Growing local awareness of impending shutdown of Fessenheim NPP, France

Even if the issue of closing the ageing French nuclear power plant of Fessenheim (France) has been widely discussed the past few years, the discussions have mainly focused on the legitimacy of closing it. Until lately stakeholders (except for antinuclear activists) were mostly concerned by rejecting the idea of a closure and buried their head in the sand, refusing to discuss any transition issues until this autumn.

The inevitability of a closure seems however to have reach the stakeholders and the Council of the region Haut-Rhin organized the 15th-18th of October 2018 a very ambitious conference, named “Ca turbine” in Colmar, France. For five days, different conferences and activities were organized in order to launch a reflection on the energy transition of the region. Very different aspects were scrutinized, from the future of the traditional Alsatian houses to the climate changes in Alsace and its consequences for local enterprises. Of course, the issue of the decommissioning of the Fessenheim reactors were touched upon, notably by the geographer Teva Meyer and the representative of the ASN (Agency for Nuclear Security) Pierre Bois, along with the Atomic Heritage researcher Florence Fröhlig.


The 18th October, participants were proposed an energetic transregional journey, with the visit of the Hydraulic station at Vogelgrun (France), followed by the visit of the Thermes of Bad-Krozingen (Germany) with a focus on the energetic supply of the premises. After a lunch conference offered by the municipality of Breisach (Germany) with three presentations, the program continued with the visit of the Breisach-Baden Campus – a French German premise supporting start-ups. The journey finished symbolically by a speech of the president of the departmental Council, Brigitte Klinbert, attesting the interest of the region for sustainable development.

This autumn was also the moment the university of Haute Alsace, UHA and CRESAT, Mulhouse chose to launch its Observatory of the Dismantling and the Reconversion of Fessenheim’s territory on November 12th, 2018 in order to initiate a scientific reflection about the decommissioning and reconversion of the Fessenheim NPP. The first set of presentations concerned the patrimonialization of the nuclear and the valorization of a local history. The second set of presentations engaged discussions about postnuclear experiences worldwide.

Two weeks later, the 23th of November, the CERDACC (Centre Européen de Recherche sur le Droit des Accidents Collectifs et des Catastrophes) organized a one-day workshop “Mémoire industrielle, facteur de prévention du risque” in Colmar. The first part of the conference « Désindustrialisation et fabrique du Futur: les enjeux de la mémoire industrielle » focused on the aspect of risk and ethics, while the second part of the conference, after a joint discussion with experts capitalizing their experiences, took up the legal frame around the nuclear production in France.


Public seminar on the history and future of Ågesta nuclear power plant, Stockholm, Sweden

25 September, 2018 Ågesta nuclear power plant houses one of Sweden’s early reactors, the first commercial one and the oldest one still preserved. It was operational between 1963 and 1974 and produced mainly district heating for the then newbuilt Stockholm suburb of Farsta. Ågesta was a key site for development and learning within the so called “svenska linjen” (“the Swedish Path”) where a domestic fuel cycle based on heavy water technology was envisioned. This was later abandoned in favour of light water technologies. The plant is scheduled for dismantling beginning in late 2019. In parallel, the question is raised whether Ågesta in fact should be preserved as a cultural heritage monument, and the issue is currently on the table of the Ministry for Cultural Affairs.

In the evening of 25 September, around 60 people showed up at the public seminar “Kulturarv som skaver: Ågesta” (“Chafing heritage: Ågesta”) organized by the Stockholm County Museum and the Workers’ Educational Association (ABF) in Stockholm. The topic was the possible heritage values and the future of the Ågesta plant and it was introduced by representatives from the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology, the owner of the plant Vattenfall, and the Stockholm County Administrative Board. The following discussion, moderated by Anna Storm, became lively and illustrated both the urgency and the complexity of the nuclear legacies currently facing us.

The seminar was recorded as is available here (in Swedish).

agesta 25 sept 2018

Photo: Fredrik Krohn-Andersson

Heritage conference in Hangzhou, China

1-6 September, 2018 The Atomic Heritage research team participated in the Association of Critical Heritage Studies 4th Biennal Conference Heritage Across Borders, held at the Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. We organized a well-attended session on the topic of Atomic Heritage and participated in a session on Heritage and Posthumanism.

Photos upper left: Anders Houltz

China has over 40 operating nuclear reactors, and in the Shanghai-Hangzhou area overground transmission lines dominate both rural and urban landscapes. However, the only two explicit radiation encounters outside conference discussions during this trip surprisingly appeared, first, in the Chinese tea museum, as “preventing radiation damage” is one of many stated health effects of drinking tea and, second, in an underpass in central Hangzhou where a signboard described in detail how to protect oneself in case of an atomic explosion, for example, to hold one’s breath for 20 seconds after the blast and to keep hands underneath the body.

Workshop and fieldwork in Saint Petersburg and Sosnovy Bor, Russia

20-25 May, 2018 The Atomic Heritage research team held a project workshop in Saint Petersburg including two days of fieldwork in the atomic city of Sosnovy Bor, Russia. We visited the Leningrad nuclear power plant, with four old RBMK reactors soon to be taken out of use and two new VVER reactors under construction. The pictures below show the site where the second VVER reactor is currently taking shape, and the turbine hall with the huge rotor assembly not yet installed, and furthermore the team and our guides in the RBMK reactor hall and control room.

Photos from the VVER construction site, courtesy of Chubar Dmitriy and the Leningrad nuclear power plant. Photos from the RBMK reactor, courtesy of Eugeny Rozov and the Leningrad nuclear power plant.

The Leningrad nuclear power plant is located on the Gulf of Finland and dominates the view from the beach of Sosnovy Bor. In the city, the two generations of nuclear reactors are also visible in generations of residential areas, as well as in a museum currently in the making. In Saint Petersburg we gave a seminar at the Higher School of Economics on the topic of Atomic Heritage within the series of “Global Energy Politics and History”.

Photos: Anna Storm 2018.

Jellyfish in the reactor, Stockholm, Sweden

27 April, 2018 Florence Fröhlig and Anna Storm visited the art exhibition ISOTOP by students from the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm, Sweden and Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, Karlsruhe, Germany. The exhibition took place in the facility of Sweden’s first nuclear reactor, R1, today used as an experimental space for music and arts. On the picture you can see the work “Soft resistance” by Tora Wallander, showing a “pool” with slowly moving jellyfish in the cavity where the reactor once was.

jelly fish r1