About the project
March 2021 marked ten years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Not only did the triple reactor-core meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant create an unprecedented public health and economic challenge for all of Japan, but it also marked a shift in the trajectory of Japan’s nuclear industry. Whereas before the Fukushima disaster, Japan was expected to produce up to 50% of its electricity needs from nuclear energy by 2020, that number currently stands at 20%, roughly 2/3 of what it was a decade ago. While the future remains uncertain, Japan’s reliance on nuclear power to meet the majority of its energy needs is no longer guaranteed. Japan, of course, remains the only country in the world to have experienced wartime nuclear bombing. Long an ambassador for nuclear disarmament, Japan now sees itself questioning the peacetime production of nuclear energy as well.
Three years after the Fukushima disaster, China’s President Xi Jinping announced his signature foreign policy initiative: the ‘Belt & Road’. Designed in large part to address China’s oversupply of domestic infrastructural construction capacity, much of the BRI focuses on developing energy infrastructure connectivities across Asia and beyond, with nuclear power being a significant part of this infrastructure development. With 47 existing reactors which already account for 1/5 of global nuclear power generating capacity, China proposes to build at least 30 new reactors across Asia, as part of the BRI, by 2030. This is in addition to the 43 new reactors already planned for construction within China. In contrast to Japan, then, China’s future reliance on nuclear power is guaranteed. Indeed, China increasingly presents itself as a model of how to live in the nuclear age, while in Japan there has been much greater emphasis on living beyond the nuclear age.
Supported with a grant from the Albert Smith Nuclear Age Fund, the Center for Asian Studies will host a series of three focused workshops exploring this “tale of two Asias.” Already engaged in a broader examination of Asian infrastructure development through the China Made project (see https://chinamadeproject.net/), we will explore Japanese and Chinese modes of living in the nuclear age through a technopolitical lens, including considerations of the impacts of energy infrastructures on everyday life, social movements and cultural engagements with nuclear energy development, and the political implications of infrastructural risk and vulnerability. Collectively, these workshops will ask: What are the technopolitical dimensions of efforts to both survive in and move beyond the nuclear age in Asia? What do we learn from paying particular attention to the Japanese and Chinese contexts of these efforts?
Workshop 1: A Decade of Fukushima: Socio-Technical Perspectives on Surviving the Nuclear Age in Japan
On March 18th and 19th, CAS hosted an international group of scholars for the first workshop in this project: A Decade of Fukushima: Socio-Technical Perspectives on Surviving the Nuclear Age in Japan. Professor Hirokazu Miyazaki of Northwestern University launched the workshop on Thursday evening with his keynote address “Nuclear Compensation: Hope, Responsibility, and Collaboration around Fukushima.” On Friday, workshop presentations were delivered by Professors Ryo Morimoto (Princeton University), Hiroko Kumaki (Dartmouth College), Noriko Manabe (Temple University), and Sulfikar Amir (Nanyang Technology University). Discussion comments were provided by CU Boulder faculty Kate Goldfarb, Tim Oakes, Donna Goldstein, Miriam Kingsberg Kadia, and CAS postdoctoral fellow Darren Byler.
The Fukushima workshop focused on the experience of Japan which, 10 years ago, experienced the triple disaster earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor meltdown in the northern Tohoku region. Presentations explored sociotechnical perspectives on how people in Japan have lived with the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 events. A ‘sociotechnical perspective’ is meant to recognize that nuclear power enrolls people, as individuals and as social collectivities, into a particular and peculiar set of relationships with technology. Those relationships blur the boundaries between science and society, and between technology and culture, in unique and compelling ways. For instance, how do people – in their everyday lives – understand and practice their relationship to radiation? How do they calculate different kinds of risk? How do they come to be involved in the measurement of radiation and the science of predicting health-related effects of radiation?
