Nuclear accidents, as seen through the history of water-related disasters

Seminar video:

Speaker: Per Hög­selius, KTH Royal In­sti­tute of Technology, Stock­holm, Sweden “Nuc­lear Dis­as­ters Wet and Dry” November 5, 2019

Abstract: The 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan highlighted the centrality of water in nuclear energy operations. This paper reinterprets the history of nuclear power as a history of water, and the history of nuclear accidents as a special case of droughts, floods, and other water-related disasters. The utmost importance of large-scale uninterrupted water flows for cooling nuclear facilities, and the need to simultaneously protect them from flooding and from contaminating their wet surroundings, have turned nuclear engineers into hydraulic engineers who interact with and transform nature in a variety of ways. The “nuclear age,” to the extent that it can be said to have materialized, is fundamentally a hydraulic age, and as such it draws heavily on experience gathered from hydraulic societies in the past. These historical affinities become particularly visible in times of crisis. The paper discusses several concrete examples of nuclear disasters, trying to discern what – if anything – makes such disasters special in relation to other, “normal” droughts and floods.



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