Out of the ground, into the ground: Challenge Nuclear Heritage

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Grit Ruhland, Folgelandschaft, Installation
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Grit Ruhland, Wild hunt and the three-legged bunny, window picture populated with UV-LEDs for detection of uranium compounds (fluorescent)
Äspö Deep Underground Nuclear Waste Storage Lab, Sweden (Photo: Bo Jacobs)
Grit Ruhland (Artist) and Robert Jacobs (Nuclear Historian)

Moderation: Katja Matthias

The Zoom discussion of Dec. 4 was recorded. It was an enriching discussion that we are happy to share.

How to warn a generation 100,000 years from now about our nuclear legacies, deeply hidden at their final disposal sites, perhaps long invisible and forgotten? Not only climate change, but also nuclear waste illustrates how long-term, unpredictable and catastrophic the effects of our current handling of technology, resources and the environment are. Robert Jacobs and Grit Ruhland talk about the role and responsibility of art and science.

Grit Ruhland is an artist, in the exhibition Redraw Tragedy she shows her installations. Grit Ruhland studied sculpture and spatial concepts at the HfBK Dresden. She received her doctorate from the Bauhaus University Weimar on “FOLGELANDSCHAFT. An investigation of the effects of uranium mining on the landscape around Gera/Ronneburg.”

Nuclear historian Robert Jacobs teaches and conducts research at the Hiroshima Peace Institute (Hiroshima City University) in Japan. His research interests include Global History and Culture of Nuclear Technologies, Radiation Technology Politics, Anthropocene Studies, Global Cold War, Hibakusha Studies, Military Colonialism, and Nuclear Postcolonial Studies. His new book will be published in 2022, “Nuclear bodies: the global hibakusha.”

Links to the topic:

Dissertation by Grit Ruhland


Articles by Bo Jacobs



Homepage of Bo (with a lot more articles on the topic)



Homepage of Grit



Chat Content

Nico : Greetings from the Antipodes! It is passing midnight here so I might have to sign out shortly. Thanks for making this interdisciplinary dialogue happen.

Guenter: There is a lot of information on a scientific level by the Federal Agency for Radiation Protection / BfS – but it is very difficult to read and understand

D – NIRS : What kind of radiation detector is good at detecting uranium ? I have a Radalert and an Inspector (by International Medcom), like what the Safecast network uses in Japan and worldwide and they don’t seem to show uranium even though they have Alpha/Windows

Guenter: as fas as I understand as a non-physicist is that it takes more than a Geiger counter to identify uranium – AND uranium never comes alone, it is always accompanied by its decay products which makes it more difficult to identify uranium in a natural setting

Christian – IMWA : There is no „Uranium“ detector that you could simpl purchase. It needs an expensive device that measures the energy of the radiation and based on that it could be analysed.
You could use also ICP or wet analysis.

Janice : It seems that the language of words like heritage and inheritance often have positive connotations that don’t seem to capture the toxic and perpetual nature of nuclear waste. And for people who use Geiger counters and such instruments to be called radiophobes makes them sound like eccentric outsiders and I would consider them logical and rational. Language is cultural and can be used for manipulation.

Guenter: I think Grit’s accomplishment is, for one part, to connect the scientific / physicist ‚stuff‘ with culture, art and take a completely different approach to the pro-/anti-nuclear fight

Guenter : The nuclear industry is pushing and lobbying VER HARD to get nuclear power accepted as a ‚saviour‘ from climate change inmpacts

Janice : I wish my politicians thought like Grit and Bo.

Guenter : currently, FRANCE is pushing hard to get nuclear adopted int the EU taxonomy – and get labeled as green and sustainable

D – NIRS : IN the US medical waste is a minute fraction of the human made radioactive waste and most is very short lasting. Medicine which is more societally acceptable is used to justify dumps and higher legal release levels

Miya: I find nuclear issue is so deeply intricate in many aspects of our society
not only in energy, weapon, but also in space development, science studies, medical industry, a part of production process of green energy, or a new structure of chocolate… so, I realised it does not simply help to take a position pro or anti-nuclear… This makes me more difficult to how to tuckle the issue

Janice : I agree. I really admire Germany for moving away from nuclear and showing it is possible.

Guenter: thanks from Germany … but it is still a hard fight

D – NIRS : Hoodwinked in the HotHouse Resist False Solutions to Climate Change 3rd Edition 2021 climatefalsesolutions.org Available in multiple languages

Guenter: there is also a website „Dont nuke the climate“ on the same issue
Ran: Half of our horror culture from zombies to Godzilla is connected to our imagination of disaster and can be traced back to Hiroshima.

Janice : Now there is a push in Canada to put SMNRs- (small modular nuclear reactors) on northern First Nations reserves to replace using diesel for power as a way to deal with climate change. These reactors would probably be abandoned there as getting the waste out would be very difficult and costly.

Christian : Yes, but POPs cause MILLIONS of death annully.

Rebecca : @Janice I have heard of the same push in Hawaii, although nuclear is banned in the state constitution there is small movement to advocate to change that for the smnrs

David: The point is non-nuclear chemicals are far far more prevalent than nuclear hazards

Janice : Thank you so much for this presentation. So needed.

David : So it’s all about maintaining a sense of proportion

Rebecca: Vielen dank, thank you for the conversation!

Guenter: It was a pleasure to participate and hope to keep in contact

Niels : Extremely informative talk, both in terms of facts and empathy – THANK YOU! – as “reflection space” (Grit Ruhland) that links science, the arts and education along the scary borderline of mental and “cynical” (Bo Jacobs) understandings of what invisible radioactivity is, what we did gain from it, what we suffer from locally and what we keep exposing nature and future generations to, globally.

Christian: Thanks to all and all the best to all of you