While the issues swirling around nuclear power are often portrayed in purely technical terms, the workshop’s aim was to demonstrate that nothing is ever ‘just technical’. Workshop presenters consider questions such as: How has the nuclear disaster brought about a crisis of expertise as people within the radiation zone live in a condition of uncertainty regarding the effects of radiation on their bodies, their animals, plants and soil? What have been the unexpected political outcomes of people’s encounters with nuclear technology? How do we define responsibility when considering the risks and benefits of nuclear energy? How have cultural practices been shaped by people’s relationship with the technologies and infrastructures of nuclear power, or with the technological interventions brought about by the disaster? In considering questions like these, workshop participants interrogated the intersections between cultural and social practices and technical or scientific processes in Japan’s efforts to address nuclear disaster risks, vulnerabilities and resiliency.
A Decade of Fukushima Workshop Papers
- Keynote Presentation - Nuclear Compensation: Hope, Responsibility, and Collaboration around Fukushima
- Ethnographic Lettering: “Pursed Lips: A Call to Suspend Damage in the Age of Decommissioning”
- Living in Paradox: Technopolitics of Health and Well-Being in Fukushima
- Sound Trucks as Technology of Antinuclear Protest
- Hidden Vulnerability: Power, Structure, and Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima
Nuclear Compensation: Hope, Responsibility, and Collaboration around Fukushima
Hirokazu Miyazaki, Northwestern University
with Discussion comments by Kathryn Goldfarb, University of Colorado
In this presentation, I discuss a collaborative project on nuclear energy and its social costs I have coordinated with an international team of anthropologists, science and technology studies scholars, legal scholars, lawyers, project finance specialists, and activists, since 2016. The project has recently completed a report entitled “Nuclear Compensation: Lessons from Fukushima.” The report examines the limitations of existing domestic and international frameworks for nuclear power plant accident damage compensation that the Fukushima disaster has exposed. These technical limitations concern a broad range of sociolegal issues from artificial boundaries created for compensation eligibility to nuclear reactor manufactures’ liability, and cross-border damage claims. These issues in turn have broader economic, political, and ethical implications for the future of nuclear energy. The report calls for the incorporation of issues of compensation into nuclear emergency preparedness and response planning. It also proposes that a forum be created for anticipatory, participatory, and transnational dialogues between experts and citizens, including victims of past disasters, concerning nuclear disaster compensation. In this presentation, I reflect on this collaborative project, and the transnational conversation it seeks to initiate, as a lens through which to examine an interplay between hope and responsibility at stake in the future of nuclear energy.
Hirokazu Miyazaki is currently the Kay Davis Professor and Professor of Anthropology at Northwestern University. Miyazaki has extensively published on theories of exchange, futurity, and hope. His current research focuses on a variety of forms of activism surrounding the uses of nuclear power. He is the author of The Method of Hope: Anthropology, Philosophy, and Fijian Knowledge and Arbitraging Japan: Dreams of Capitalism at the End of Finance, and has edited or co-edited The Economy of Hope, Peace through the U.S.-Japan Doll Exchange (in Japanese), and Nuclear Compensation: Lessons from Fukushima.
“Pursed Lips: A Call to Suspend Damage in the Age of Decommissioning”
Ryo Morimoto, Princeton University
With discussion comments by Tim Oakes, University of Colorado
In the past decade, what have we as scholars learned about Fukushima prefecture beyond the 2011 nuclear accident and its harm? Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2013- 19, this talk recounts residents’ hopes and desires as they struggle to live and die well in coastal Fukushima amidst the ongoing decommissioning of the damaged power plant. In so doing, I follow Indigenous scholar Eve Tuck’s call for the suspension of research that centers the category of damaged subject. I contend that the failure to attend to nuclear power as an enduring (infra)structure risks reproducing residents as damaged subjects, while obscuring the disasters’ protracted impacts on surrounding residents’ and their descendants’ quality of life, cultural continuity, memories, the sustainability of their land and livelihoods, and local ecology.
I illustrate one version of such a damage-centered approach, which I call half-life politics, by using the government-led decontamination in coastal Fukushima as a case study. I argue that decontamination foregrounds the technologically determinable presence and absence of radiation in the environment and their potential harm to humans above all other things. Despite the best intentions behind the policy, this approach to the 2011 nuclear accident and its aftermath (and the extraction and consumption of sufferings as its byproduct) has alienated residents who remain in coastal Fukushima. It has also failed to sufficiently address nuclear energy’s social and cultural challenges beyond its harm to individual bodies. I further argue that academic and media emphasis primarily on nuclear victimhood has contributed to the half-life politics in coastal Fukushima.
