France’s oldest nuclear plant shuts down

On 22 February 2020, one of the two reactors of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant in France was definitively stopped, and the second reactor is planned to be stopped on 30 June. Fessenheim was commissioned in 1977 and is currently the oldest nuclear power plant operating in France. The fate of Fessenheim has been widely discussed during the past decade and the decision to close the ageing reactors was announced already in 2012 by the then newly elected president Francois Hollande. However, the decision did not come into force before now, highlighting the sensibility of closing nuclear power plants in France, which is the world’s second largest nuclear power producer after the US. The approaching post-nuclear situation in the Fessenheim community is feared by many who are dependent on the dominant local employer, while others have since long awaited a closure of the plant.

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Social science researchers meeting the nuclear industry, Paris, France

12-13 December, 2019 Egle Rindzeviciute and Andrei Stsiapanau participated in the workshop “The nuclear and social science nexus: challenges and opportunities for speaking across the disciplinary divide” held at NEA (Nuclear Energy Agency, OECD) Headquarters in Paris. The workshop aimed to establish connections between the social sciences and the humanities insights and the decision-making of practitioners in nuclear energy organizations. The workshop, organized around issues of nuclear politics, techno-politics and science, gathered specialists and practitioners in nuclear energy representing various geographical zones and studying various uses of nuclear energy: new reactors, nuclear waste, public engagement, safety and culture, innovation, education and teaching methodology. Andrei Stsiapanau presented a paper about major reforms within the nuclear waste management in Russia, and Egle Rindzeviciute , who was also a member of the conference’s scientific committee, commented the session about nuclear research and praxis.

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Roundtable with artists and citizens on the future of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant, Mulhouse, France

4 December, 2019 Florence Fröhlig co-organized and participated in a roundtable with the artist Elise Alloin and the geographer Teva Meyer at the Kunsthalle of Mulhouse, as part of the transregional artistic event Regionale 20. A presentation of Elise Alloin’s work on radioactivity was followed by an invitation to interested citizens to discuss and engage with the future of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant.

Double session on Atomic Heritage at the SHOT conference in Milan, Italy

24-27 October, 2019 The annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) was held in Milan, on the theme “Exploring the Interface between Technology, Art, and Design”. The Atomic Heritage team organized a well-attended double session entitled “Atomic Heritage: Assembling Atomic Cultures, Communities and Knowledge” with a total of eleven presenters, chaired by Dr. Eglė Rindzevičiūtė and with two dedicated commentators, Prof Per Högselius and Prof Paul Josephson. We are happy to offer their comments in written form, to be downloaded here:

Atomic Heritage session, part I, comment by Per Högselius

Atomic Heritage session, part II, comment by Paul Josephson

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Comments on Chernobyl miniseries by the disaster “liquidator” Natalia Manzurova

The HBO miniseries “Chernobyl” has sparked great interest in countries around the world and made us aware of the risks of a massive nuclear disaster. But this is a fictional movie in its essence. Is it based on real events and characters? How is it possible to distinguish between truth and artistic exaggeration? Natalia Manzurova, a radiobiologist and engineer, worked as a liquidator in the Chernobyl zone from 1987 to 1991. Having been affected by the chronic radiation sickness, she paid dearly for this mission with her health. Natalia Manzurova considered it necessary to share her comments on the series with the public, and her “true and false” commentary to specific features of the miniseries is available for download here: Oct2019ManzurovaCommentsChernobylSeriesEn

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Photo of Chernobyl NPP courtesy of Mond, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5443288

Natalia Manzurova’s comments have been edited and translated from Russian into English by Tatiana Kasperski from the Atomic Heritage research team, and from Russian into French by Nadezhda Kutepova.