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We are excited to announce the launch of Repository: A Typological Guide to America’s Ephemeral Nuclear Infrastructure, June 28th, 2012, 8 p.m. at Proteus Gowanus as part of the gallery’s programming related to Future Migrations. In the same breath, we’d like to share the news that we are grateful recipients of a 2012 Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts grant, which will support the next phase of this project.
Virtually all of our nation’s nuclear waste has nowhere to go. And yet, it’s always going somewhere, either under its own power or in a vibrant assemblage with other things such as water, air, soil, bacteria or human commerce. Repository graphically depicts this material reality through a deck of 42 cards designed to help you spot and identify today’s temporary solutions for the storage of radioactive waste, as you pass by them on the highway, or as they pass by you.
In late 2012, the Graham Foundation grant will support our field-based research at several of the sites included in the deck. We will generate photo/video based documentation of the sites and processes we encounter, and invent aesthetic interpretations of this complex topic capable of communicating about them in new ways and to broader audiences.
At Proteus Gowanus, we will launch Repository with a presentation of the cards and stories from the project. The deck chronicles “temporary” infrastructures designed (or simply used) to contain nuclear waste until more enduring facilities can be researched and constructed. Some of the cards feature structures that take notably unique approaches to storage. Others exemplify common infrastructural forms or approaches that run through multiple facilities, or function as mobile infrastructures for transporting radioactive waste between sites. As with other FOP projects, we invite audiences to expand their capacities to imagine the monumental time spans required to contain and monitor nuclear materials, and to consider the extraordinary challenges that they present to designers, architects and engineers.
Repository views nuclear infrastructures, storage canisters, and cooling pools as ongoing events. This is because no permanent storage options for our nation’s high-level waste are expected to be available for the next 100-300 years. And, in 2004, the EPA determined that high-level radioactive wastes will remain dangerous to humans for 1 million years. They stipulated that any repository for high level waste will have to meet the unprecedentedly long-term safety goal of 1000 millennia. As of 2011, about 66,000 metric tons of spent fuel were being held, in structures intended to be temporary, at power reactor sites in 33 states. Each year, this amount increases by another 2,000 metric tons. So, we (and generations of people after us) are going to be designing and living in relation to these materials for unimaginably long spans of time to come.
With Repository, we are less interested in questions of what human activities generate nuclear materials, or why. Instead, we focus on the potent material realities of nuclear waste and the unprecedented design challenges that they pose today and into the far future.
We’d like to imagine that Repository offers audiences a few “footholds” within the “mobile and shifting nature” of the phenomenon of nuclear waste. In the sense described by Sanford Kwitner in Architectures of Time, we see the cards as a navigational aid for negotiating life within America’s nuclear infrastructure, as we go about:
“. . . engaging systems at certain specific and local points along their lines of deployment or unfolding. It is as if today one were forced into a new type of intellectual or cultural warfare, forced to accept the mobile and shifting nature of the phenomena that make up our social and political world, and by this same token forced to discover within this slippery glacis of largely indistinct swells and flows, all the lodges, footholds, friction points—in short, all the subtle asperities that would permit us to navigate, and negotiate life, within it.”
Stay tuned for more info about the field research this fall. And we hope to see you at Proteus Gowanus for the launch, where you will be able to pick up a pack of cards, and begin spotting some of the local points and lines of deployment that make up America’s ephemeral nuclear infrastructure.
Repository card sets can be pre-ordered via our website as of today (June 2, 2012), shipping on June 29th.
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