In anticipation of the age of decommissioning (Hairo no Jidai) in Japan, I close by drawing connections between Fukushima, Kazakhstan (Stawkowski), and the American Southwest (e.g., Churchill, Kultz, & Silko). In so doing, I suggest that confronting an already and unequally irradiated world requires shifting analytical attention from nuclear victimhood (how people have been damaged) to atomic livelihood (how people hope, despite their suffering).
Ryo Morimoto is a first-generation scholar from Japan and an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University. Before joining Princeton, he was a postdoctoral fellow and a project manager of the Japan Disaster Digital Archive (jdarchive.org) at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University. As a 2020-21 member of the School of Social Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study, he is finishing his book project, entitled “The Nuclear Ghost: Atomic Livelihood in Fukushima’s Gray Zone.”
Living in Paradox: Technopolitics of Health and Well-Being in Fukushima
Hiroko Kumaki, Dartmouth College
With discussion comments by Donna Goldstein, University of Colorado
This paper examines practices of health and well-being after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident from a social and technopolitical perspective. Nuclear infrastructures have been founded on a paradox, in which certain amount of exposure is inevitable for its operation, while any amount of radiation exposure could be harmful. This technical limitation has co- constituted with the structure of risk governance, which has normalized certain amount of exposure as “reasonable” for nuclear workers and the general public. As a result, health has increasingly become a compromise, negotiated between biological risks and socioeconomic benefits of living with nuclear infrastructures. This paper provides ethnographic accounts of the uneven effects of this technopolitical paradox, and divergent ways in which the exposed public has responded to the nuclear accident to ensure their health and well-being. While governmental projects of recovery and energy transition may gesture towards a sense of moving “beyond” the disaster and the nuclear age, my interlocutors’ lives present an ever-deepening entanglement with the nuclear age and its constitutive paradox. This urges us to ask how health and well-being, as well as futures, are enacted from within the paradox, rather than from a place of transcendence that externalizes life that continues to be negotiated in the paradox.
Hiroko Kumaki is a postdoctoral fellow in the Society of Fellows at Dartmouth College. She received her doctorate in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. Her research examines the intersections of health, environment, and science and technology. Her current project is an ethnographic study of policies and practices surrounding health and well-being after the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011.
Sound Trucks as Technology of Antinuclear Protest
Noriko Manabe, Temple University
With discussion comments by Miriam Kingsberg Kadia, University of Colorado
A characteristic part of antinuclear protests following the Fukushima accident was the sound truck. Piled high with speakers and sound equipment, it was a movable stage upon which DJs, rappers, and bands performed. The crude affordances of this technology—loudness and visibility—played a crucial role in making opposition to nuclear power visible at a time when media coverage seemed minimizing or unsympathetic to antinuclear views, let alone protests. The performances on the sound truck also made protests more inviting for ordinary citizens.
This paper considers the development of performances in these Japanese sound demos. First appearing in LGBTQ parades in the 1990s, sound trucks gained media notice during the anti-Iraq War protests of 2003. During the antinuclear protests of 2011–2012, sound-truck performances evolved from presentations of pre-written songs to a participatory call-and-response, with rappers and musicians trading Sprechchor slogans with protesters. This style became the dominant performance style for sound demos, which has persisted through protests against racism, the Security Bills, and labor conditions throughout the 2010s. The paper considers the ways in which social circumstances, political opportunity, policing, urban acoustics, and landscape shape protest performance and social-movement participation.
Noriko Manabe is Associate Professor of Music Studies at Temple University. She researches music in social movements and popular music in Japan and the Americas. Her monograph, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Protest Music after Fukushima (Oxford), won the John Whitney Hall Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies, the BFE Book Prize from the British Forum for Ethnomusicology, and Honorable Mention for the Alan Merriam Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology. Her second monograph, in progress, posits a typology of intertextuality in protest music and the patterns by which these methods are used. She is editor of 33-1/3 Japan, a book series on Japanese popular music from Bloomsbury Publishing; co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Protest Music (with Eric Drott); and co-editor of Nuclear Music (with Jessica Schwartz).
