15 Dec

Geographical Review Preview: Nuclear to Nature Land Conversion

By: Daisaku Yamamoto, Julia Feikens, Melissa Haller

What is the main purpose of your study? 
Our study’s purpose is to better understand the origin of nuclear-to-nature land conversion as it applies to former nuclear power plant properties, and to identify challenges and opportunities associated with it. Additionally, the study aims to highlight the importance of contemporary Geographic thinking, including different conceptions of space and the idea of the “social construction of space”, to a broader audience (e.g. undergraduate students).

What are the practical, day to day, implications of your study? 
We hope that our study makes it clear that nuclear decommissioning and land conversion are far from merely a technical and business matter; rather, it must also be understood from a “community perspective.”

How does your study relate to other work on the subject?
Many of the existing studies on nuclear decommissioning focus primarily on the question of how facilities can be decommissioned safely and efficiently (i.e., technical and managerial foci), which is not unimportant, but such a view tends to overlook important socio-economic aspects, such as a historical relationship between the plant and adjacent communities, and how local stakeholders may exert influence in the course of post-nuclear land conversion processes.

What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study? 

  1. Nuclear-to-nature conversion did not emerge simply out of a motivation to conserve nature; rather, it started as a method of political leverage to resolve conflicting interests over land reuse and spent nuclear fuel problems.
  2. The local community banded around nuclear-to-nature conversion primarily because it enabled them to maintain their way of life, rather than it being a viable method for environmental conservation.
  3. Spent nuclear fuel, highly radioactive nuclear waste, plays a unique and critical role in the conversion of a former nuclear power plant site (in contrast to manufacturing plant closures, for example).

What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study? 
Our study challenges a conventional thinking/theory that directly associates various site-specific conditions (such as natural environment and public opinions) with certain land-use outcomes. Rather than assuming such a deterministic view, our study supports the theoretical tenets of geographical political economy perspectives that understands land conversion as an evolving process in which different land conversion discourses emerge and transform through active agency of individuals and organizations involved.

How does your research help us think about Geography? 
We hope that our study provides a concrete example of how contemporary Geography deals with different understandings (what we called “modalities”) of space, and how they play a role in the construction of our everyday environment.

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