pursued during the 1990s. Following a speech at the FFTF Internationalisation Symposium in the early 90’s, the German company Siemens offered Acord 12 nuclear fuel rods containing depleted uranium from a never operated SNR-300 breeder reactor in Germany. In order to import the nuclear fuel rods, Acord schooled himself to obtain a radioactive materials handling license. He was the only private individual in the world to have such a license, which was tattooed on the back of his neck. It was his ambition to use the nuclear fuel rods, along with transmuted metal, as part of an ambitious scheme to create a warning monument to the nuclear age at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Richmond, Washington, a project that he never realised before he took his own life in 2011. James Acord’s work as an artist, struggling to create his work in dialogue and collaboration with the nuclear industry during the late 80s and 90s, highlighted the impact of the security and secrecy surrounding the nuclear industry on the wider democratic debate and engagement with radioactive waste storage.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Art and Design Research Centre
Depositing User: Lise Autogena
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2014 11:01
Last Modified: 08 Jul 2014 11:01
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/8217

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