Hidden Vulnerability: Power, Structure, and Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima
Sulfikar Amir, Nanyang Technology University
With discussion comments by Darren Byler, University of Colorado
This paper briefly discusses how vulnerability becomes hidden in a complex sociotechnical system. Situated in the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the paper explains several factors that contributed to the hidden vulnerability in Fukushima Daiichi. The focus is placed on the development of vulnerability at the micro level where human operators and technical components interact and linked to the socio- political environment at the broader level. It is posited that vulnerability is a process that unfolds over time and that the fragility of sociotechnical system is emergent in nature. Furthermore, vulnerability is likely to turn hidden due to the socio-political environment that undermines the potential risk of system accident. Integrating concepts from the sociology of disaster and STS, this manuscript aims to demonstrate the process in which the construction of vulnerability emerge from the condition in which epistemological bias and institutionalized ignorance are inextricably intertwined.
Sulfikar Amir is an Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society (STS) and a faculty member in Sociology Programme at the School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His research interests primarily focus on examining institutional, political, and epistemological dimensions of scientific knowledge and technological systems. He has conducted research on technological nationalism, development and globalisation, nuclear politics, risk and disaster, design studies, city and infrastructure, and resilience. Sulfikar Amir is the author of "The Technological State in Indonesia: the Co-constitution of High Technology and Authoritarian Politics" (Routledge, 2012), and the editor of "The Sociotechnical Constitution of Resilience: A New Perspective on Governing Risk and Disaster" (Palgrave, 2018).
Workshop 2: China’s Nuclear Belt & Road
Socio-technical perspectives on China’s export nuclear infrastructures
April 22-23, 2022, Boulder, CO
This workshop explored the prospects for, and possible consequences of, China’s efforts to position itself, and Asia more broadly, as the global leader in nuclear power production. We asked: What have been the social, economic, cultural, and/or political effects and implications of China’s nuclear energy infrastructure development both within China and in other Asian countries where China is currently investing in nuclear energy development projects?
Key workshop themes included the role of international institutions and standards as a central part of any analysis of China’s nuclear export ambitions, the nature of nuclear power as a uniquely complex kind of infrastructure, and the possible social and political implications of nuclear power as a dominant source of energy in China and Asia more broadly.
China's Nuclear Belt & Road Workshop Papers
- The Weight of China’s Nuclear Projects May Lead to Global Spondylosis
- The Nuclear Belt and Road: A Boon or a Bust for the Environment?
- China’s Nuclear Cooperation and Global Security
- Exporting Reactors? Nuclear Energy and China’s Belt and Road Initiative
- Nuclear Innovation: China’s Strategy
- China’s Nuclear Export Ambitions in Context
“The Weight of China’s Nuclear Projects May Lead to Global Spondylosis”
Ipshita Bhattacharya, Jagran LakeCity University, Bhopal
China launched its most ambitious plan in 2013 in form of Belt and Road Initiative. In another decade China is planning to establish and finance thirty nuclear reactor projects in BRI countries, which will have regional as well as global political implications. Since China is investing in nuclear projects it will have more dominance and interference in the global nuclear market, and in international nuclear governance. Eventually this will lead to the dependence of the BRI host countries of nuclear projects on China.
Since these host countries often don’t have rigorous regulations and necessary institutions to follow the rule of law, the limitation to adhere to the application of international standards, the technological advancements, infrastructure and the knowledge to deal with the radioactive material, they will have to depend largely on China that might lead to compromised negotiations on the part of local stakeholder’s interests. In this situation the application of laissez-faire method by Beijing for the infrastructural developmental support will easily procure the Chinese actors the project deals completely exempting them from the environmental, social and legal consequences and independently and dominantly allowing them to make profits by cutting corners. This study will majorly explain the socio-political impact assessment, along with technological and legal bottlenecks on part of BRI host countries for these nuclear projects and critically weigh the prospective potential benefits of China in comparison to BRI countries hosting the nuclear projects. Second part will deal with the potential global threat posed by the Chinese strategy of bringing down gravity of nuclear trade to a level of easy open retail commerce. The dichotomy of nuclear power enablement lies in the fact that whereas the knowhow and the technology enable and ensure national development: the grave ramifications loom large globally on its misuse or abuse.
