Nuclear Energy's Long Now: Intransigent Wastes & Radioactive Greens
Vincent F. Ialenti
Department of Anthropology, Cornell University
Forthcoming (2013) in Forum on Energy & Modernity, Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society (Suomen Antropologi): 38
A response to Vadén & Salminen’s contribution to Suomen Antropologi’s 2013 Forum on Energy & Modernity, the present article offers an anthropologically-inflected analysis of how nuclear energy technologies have constituted the ideational and hence experiential realities of contemporary life in a way that is distinctly their own. This follows three lines of inquiry. First, it examines how emerging pro-nuclear environmentalist movements shape visions of ‘nuclear renaissance’ by appealing to nuclear energy technologies’ potentials to bolster energy independence, fight climate change, and ensure security of energy supply. Second, it revisits nuclear energy technologies through the lens of their waste products’ effectuation of novel modes of scenario forecasting, technical modeling, and future-gazing that have inserted into present-day imaginations new visions of distant future worlds. Third, influenced by anthropologist Mary Douglas’ 1966 Purity & Danger, it recasts the challenge of high-level nuclear waste disposal as a challenge of pushing ‘matter out of place’ outside the bounds of socialities and ecosystems for the duration of its multi-millennial cycle of decay. This article concludes by reflecting on how analysis of the disparate ideational alignments and re-alignments constituted by disparate energy technologies can reveal how shifts in the conceptual settlements of the contemporary world emanate differently from different energy technology choices.
Keywords: nuclear energy, radioactive waste, nuclear renaissance, cultures of energyAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: October 11, 2013 ; Last revised: January 27, 2014
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