Feb 2, 2017

Ep. #55 – Gabrielle Hecht

In a fittingly bizarre intro for these political times, Cymene and Dominic share weird fantasies and actual plans for resistance. We then (11:57) welcome to the podcast renowned historian and ethnographer of nuclear energy, Gabrielle Hecht from the University of Michigan, author of Being Nuclear and The Radiance of France (MIT Press). Gabrielle tells us why she first became interested in nuclear power growing up in Reagan’s Cold War. We compare fears of nuclear war then and now and explore different historical constructions of “the nuclear” more generally. We talk about her concept of “toxic infrastructure” and how it can apply to places like Flint, Michigan. Gabrielle then explains how France became the country in the world most reliant upon nuclear energy for its electricity and why the French nuclear industry is in now in such a state of panic. We talk about why nuclear energy hasn’t lost its utopianism—including as a climate change fix—but why we think the nuclear solution to global warming is a red herring. We turn to Fukushima and Gabrielle reminds us that it’s also important to pay attention to the less spectacular but more common environmental and human impacts of using nuclear fuel, including the fate of people who clean reactors under normal and catastrophic conditions. We discuss uranium mining in Africa and the struggles miners have fought to have their “biological citizenship” recognized by their governments. That leads us to talk about the real costs of nuclear energy. And we close on Gabrielle’s latest work on toxicity and what she calls the African Anthropocene. Hang in there, everyone, be kind to yourselves and stay strong for the long run of resistance.