“The Nuclear Belt and Road: A Boon or a Bust for the Environment?”
Lami Kim, US Army War College, Carlisle, PA
In September 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China will not build new coal power plants abroad. How will this decision affect the Nuclear Belt and Road, China’s ambition to export nuclear power plants to the Belt and Road countries? The Nuclear Belt and Road could be a boon from the environmental perspective. Powering China’s massive development and infrastructure building projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with coal would be a disaster for the environment. While renewables are not yet reliable and affordable, nuclear energy is a clean alternative to fossil fuels. However, China’s problematic industrial safety track record, in addition to its rampant corruption problem, generate concerns about nuclear accidents. In addition, many BRI countries mostly lack rigorous regulations and the necessary technology, know-how and personnel to handle the atoms safely. This paper will examine the impact of China’s pledge to stop building coal power plants abroad on its ambitions for the Nuclear Belt and Road, as well as implications from the environmental/nuclear safety perspective.
Lami Kim is an Assistant Professor in the Department of National Security and Strategy at the U.S. Army War College, a US-Korea NextGen Scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and an Adjunct Fellow at Pacific Forum. Her research interests are all things nuclear, emerging technologies and international security, and security issues in East Asia. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Washington Quarterly, Global Governance, War on the Rocks, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the National Bureau of Asian Research, Routledge, and The Diplomat, among others. She has been interviewed by Time magazine, Al-Jazeera and the LA Times, among others. She has served as a research fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center, the Wilson Center, Pacific Forum, and the Stimson Center; as a Nuclear Scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; as a Visiting Fellow at Seoul National University; and also as a South Korean diplomat. She has taught at Harvard University, Boston College, and the University of Hong Kong. She holds a PhD degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a Master’s degree from Harvard University.
“China’s Nuclear Cooperation and Global Security”
Lynn Lee, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
How would the expansion of China’s civil nuclear cooperation through the BRI affect the global nuclear security and safety culture? On the one hand, the impact may be marginal because China has been abiding by the rules and norms of the global nuclear regime. Not only has China safely operated its nuclear power reactors for decades, it has adapted to this regime through extensive bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Institutionally, the structure of this regime and China’s position in it may constrain the degree of China’s influence on the culture. On the other hand, the impact may be significant because China is exporting nuclear energy to new comer states, which renews concerns in nuclear proliferation, accident and terrorism. Also, the addition of these states that are not signatories of the 123 Agreement may weaken the U.S. control of the security and safety culture. In this paper, I first conceptualize the global nuclear regime, the current nuclear security and safety culture, and the extent of China’s civil nuclear cooperation. Then, I analyze China’s potential impact on the culture from the above mentioned angles. In terms of the methodology, I examine China’s intention and policy through analyzing Chinese official documents, academic publications and other open source material. Second, I intend to conduct semi-structured interviews with nuclear energy experts from China and its partner states including the U.S., South Korea and the UK to examine China’s actual practices in nuclear security and safety.
Lynn Lee is a PhD candidate in Security Studies in the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Her academic interests lies in nuclear issues in Northeast Asia, such as China’s nuclear strategy and military modernization, and North Korea’s nuclear weapons development. In her dissertation, she examines China’s influence strategy through critical infrastructure construction projects (ex. nuclear energy exports) and dual use technology transfer, and intends to contribute to the development of a counter-hegemonic theory. At Princeton, she is student director of the Center for International Security Studies. She holds a MA in China Studies from the Yenching Academy at Peking University and a BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. She is fluent in Korean and Mandarin, and proficient in French.
“Exporting Reactors? Nuclear Energy and China’s Belt and Road Initiative”
M.V. Ramana, University of British Columbia
Nuclear power features prominently in China’s plans for exports of energy technologies under the Belt and Road Initiative. One Chinese official has even suggested that China build “an energy community with a shared future for mankind with nuclear power as a bond”. In February 2022, China National Nuclear Corporation signed an agreement to build a nuclear plant in Argentina. This marks China’s first export of a nuclear reactor to a country other than Pakistan. At the same time, prospects for nuclear energy around the world have been quite dismal, with the technology’s market share in continuous decline since the mid 1990s. This talk will examine the trends in nuclear power around the world and the causes for these trends. It will then go on to examining the recent history of nuclear power export targets set by Chinese officials and agreements with various countries, as well as the specific case of the high temperature gas cooled reactor, before offering a brief prognosis of future reactor exports from China.
