A. Onkalo, 2015

B. Onkalo, 2015

C. Onkalo, 2015

D. Onkalo, 2015

E. Onkalo, 2015

"I have been to that place that you should never go. Located 420 metres below the Earth’s surface, and accessible only by navigating through over five kilometres of tunnels, Onkalo is the world’s first deep geological nuclear waste repository. Hewn into bedrock at 61°14'08.02"N 21°28'58.69"E on Finland’s southwest coast, the facility is intended to isolate high-level radioactive material from people and Earth’s biosphere for the next 100,000 years.

The nuclear barons refer to this as “final disposal”, although it is perhaps more accurately described as deferral, since we have no way of being certain that Onkalo will remain effective for even a fraction of that timespan.

The first series of images has been printed and exhibited with bare photographic archival materials that are known to fade and decay in a mere one hundred years. This is deliberate, for the images chase a string of green lights which are designed to lure us towards a refuge chamber. To be used only in the event of an emergency, it is such details that remind us that Onkalo is a gravely dangerous place, in which even now we don’t truly belong. These are however temporary measures and impermanent installations which will be removed when Onkalo is entombed sometime in the next century. No intruder after this date will find refuge there."

F. Onkalo, 2015

F. Onkalo, 2015

"The second series of images catalogue select human artefacts and other details—such as plastic pipes, painted walls, drilled test holes, and mosses—that will be inadvertently entombed along with Finland’s radioactive material. The medium selected to do so is stoneware ceramic fired at 1200°C so as to withstand a five kilometre ice shield, as well as other radiation, magnetic, and chemical interferences. 

Original copies of the tablets on display have been deposited into chambers measuring 5x5x3 metres which are nestled deep inside salt deposits dating more than forty million years old. The facility, known as the Memory of Mankind and located at 47°33'19.82"N 13°38'43.74”E in Hallstatt, Austria, has been purpose-built within saliferous (i.e., flowing) rock that will have wholly-encased the works by 2050 with no foreseeable imbrication (i.e., overlapping) points. The stoneware medium and salt storage method promises to preserve the images for at least 10,000 years."

[Excerpt from the text: "Encounters with nuclear space and time".] 


Captions: A. The containment corridors at Onkalo are located at approximately 455 metres below the surface--yet neon green exit signs are a constant presence as you move through the site.  B. Of the three main protective measures of deep geological disposal, the slabs of bentonite clay used to back-fill the site to manage the intrusion of water are among the most crucial. C. Site workers conduct integrity tests of a final disposal tunnel where copper canisters of spent nuclear fuel are deposited in rings of bentonite clay. D. At such depths, having navigated five kilometres of tunnels to reach there, there is no swift exit--only refuge. E. The refuge cabins will be removed once active management of the site ceases. F. Additional images of various human and non-human markers with location coordinates were printed on stoneware ceramic and deposited into the salt archives of the Memory of Mankind in Austria--thereby opening the possibility of communicating my experience 10,000 or more years into the future.

Copyright © All rights reserved.
Using Format