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Seminari: "Is nuclear energy green and equitable? Radioactive waste policies and controversies in historical perspective"



Ciclo: Energy. Past & Present

Seminario impartido por Tatiana Kasperski, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona

Miércoles 28 de septiembre de 2022 a las 18 horas

El ciclo “Energy: Past & Present” está organizado conjuntamente por la Societat Catalana d’Història de la Ciència i la Tècnica (SCHCT) y el Institut Interuniversitari López Piñero-UV y coordinado por los profesores José Ramón Bertomeu Sánchez (bertomeu@uv.es) e Ignacio Suay Matallana (ignacio.suay@uv.es). Los seminarios tendrán lugar a las 18 horas todos los últimos miércoles del otoño de 2022 con formato bien en línea o híbrido, es decir, presencial en el salón de actos del Palau Cerveró (IILP-UV) y en línea con el enlace que será comunicado cada semana. Todos los seminarios son de asistencia libre y las personas interesadas pueden contactar con los organizadores para obtener datos complementarios o proponer otras actividades relacionadas.

"Is nuclear energy green and equitable? Radioactive waste policies and controversies in historical perspective"

In this time of climate emergency, nuclear energy has been increasingly touted as a clean and green technology able to produce ever more needed amounts of electricity. At the same, toxic residues from that nuclear industry that have accumulated since the dawn of the nuclear age remain a serious, controversial and largely unsolved problem. To understand this contradiction

I will give an overview of the history, politics and technical controversies surrounding radioactive waste (RW), its production, disposition, and the challenges in managing it safely based on the examples from major nuclear powers.

First, I will analyze the shift in the treatment of RW from a technical one that could be addressed at some future point to public controversies that arose over it; efforts to determine how and where to site it in the 1970s and 1980s; to the end of the Cold War in the 1990s that led to openness about its extent; and ongoing efforts to manage RW.  I will then explore the ways in which technical definitions and classifications of waste – and the national and international institutions that helped to develop them – have evolved, enabling the producers of RW to keep the largest quantities and most dangerous waste away from public discussions about environmental and health risks of the nuclear technology. For example, nuclear institutions in some countries do not considered spent nuclear fuel, or leftovers from uranium mining and reprocessing, as RW. They have framed nuclear accidents as problems of reactor safety and not a large source of RW, and suggested forcefully that peaceful and civilian waste can be and must be treated separately. This has left significant part of the world’s RW without proper disposal and storage. In the last part of my talk I will focus on one of the examples of such inadequately managed waste, the so-called “legacy waste” produced in the world’s weapons establishment, and that either remains in temporary storage, or was simply dumped without adequate safety and environmental measures.

DURACIÓN: 105 min