M.V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security and Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He is the author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India (Penguin Books, 2012) and co-editor of Prisoners of the Nuclear Dream (Orient Longman, 2003). Ramana is a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, the Canadian Pugwash Group, the International Nuclear Risk Assessment Group, and the team that produces the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Leo Szilard Award from the American Physical Society.
“Nuclear Innovation: China’s Strategy”
Yi-chong Xu, Griffith University
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle – Sun Tzu.
The United States and France have the world’s largest nuclear power fleets and Russia sells more power stations globally. China is catching up quickly, having the most nuclear power plants (NPP) built in the past three decades and the most NPPs under construction in the world. Most significantly it is developing advanced nuclear technologies, specifically closed fuel cycle nuclear reactors and small modular reactors, to compete in the global transition to low-carbon energy. This takes place in a near absence of global competition in these areas. Its impact will be strategic and broad, affecting not only the nuclear industry, but also industrial capacity, energy transition, international trade, and, most importantly, standard setting through international institutions such as the IAEA. In a globalised economy, who controls the standards, controls the market. With economic power and influence flowing away from fossil fuels, new sources of influence are emerging that will be anchored in a raft of technologies, among which is advanced nuclear technology.
This paper examines the development of these two technologies – closed fuel cycle nuclear reactors and small modular reactors – to explain how China is engaging in global competition and to identify its potential impact. It concludes that China is not seeking to compete for global market shares with the known technologies developed more than half century ago. Rather, it is aiming for new technologies, new standards, and new markets, as it has been doing in many other sectors. This analysis provides just one example of the way in which China is reshaping the geostrategic landscape through technological innovation.
Xu Yi-chong is professor at the School of Government and International Relations, Griffith University, and a fellow of the Academy of Social sciences of Australia. Her research covers primarily two fields: energy and international organizations. Her energy-related work includes The Sinews of Power (2017), The Politics of Nuclear Energy in China (2010); Electricity Reform in China, India and Russia (2004); and Powering China (2002). She has also published International Organisations and Small States (2021, with Patrick Weller); The Working World of International Organisations (2018); Inside The World Bank (2009); The Governance of World Trade; and The Politics of International Organisations (2015). All of this work, and a few more, has been supported by the Australian Research Council.
“China’s Nuclear Export Ambitions in Context”
Jessica Lovering, Good Energy Collective
China’s domestic nuclear industry has rapidly become one of the largest in the world, but their export ambitions are still in their infancy. In this keynote, I will provide context for how China’s export roadmap compares historically to other major nuclear vendor countries such as France, Canada, and the US, and how they compare with more recent players like Japan and South Korea. China is pursuing a broad strategy of influence through nuclear consisting of three components: 1) marketing its domestic Hualong reactor for export, 2) investing in existing nuclear projects abroad, such as Hinkley C in the UK, and 3) partnering with Canada and the U.S. to develop advanced reactor concepts. Using data on R&D investment and bilateral trade agreements, I will couch China’s position in the global market within a broader history of nuclear exports as a tool of leverage and diplomacy.
Jessica Lovering is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Good Energy Collective, a new organization working on progressive nuclear policy. She completed her PhD in Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. Her dissertation focused on how commercial nuclear trade affects international security standards and how very small nuclear reactors could be deployed at the community level. She is a Fellow with the Energy for Growth Hub, looking at how advanced nuclear can be deployed in sub-Saharan Africa. She was formerly the Director of the Energy Program at the Breakthrough Institute, a pioneering research institute changing how people think about energy and the environment. Her work at Breakthrough sought policies to spur innovation in nuclear power technologies to drive down costs and accelerate deployment as part of a solution to climate change and economic development. She has a bachelor’s degree in Astrophysics from University of California Berkeley and a Master’s degree in Energy Policy from the University of Colorado.
