RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


222 Nuclear Geographies (2): Populations, Societies and Communities
Affiliation Population Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Rebecca Alexis-Martin (University of Southampton, UK)
Nigel Heaps (British Nuclear Test Veterans Association, UK)
Chair(s) Nigel Heaps (British Nuclear Test Veterans Association, UK)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Session abstract The landscape of nuclear geography is currently undergoing dramatic international changes, and the role of the geographer has grown in significance as human geography and ionizing radiation collide. For example, geographers and social scientists have a critical role to play in understanding the human consequences and impacts of the UK's impending nuclear energy renaissance. The spatial, social and cultural implications of nuclear disarmament have not been subject to such scrutiny since the end of the Cold War. The proliferation nuclear weapons is ongoing, and the consequences of North Korea’s experimentation with H-bomb technology are currently geographically unexplored. Perceptions of risk are evolving, and estimation methods for spatiotemporal constraints and impacts to populations are becoming more sophisticated. Nuclear geography is an incredibly diverse field of research, which includes polarizing topics such as radiation protection, gender and nuclear disarmament, and demographic work on both nuclear test veterans and radiation emergency survivors. Population studies are at the heart of this work, and there is an underlying thread of commonality for the diverse array of academics who explore these contentious issues. Currently, there are limited opportunities for geographers, social scientists and population scientists to unite, share their work, and engage in open discussion. This session will enable an essential critical examination of relevant themes within nuclear geography, including population studies, radiation protection, emergency management, energy generation, defence, gender, society and culture.
Linked Sessions Nuclear Geographies (1): Splitting the Atom
Nuclear Geographies (3): Babushkas of Chernobyl Film Screening and Discussion
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
The Babushkas of Chernobyl
Holly Morris (Independent Filmmaker)
Discussant is a film maker and explorer, who will introduce the session and talk about her own work and experiences "Approximately 100 women defiantly cling to their ancestral homeland in Chernobyl's radioactive "Exclusion Zone." While most of their neighbors have long since fled and their husbands have gradually died off, this stubborn sisterhood is hanging on — even, oddly, thriving — while trying to cultivate an existence on toxic earth. Why do they insist on living on farms that the Ukrainian government and radiation scientists have deemed uninhabitable? How do they manage to get by, isolated, in an abandoned landscape guarded by soldiers, and rife with wild animals? How has the radiation affected them these past 29 years? At her cottage, Hanna Zavorotyna brews homemade moonshine and slices thick chunks of salo, raw pig fat - though it is strictly forbidden to eat local food. "Starvation is what scares me, not radiation," she says. That stark choice reveals an incredible journey the women have traveled: from Stalin's enforced famines in the 1930s, through Nazi occupation, to nuclear disaster. Like the wolves, moose, wild boar and other wildlife not seen for decades that have come back to the abandoned forests around Chernobyl, the women of the Exclusion Zone, too, have an extraordinary story of survival, and offer a dark yet strangely affirming portrait of life post-apocalypse."
Exposures: Embodiment, subjectivity and Chernobyl tours
Nick Rush-Cooper (Durham University, UK)
To talk of exposure is to posit a pre-existing (unexposed) subject that finds itself (willingly or otherwise) open to being changed by the force of a(n) Other. This paper will consider the following: If we take the continuing trend within feminist, post-structural and post-phenomenological research in social and cultural geography to move away from a priori positing of the human subject and move towards various understandings of the processes of subjectification, how are we to understand exposure to radiation if we no longer posit a pre-existing (unexposed) subject? This paper is based upon 6 months spent researching and working as a tour guide in the Chernobyl Zone. The irradiated landscape of the Zone makes clear that we must consider landscape and subjects as co-implicated, but denies any residual romanticism in that approach as tourists and guides work to limit the dangers of radiation exposure. Utilising ethnographic vignettes and images this paper will chart a course through the various socio-technical and embodied practices by which extra-sensory radiation is made sensible and through which tourist bodies are variously exposed, fortified, bounded and unravelled. This paper will argue that what emerges is a process of subjectification which considers the subject not as outcome of process but as a constant slippage in the face of alterity, wherein subjectivity is predicated upon a radically unwilled passivity - a foundational relation with or exposure to non-human, Other forces.
Family Values: Psychosocial wellbeing and perception of risk within the Nuclear Test Veteran Community
Joshua Green (University of Southampton, UK)
Rebecca Alexis-Martin (University of Southampton, UK)
Nuclear Test Veterans have been impacted by an uncertainty of perception of risk of radiation exposure, due to the covert nature of their work during the Cold War. Whilst there has been some exploration of the psycho-social effects of perceived radiation exposure to radiation emergency survivors (Martin, 2015), this is currently uncharted territory within the domain of the Nuclear Test Veterans and their families. This paper examines the possibility of psycho-social effects to families of Nuclear Test Veterans, from the perspective of mental health and perception of risk. A combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches is applied to understand and identify existing mental health diversity and mental health themes within the descendant community. An interview-based methodology is implemented identify any cross-generational constructs of radiation risk may have impacted upon the behaviours and attitudes of descending generations. By this approach, the study presents novel insights into intergenerational attitudes across an exceptionally unique and important cohort.
Combatting Stress within the Nuclear Community
Walter Busuttil (Combat Stress, UK)
Dominic Murphy (King's College London, UK)
Over 21,000 service personnel participated in the British Nuclear Testing programme in the late 1950s. Many subsequently married and together with their descendants form the 'Nuclear Community', (NC). Combat Stress aims to scope the feasibility of a clinical service aimed at delivering a mental health outpatient service to the NC comprising a mix of psychiatric and psychological assessment and treatment. In 2011 the MOD commissioned a Health Needs Analysis Study, demonstrating higher than expected levels of mental illness in the NC. This combined with anecdotal evidence from the NC and responses to surveys conducted by the BNTVA demonstrated a clear need for a more formal investigation of this phenomenon and the development of appropriate treatment interventions. The study demonstrated that there were high levels of difficulty in making NHS health professionals understand issues surrounding the nuclear experiments, impeding successful engagement and treatment completion within statutory NHS services. Combat Stress is the largest veterans' mental health charity delivering bespoke mental health services to veterans with a track record of very high engagement and treatment completion rates with good outcomes. The project aims to develop an evidence base, scoping interventions and treatment direction aimed at addressing the issues within the Nuclear Community informing NHS provision.
Nuclear geographies: Past, present and future
Nigel Heaps (British Nuclear Test Veterans Association, UK)
Nigel Heaps, son of a Nuclear Veteran, was Chairman of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association between 2009 and 2016, leading the Association from a floundering organisation with a finite lifespan, through its evolution into a successful campaigning charity, vibrant with new members and direction. In July 2014 the contribution of our Nuclear Veterans was officially recognised by the Prime Minister. This was followed by budgetary provisions benefiting the nuclear community from March 2015. Alongside Jeff Liddiatt, the new Chairman, he has modernised the BNTVA, taking it to the world stage. Both regular liaison with French Veterans and UN recognition have added to the BNTVA's significance. Nigel is currently concentrating on developing and delivering Nuclear Community projects. Relentless in his pursuit of support and answers for this community, he has been instrumental in developing a wide range of projects: Cutting edge genetic research, psychiatric programs, social investigation, and support projects providing living adaptations and accommodations, increasing this communities wellbeing and social inclusion. Nigel will speak on matters relating to the Nuclear Community; from his engagement and involvement alongside the experience of being a 2nd generation veteran to his father's experiences and achievements.