Objectivizing “nuclear territories” through their spatial representations – NucTerritory
The difficulties encountered by the French government in setting up the accompanying measures for the reconversion of Fessenheim nuclear power plant following its closure bear witness of our blatant lack of knowledge of the interaction between nuclear power plants and space, thus preventing their serene reconversion. While previous research has mainly looked into the spatialities of nuclear power through the lens of risk, geographers’ works overshadowed the diversity of the territorialities created by this industry infused with particular socioeconomic characteristics. According to the IAEA’s Power Reactor Information System, there were 47 commercial nuclear power plants permanently closed in 14 different countries in early March 2020, with more to come in France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, South Korea, the United States and Belgium. Thus, improving our understanding of nuclear geography constitutes a crucial stake of future energy transitions.
Additionally, if energy geographers identified path-dependencies as a crucial element inhibiting energy transitions, transition studies lack the theoretical concept to evaluate the spatial consistency of these dynamics which facilitate the perpetuation of incumbent energy systems. While being focused on hydrocarbons’ energy systems, previous research on spatial path-dependencies has widely disregarded nuclear power.
To treat these thematic and conceptual locks to energy transitions, NucTerritory propose to mobilize Raffestin’s relational territorialities in order to evaluate the spatial-embeddedness of nuclear power plants. Drawing on Debarbieux and Raffestin, we define “nuclear territories” as the outcomes of relational territorialities processes, considering that “space becomes territory when it emerges out of social interactions” (Raffestin, 1986). To identify nuclear territorialities, understood as sets of relationships linking social groups with the material environment mediated by representations, NucTerritory will apply Aldhuys’ three-step method built on Di Méo’s conception of multidimentional territorialities.
NucTerritory offers to characterize the production process of territorialities by implementing the tools for a comparative cross-analysis. Through the comparison of four nuclear power plants situated in different spatial contexts and at different stages of their operation lives, the project will identify the variables responsible for differences between territorialities. Case studies will be implemented in two nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom (Wylfa and Heysham) and two others in the United States’ east coast (Vermont Yankee and Seabrook). Comparison will be ensured using a framework translating Aldhuy’s methods into eight indicators that will be researched through different sources (semi-structured interviews, newspapers' archives, legal text databases, economic and demographic databases) analyzed using mix-methods including discourse and content analysis.
Monsieur Teva Meyer (CENTRE DE RECHERCHES SUR LES ECONOMIES, LES SOCIETES, LES ARTS ET LES TECHNIQUES (CRESAT) - UR 3436)
The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.
CRESAT CENTRE DE RECHERCHES SUR LES ECONOMIES, LES SOCIETES, LES ARTS ET LES TECHNIQUES (CRESAT) - UR 3436
Help of the ANR 232,200 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2021 - 36 Months