The Nuclear-Water Nexus: An International Workshop

As the NUCLEARWATERS project is entering its fifth year, project activities continue to evolve and intensify. On 21-22 June our team organized an international workshop on the nuclear-water nexus, to which we invited senior and junior scholars from all fields – not only history – to present research that in one or the other way relates to the interaction between nuclear technologies and water. The aim was to let different research strands around this common theme interact, with the long-term goal of turning workshop papers into chapters of an edited volume. The workshop took place at our own Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment at KTH. We were happy to welcome 25 external participants from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, India, Indonesia and Qatar. A total of 28 pre-circulated workshop papers were discussed during two intense and creative days.

Plenary session at the Nuclear-Water Nexus Workshop (photo by Siegfried Evens)

The nuclear-water nexus, as interpreted by the workshop participants, turned out to be even more diverse and multifaceted that we could possibly have imagined. Themes covered in the papers and the discussions included:

1. Reactor cooling arrangements: this includes both the closed cooling loops in (water-cooled) nuclear power plants themselves, and the open cooling loops through which nuclear plants draw on water supplies from rivers, lakes and seas.

2. The links between nuclear energy, hydropower, navigation, irrigation, dam construction, and fisheries.

3. Thermal pollution of rivers, lakes, and seas as a result of cooling water discharges, and the construction of cooling towers and cooling ponds to cope with this problem.

4. The impact of nuclear accidents, nuclear weapons testing and radioactive pollution on drinking water supplies and wet environments and landscapes.

5. Wet pollution (such as oil spills) and organic matter (fish, jellyfish, algae, etc.) as a threat to nuclear safety.

6. Flooding of nuclear facilities and flood management strategies, along with destructive erosion at coastal nuclear sites

7. The use of nuclear energy for the purpose of seawater desalination and for district heating

All in all, the Nuclear-Water Nexus workshop became one of the intellectually most fruitful activities so far in the NUCLEARWATERS project. We are looking forward to the continued work with an edited volume, based on the workshop papers – and perhaps other outcomes of the workshop as well.

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