Standard Research Grant: Socio-Technical Aspects of Nuclear Waste and its Long Term Storage

August 1st, 2013 - July 31st, 2016 | PROJECT

This research project will analyze and communicate important societal issues having to do with the disposal of nuclear waste. Unlike the vast majority of scholarly inquiries, which culminate in journal articles or a book, this inquiry will result in a feature length documentary about the scientific, political, and ethical issues adjacent to the problem of the socially responsible disposal of nuclear waste. Though the reach of the film will extend beyond any particular site, the focal point of the study is the only fully-licensed, operating geological repository for nuclear waste in the world: the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant twenty-six miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The project will track the contentious history of current and planned clean-up operations involving the Pilot Plant. It will depict a disputed, sometimes successful and sometimes failed, trading zone for very different (often antagonistic) stakeholders from experts, to townspeople, politicians, miners, activists, industrial engineers, and futurists. Trading-zone studies, a methodological approach within the research area known as Science and Technology Studies (STS), interrogate subcultures confronting one another and developing coordinated local action where global agreement is often absent. In this trading-zone study, the investigator is ethically, visually, and methodologically committed to depicting that collision as all sides struggle to shape an contested nuclear future. The use of film as a medium for presenting the results of the trading-zone study is innovative and potentially transformative; it could open a way for STS to investigate in a visual way the making of science and technology policy. This project will reach a broad audience by partnering with outreach organizations, Film Sprout and Working Films, to bring the film to its core audience: policy makers, environmentalists, along with groups and citizens traditionally not positioned to participate in science policy. Target locales and groups include science museums such as the Bradbury Science Museum (Los Alamos), the Atomic Testing Museum (Las Vegas), The Museum of Science and Industry (Albuquerque), nuclear facilities, towns surrounding them, and environmental groups.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Team Members

Peter Galison, Principal Investigator, Harvard University


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 1256690
Funding Amount: 386738


Audience: General Public | Scientists
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Engineering | Geoscience and geography | History | policy | law | Nature of science
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Films and IMAX | Media and Technology