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Joana Rafael (b.1979) is an architect, researcher, lecturer and ghostwriter, currently based in Porto, Portugal. Works between architecture, (issues of) ecology, material culture and technology. Teaches Contextual Studies and Contemporary Culture-related courses, and is a member of ISPUP (Institute of Public Health of the University of Porto) and CEGOT (Center for Studies in Geography and Spatial Planning). Joana is also a certified farmer.

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450 Meters Deep into 1 Million Years Safety

Published by Cartha magazine


This article investigates the Onkalo Nuclear Waste Repository, now being hollowed-out on the west coast of Finland, and intended to last for a million years into the future. This facility fits the profile for a future structure that is creating artificial forms of fossils intended to disappear together with the toxic and nuclear materials embedded in them. These fossils engage with strategies that are determined by a specific relation of Western culture to epistemology and a set of relations that support a correlation strategy which, this paper argues, diminishes the awareness of time itself and leads society to be even more apprehensive of the future.
This paper demonstrates that the potential of this particular structure is resolutely spatio-temporal, but also science-fictional. As paradoxical as it sounds, it puts Subjects in a passive position of domination, via an artificial mimicry of (the artifice of) fossils that destabilizes the reservation arrangement aimed at disappearing with the toxic and nuclear materials, but a mimicry that, nevertheless induces more persuasive reservations: persuasive, because, ultimately, these artificial forms of fossils are machined with the limits of our knowledge of, and in geological formations, as if off-planet. This closure, this paper argues, compromises a more direct and engaged sensibility with the waste and the threats to, and arising from the environment associated with it.

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