Workshop 3: Fallout: Asian networks of nuclearity
Friday, October 27, 2023, Boulder, CO
This third workshop in the Tale of Two Asias project seeks to explore the networked and relational nature of Asian nuclearity. That is, what sorts of compartmentalizations, zones of exclusion, and narratives of separation have emerged as Asian people and places grapple with nuclear infrastructures of all kinds? How do we decompartmentalize nuclear governance and grasp the complex assemblage of nuclear energy? What insights might be gained from Asia in addressing this question?
Workshop panelists will include: Meredith DeBoom (University of South Carolina); Donna Goldstein (University of Colorado Boulder); Tong Lam (University of Toronto); Ann-Elise Lewallen (University of Victoria); Maxime Polleri (Université Laval); and Magdelena Stawkowski (University of South Carolina),
with discussion comments by Tim Oakes (University of Colorado Boulder) and Kate Goldfarb (University of Colorado Boulder)
Asian Networks of Nuclearity Workshop Papers
"Commodifiable Phantasm: The Politicization of the Native Land after Fukushima"
Maxime Polleri, Université Laval
This paper examines the Japanese state’s attempt to manage radioactive hazards by going beyond technical solutions or scientific discourses after the 2011 Fukushima Dai’ichi nuclear disaster. I focus on state performances that mobilize tropes of nostalgia around the concept of the “native land” (furusato) to promote a politics of revitalization in Fukushima. Within Japan, the “native land” is associated with traditional images of rural idylls, as well as with agricultural activities and natural landscapes. Through the observation of public relation campaigns, I first examine how the state mobilizes this imaginary, often promoting Fukushima as an ideal “native land” that is strong, resilient, and open to tourism. Subsequently, I investigate the story of evacuees from Fukushima, whose native land was transformed by forced evacuations, ongoing relocations, and residual radioactivity. For them, the native land is not simply a physical space, but a set of social relationships and imaginaries that cannot co-exist with the effects engendered by radioactive contamination. By investigating how different understandings of the native land influenced the interpretation of radiation hazards, this paper argues that an engagement with the rural imaginary became a political touchstone for speaking about nuclear disaster recovery. For some evacuees, the phantasm of a place that was pure before, confronted the state’s phantasm of a place that could become pure again and thus open for prompt repatriation and economic commodifications.
Maxime Polleri is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Université Laval and a member of the Graduate School of International Studies. As an anthropologist of science and technology, he studies the governance of disasters and waste with a focus on nuclear topics. Dr. Polleri is finishing a book about the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, which happened in Japan.
Of Drosophila, Butterflies and Men: The Scientific Meaning of Extrapolation Across the Human-Animal Divide
Magda Stawkowski, University of South Carolina and Donna M. Goldstein, University of Colorado Boulder
This paper embarks on a critical and multilayered exploration of the complexities surrounding the extrapolation of data obtained from animals and insects for understanding the potential nuclear exposure effects on humans. An outcome of several years of joint effort, we respond to the persistent scientific uncertainty and ambiguity within sub-disciplinary corners not our own, that seek to bridge the gap between animal and human effects of nuclear radiation. Within radiation research, animal studies serve as invaluable tools for understanding biological effects of radiation exposure. However, the outcomes of these studies are often employed selectively. Delving into the interdisciplinary literatures and scientific histories, we expose unsettled science inherent in the process of extrapolating animal and insect research findings to elucidate human radiation effects. This paper makes two key arguments. First, the studies on nuclear radiation effects are characterized by profound scientific uncertainty and complexity, which, in turn, make the extrapolation of data from animals to humans challenging and imprecise. Second, the historical and political context of nuclear research, particularly during the Cold War era, meant that scientific uncertainty was magnified and polarized. Indeed, the focus on animals and radiation effects, much like other research that took place in the Cold War timeframe, already embodied the central tensions of that era as well as specific sensibilities toward the utility and necessity of animal research. That is, researchers confronted knowledge gaps which were exacerbated by the urgency to provide answers, seeking to engage with national security concerns that sometimes superseded scientific rigor. We show that when animal studies demonstrate harm, they are often dismissed on the basis that humans are somehow intrinsically different or more resilient than animals. The tendency to downplay animal studies that show adverse effects of radiation is rooted in the belief of human exceptionalism. More importantly, the selective referencing of outdated scientific research studies—the original studies done in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the ABCC and later RERF— has also created a kind of mechanically reiterated form of human “radiation effects denial.” Finally, animal studies are used to bolster arguments about the safety of nuclear technologies, including nuclear power plants. This paper aims to redefine the boundaries of nuclearity as conceptualized by Hecht (2012) and contributes to broader discourses about the relationship between animals, insects, and humans. We show that the legacy of scientific imperfection and ambiguity endures.
