On 2 and 3 February 2023, the Department of Political Sciences of the University of South Africa (UNISA) organized a webinar titled “The Politics of Nuclear Waste ”. ISTC participated in the event that gathered young researchers and experts in the nuclear field. Some of them had previously taken part in ISTC-implemented projects in Africa strengthening nuclear security and safety on the continent.
Jo-Ansie van Wyk, Professor of International Politics, UNISA, introduced the theme in her presentation “The necropolitics of nuclear waste”, focusing on the “sacrifice zones”, inhabited by low-income and racialized communities, shouldering more than their fair share of environmental harm related to pollution and contamination. She further referred to the nuclear geography and its constitutive spatial elements – exclusion zones such as uranium mines, nuclear power stations, or waste disposal sites.
A former participant in the ISTC Southern Africa project, Isabel Bosman, Researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg titled her contribution “Waste, but not Wasted”. She spoke about the lessons learned from the circulation of radioactive plant and animal products in the wake of the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters.
Ian Fleming Zhou, Chairperson of the Youth Peaceful Uses Working Group, UK, offered an analysis of nuclear waste policy and strategy in the management of spent fuel. This was provided through a dialogue with his African counterpart – Raphael Chesori, the Chairman of the African Young Generation in Nuclear, a longtime partner of ISTC.
Aditi Basu, Independent Researcher from India, provided an overview of India’s efforts in nuclear waste disposal. These endeavors were described as part and parcel of the expansion of the ratio of nuclear power plants (NPPs) in the energy mix of the country. NPPs are expected to reach the capacity of 63000 MW in 2032. Many of the new installations will be small modular reactors (SMRs), particularly the Indian SMR named Atmanirbhar Bharat. Given these prospects, the capacity of the existing waste disposal site at Tarapur may turn out to be insufficient.
Exequiel Lacovsky, Research Associate from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, provided a comparative perspective on the politics of cleaning up nuclear testing sites in the Global South. His study features the Algerian Sahara prominently, as well as the Semipalatinsk test range and the Marshall Islands. The latter were further discussed in comments by Jessica Schwartz, Associate Professor from the University of California, the author of a research paper titled: ‘The Timbre of Toxicity: Marshallese Musical Refusals of Nuclear Noise’.