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[en] This presentation discussed the final repository of radioactive waste as an issue at the interface of the sciences and the humanities. Archaeologists have learned that a hundred thousand years ago abstract thought and symbolism by humans began. Since then many communities of human beings have succeeded each other. They often intended to leave a mark for eternity, but they established in fact the truism that nothing ages faster than the future. Archaeologists and historians are promoting remembering, learning and understanding of history for contemporary and future generations. Disposal sites of nuclear waste constitute a special case of heritage. We are creating a very distinctive kind of heritage that in the future may be remembered or forgotten, just like any other heritage we create. The presentation addressed what the realms of heritage and radioactive waste disposal can learn from each other regarding making provisions for the future. Rubbish reflects the conditions from which it originates. The final deposition of radioactive waste is by nature a question of historical consciousness and future uses of the past, of memory and forgetting, and of future didactics of history. Heritage studies as well as history and archaeology are thus inherently relevant. Similarities between archaeology and RWM were thus pointed out, for instance the long time frames, specific sites, dealing with the meaning of rubbish, the fact that we both like to think we are doing something good for future generations,.. But there also are differences, notably that archaeology works with precious objects one wishes to keep. How will the future use our present, which is their past, for their own future? The meaning people give to information is important, and meaning is a continuous process of reinterpreting
[en] Archaeology, the study of the remains of the ancient past, may be relevant to the long-term preservation of RK and M, because it works to recover information, knowledge and meaning that have been lost. As a discipline, archaeology studies how the past is understood in the present, potentially drawing lessons that could guide future action concerning the preservation of RK and M across time by indicating how future societies could make sense of the past. Case studies, such as an examination of European megalithic tombs, show that the understanding of the past varies across time. It was emphasised that archaeological interpretation always reflects contemporary perceptions of past and future, which are socially and culturally embedded and highly mutable over time. What is more, archaeology is a fairly recent discipline and there is no certainty that it will exist in the long term, to help recover and reconstruct lost RK and M. As a result, it cannot be assumed that information, knowledge and meaning of the past can be transmitted reliably in the long term. Based on this understanding Profs. Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Hoegberg made a case for trying to keep knowledge alive over time, continuously engaging each present. They used the notion of 'living heritage', which refers to striving for continuity in the short and medium terms as a way to reach the long term, keeping in mind that reinterpretation and knowledge development over time is a given. As a result, they suggest to 'think about the long term but act for the short and medium terms'
[en] As states with nuclear power programmes are, or intend to become, engaged in planning the disposal of their high-level and/or long-lived radioactive waste in deep geological repositories, means to ensure that future generations will be aware of these repositories and not disturb them are being studied. Preservation of Records, Knowledge and Memory (RK and M) across Generations, launched in March 2010, is the relevant initiative under the NEA Radioactive Waste Management Committee in this area. Its several years of work and findings are documented online at www.oecdnea. org/rwm/rkm. A strategy of communicating important information to future generations must be based on several complementary means and approaches. Markers placed in the vicinity of closed repositories represent one potential component of this strategy. The RK and M initiative's glossary defines a marker as 'a long-lasting object that indicates an area of influence, power or danger. It is placed strategically at or near the site for immediate recognition or for discovery at a later time'. Markers are meant to reach future generations in the medium (a few hundred years) to long term (hundred thousand of years) and are conceived to be immobile (that is, in permanent association with a site), robust (in order to maximize survivability on its own) and provide messages that are likely to be understandable across generations. A marking system can range from a simple stone to a contrived and monumental multi-component system. The present report seeks to develop the understanding of the potential effectiveness of makers drawing from the study of the role that stone markers played in Japan during the Tohoku tsunami event of 2011. There are hundreds such markers placed at various epochs on Japan's north-eastern coast to warn future generations about the dangers of tsunamis. The existence of markers for recurrent, destructive events may help save lives, as in the case of the villages of Murohama and Aneyoshi. However, in most other cases, the markers did not help protect the population from the March 2011 tsunami. The villages of Murohama and Aneyoshi have shown interest in passing on the messages through oral history and in school education. However, it is worth asking whether these villages would have heeded the messages of the stone markers if the rest of society had given them other forms of assurance against tsunamis besides their own vigilance, for instance, if they had a tsunami wall or a functioning modern tsunami warning systems. This historical example illustrates that, over the course of several generations, markers informing and warning about disasters are of limited effectiveness for local protection. Despite the historical record and the widespread awareness of the danger that has materialised on a recurrent basis, the local population has, by and large, taken risks with or without the presence of markers. Reliance on new technologies, deferring responsibility to the authorities, and pursuit of short-term economic interests are three potential reasons for this behaviour. On the other hand, the March 2011 tsunami was a thousand-year event; it is questionable whether the population can be asked to live in the constant fear of and preparation for such a rare event, in Japan and in similarly latently dangerous areas around the world. The Japanese tsunami stones provide a rare example of warning markers and allow a number of considerations to be made for markers in the context of repository projects: - The longevity of stone markers in Japan - up to one thousand years - illustrates the possibility of survival of markers over similar timescales, especially in regions that are not subject to devastations from natural catastrophes. - Visible markers contribute to keeping memory alive. - Memory does not guarantee safety. The current international position that a geological repository should be safe by itself is confirmed by this study. - Memory may save lives under special circumstances and it should be fostered. - More than memory, knowledge saves lives. Markers may be part of a larger strategy to foster learning and understanding and therefore knowledge. For instance, markers placed strategically near the repository site so that they are discovered in the course of time could arouse curiosity and desire the learn more