Donna M. Goldstein is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado Boulder and author of Laughter Out of Place: Race, Class, Violence, and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown, which won the Margaret Mead Award of 2005 (University of California Press, 2003; 2nd edition 2013). She is editor or co-editor of several special journal issues, including themes such as invisible harm (Culture, Theory and Critique 2017), corruption in Latin America (Culture, Theory and Critique 2018), and Trump surrealist politics. Her interests span across topics such as environmental harm and toxicity, Cold War politics, mass hysteria, and the great ape language debates. Her current work addresses the history and futures of Brazil’s nuclear energy program, scientific communities, and uncertain data and is currently completing a book provisionally titled, Brazil’s Nuclear Ambitions: From Cold War Science to Contemporary Populations at Risk.
Magdalena E. Stawkowski is a cultural and critical medical anthropologist researching nuclear and militarized spaces in Kazakhstan. She examines Soviet-era nuclear testing on the Semipalatinsk Test Site and how people cope with the aftermath. Stawkowski is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina and a Visiting Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies in Copenhagen. She also is a consultant for Norwegian People's Aid addressing the impact of Soviet nuclear testing in Kazakhstan and Novaya Zemlya.
"Indigenous Futures amidst Settler Disposal: Japanese Wastelanding in Ainu Mosir"
ann-elise lewallen, Pacific & Asian Studies, University of Victoria, British Columbia
Settler extractivist projects seek to unearth “resources” that can generate profit, while also hollowing land to create an “industrial sink” (Liboiron 2021) to bury waste. Complex infrastructures such as extraction require expendable land, or land that can assimilate large quantities of contaminants. In Japan’s Indigenous Ainu region, two communities offered to host Japan’s most radioactive nuclear waste in a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) – the most poisonous “sink” – for perpetuity. These sites where vibrant Ainu communities thrived, were obliterated by 19th century smallpox epidemics. Today, they host fisheries, aquaculture, and windfarms – asserting new settler infrastructures and submerging ancestral Ainu care for the land. In this paper I consider how distinct notions of time - from Indigenous futurity to settler time – intersect with what may be called ‘nuclear time-scales,’ the expanse of time required for the toxicity of nuclear waste to be halved.
lewallen is an engaged anthropologist who supports Indigenous empowerment through decolonial mapping, ecosystem health, and efforts to restore Indigenous Land relations in East and South Asia, as showcased in this Storymap. Her first monograph, The Fabric of Indigeneity: Contemporary Ainu Identity and Gender in Settler Colonial Japan (SAR Press and New Mexico, 2016), focuses on Indigenous Ainu women’s cultural resurgence through clothmaking. Her book-in-progress, The Banyan Tree and the Fish with no Scales, engages with Indigenous Land reclamation in the face of settler extractivism in Japan and South Asia.
Strange Love is in the Air
Tong Lam, University of Toronto
From uranium extraction to enrichment, from nuclear bomb design to testing, atomic closed cities were pivotal to China’s participation in the nuclear arms race during the Cold War. Remarkably, in all these restricted cities, love stories appear to be inseparable from the history of China’s nuclear weapons development. By analyzing selected love tales drawn from oral interviews, fictions, and propaganda screenplays, this paper explores how these atomic cities, as national nuclear sacrifice zones, are affective infrastructures that shaped China’s national nuclear consciousness.
Tong Lam is an associate professor of history at the University of Toronto. He is currently working on a monograph on China’s Cold War closed cities and special zones and their afterlives.
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