Talking to the Future: About Radioactivity

Understanding Radioactivity through Everyday Product Interactions

Henrike Dorothée Feckenstedt

How do we understand something that we cannot see, touch or sense, that is a threat to all living system on earth and that will remain a threat for at least 100.000 years? – How do we understand and cope with radioactivity and nuclear waste? We cannot cope with this as it is exceeding our capabilities as human beings. Onkalo, the first underground repository for final disposal of spent nuclear fuel, is being built right now in Finland. 9.000 tons of high-level nuclear waste will be buried there. The amount of uncertainty makes it not only a matter of technology and engineering, but most of all a matter of trust, which is inherently human. It challenges us as humans. How can we address this? Three everyday artefacts translate the dilemmas around Onkalo into a physical shape. A lamp that operates at the time scale of 100.000 years, a pregnancy test that not only tells you whether you are pregnant or not, but also your body’s radiation levels, and a marble toy for children that introduces nuclear waste in a playful way. All artefacts perform their assigned tasks while telling the story of Onkalo.