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.

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


‘Assembling a Nuclear Lithuania’ Exhibit at the Architectural Association, London, UK

March 1-25, 2018: Egle Rindzeviciute designed an object ‘Assembling a Nuclear Lithuania‘ in co-operation with a British-Lithuanian architect Jonas Zukauskas. ‘Assembling a Nuclear Lithuania’ is a pilot exhibit that engages with significant aspects of the assembling a nuclear Lithuania, but does not claim to propose an exhaustive narrative leaving both the past and the future open. Its conical shape is inspired by a space-time model where time does not flow in a linear fashion, but curves. The cone seeks to capture the complex multiplicity of actorial spaces and times in the making of the nuclear industry, politics and society in Lithuania, as the country shifted from communist to liberal democratic government.

The themes presented in the pilot do not follow a single chronology or disciplinary view: both the development and decommissioning of the nuclear industry are constructive processes, in which new relations of meaning are formed. The power of these relations can only be examined from multiple disciplinary positions, combining the history of science and technology, heritage and cultural studies, political and economic histories, and anthropology. No single approach is hegemonic: the power of the atom cannot be captured by only one type of expert.

The semi-transparent structure of the pilot exhibit hints at the difficult politics of knowledge around nuclearity, where science and technology are intertwined with economic, political and security interests. In designing this object, we approached this lack of transparency as a resource, a milieu where multiple stories and images can overlap and coexist, contributing to the augmentation of a richer texture of knowledges and agencies that emerge in response to the uncertain atomic future.

‘Assembling a Nuclear Lithuania’ was specially produced for the exhibition The Baltic Material Assemblies, curated by Jonas Zukauskas and Jurga Daubaraite at the Architectural Association (AA) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London, the UK.

To mark the centenary of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian independence, The Baltic Material Assemblies presents architecture of the Baltic states, exploring the material, infrastructural and cultural connections that have persevered despite the political borders and conflict lines that have been laid throughout the region. The exhibition investigates futurity through its inscription into the region’s geology, infrastructure and architecture. Presented at the AA and RIBA, it reveals built space as a common ground for European unity.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are the only former Soviet states to have become members of the European Union. An overwhelming majority of the energy networks, mining operations and urban layouts that were instruments of the soviet industrialisation of the Baltic states remain functional today. The reconfiguration or dismantling of this vast space demands a new relationship between society and its environment. The transformation of the Baltic states is incremental, synchronised, negotiated on many levels and in many cases only made possible through the support of other members of the EU.

Electricity grids, fossil fuel pipelines, nuclear assemblies, geological sections, minerals, landform buildings, insulation materials, and landscape photographs are assembled in this exhibition and outline the background to the new architectural commitments of the Baltic states.

For a full description of the text of ‘Assembling a Nuclear Lithuania’ please follow this link.

Visit to Wunderland Kalkar, Germany

17 March, 2018 Together with an international group of scholars, Anna Storm visited Wunderland Kalkar, a breeder reactor that was never in operation and instead turned into an amusement park, all inclusive hotel and conference facility. The nuclear power plant was built during the 1970s and 80s on the Rhen riverside, the project was cancelled in the early 90s and the site sold to a Dutch entrepreneur who quickly transformed it into its current function, attracting about 650,000 visitors per year. The cooling tower has been painted with mountains; outside there is a climbing wall and inside is a swing carousel. At the premises is a small museum dedicated to the history of the breeder reactor Kalkar, set up by former workers and including pictures and models of the plant. Today, the site relates explicitly to its nuclear past, for example in the naming of conference rooms. Even the former control room is used for conference purposes, with the wall control panels left. In parallell, numerous other cultural and historical contexts are highly present, like an ancient Egypt lounge area, a Western saloon and traditional Bavarian houses.