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Upcoming Final seminar: Streams, Steams, and Steels: A History of Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Risk Governance (1850-1990)

A warm welcome to another upcoming final seminar at the division!

Doctoral Student: Siegfried Evens, Doctoral Student, Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment
Supervisor: Per Högselius, Kati Lindström, Anna Storm
Opponent: Markku Lehtonen, Social Scientist, University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona

Time: Tuesday 2023-06-13 13.15 – 15.00

Location: Big seminar room, Teknikringen 74D (floor 5), Division of History of Science

Language: English


Siegfried Evens in front of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant in the USA.


That is why this dissertation will focus on exactly that: the water that runs through our nuclear power plants. Water is so important and obvious to the safety of so many power plants not only nuclear ones that it barely goes unnoticed. Indeed, the history of nuclear power contains a striking paradox. Water is the key to a normal functioning nuclear power plant and to preventing nuclear accidents. Yet, up until now, the history of water is largely absent from the history of nuclear power, and especially nuclear risk. In contrast, there is a longstanding scholarly tradition of studying nuclear fission and radioactivity.

But this dissertation is about more than just water. By focussing on water streams for the analysis of nuclear safety, other relevant elements open up as well. While water streams are essential, there is no nuclear power plant in the world that generates electricity because of it. Electricity is generated because of the steam caused by the boiling of that water. The generation of steam is coupled to the science and engineering practice of thermalhydraulics a field with a long and important history, dating back to the early days of industrialisation and mechanical engineering.

As I will show, much engineering and political effort in the nuclear sector and outside of it has been devoted to the management of pressure and temperature in steam equipment, such as boilers and pipes. All of this was essential to prevent the pressure from mounting too high, causing catastrophic explosions. In turn, the management of all this water and steam is also very reliant on the material that this equipment is made of. And that material is steel. A very robust material, steel is wellequipped to
withstand the tremendous pressures and temperatures necessary to generate power. However, as
with almost any material, it can decay, crack, brittle, and break. A major theme in this dissertation will therefore be the continued effort to improve and regulate steel and the work of metallurgists and material engineers in doing so. Streams, steams, and steels; that is in many ways the essence of
this dissertation.

Excerpt from Siegfried’s final seminar text, pp. 12-13.


A pressure vessel at Shippingport Nuclear Power Station in the USA.
Working as a doctoral student in the Nuclearwaters-Project (ERC Consolidator Grant, PI Per Högselius), I focus on the nuclear history of Eastern Europe, especially on the territory of the former Soviet Union and its successor states. Furthermore, I investigate expert cultures in nuclear discourses, with a special interest in water-related issues in nuclear power plant decision-making. In addition, I am intrigued by the entanglement of the commercial, scientific and political interests concerning nuclear technologies, with its sometimes harsh consequences on human societies and the environment. Recently this interest has extended to energy systems as a whole in Eastern Europe, including fossil fuels and renewables. Questions of transition within international energy systems in the face of the climate crisis and recent political developments become more important, as my work progresses.