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Cold War LegaciesSystems, Theory, Aesthetics$
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John Beck and Ryan Bishop

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474409483

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474409483.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 17 April 2021

Deep Geological Disposal and Radioactive Time: Beckett, Bowen, Nirex and Onkalo

Deep Geological Disposal and Radioactive Time: Beckett, Bowen, Nirex and Onkalo

(p.102) Chapter 5 Deep Geological Disposal and Radioactive Time: Beckett, Bowen, Nirex and Onkalo
Cold War Legacies

Adam Piette

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter considers nuclear futurity and long-term radioactive half-life and decay as timescales of continuity that are figured in eerie and apocalyptic ways not only in fictions that engage with nuclear anxiety during the Cold War (Elizabeth Bowen and Samuel Beckett) but also in the engineering projects that deal with the inconceivably long aftermath risks in deep underground nuclear waste disposal. Gunther Anders’ 1962 ‘Theses for an Atomic Age’ is compared with late 1980s Nuclear Industry Radioactive Waste Executive (Nirex) reports into the suitability of storing highly radioactive waste in deep boreholes, and pairs literary/cultural speculation with actual storage facility technologies to explore the deep time of nuclear waste continuities beyond the Cold War. The bunker mentality of the high Cold War is addressed through the relation between family nuclear shelters and the underground systems of the nuclear state. Geologist J. Laurence Kulp, who developed radioactive isotope dating of ancient rock formations, inadvertently stumbled on the radioactive effect of nuclear tests. Kulp's discovery led to the test ban treaty of 1963 and consolidated in the public imagination the link between deep geological time, radioactivity, and underground secret tomb/refuge systems. The article ends with a meditation on the contemporary nuclear repository.

Keywords:   nuclear waste, fallout, cold war, Gunther Anders, Laurence Kulp, Geological time, Nuclear waste disposal, Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bowen

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