Crossing Borders – Border Crossings

Siting nuclear installations

Siting nuclear installations at the border: transnational political implications and societal responses

21.11.2017, 10–18 h, HU-Hauptgebäude, Unter den Linden 6, Raum 1085 (Gastraum der Präsidentin)


When looking at a map of nuclear installations (both planned and actually realised), we can find a curious feature. A large number of nuclear reactors, waste dumps and reprocessing plants are situated near national borders. Some of this can be explained by technical requirements, such as the need for cooling water from rivers or the sea. Economic concerns often played a role, too, such as the ambition to sell electricity to neighbouring countries. However, as decisions about the siting of nuclear facilities were often controversial, having fewer of one’s own citizens near a nuclear site seemed advantageous to policy makers. Moreover, marginal communities in border areas seemed less likely to reject promises of progress and jobs.

Such siting decisions did not go unnoticed at the other side and usually caused reactions and unintended consequences at different levels. Firstly, at the local level: when a decision was made for a nuclear site close to a border, policy makers suddenly found themselves confronted with opponents from two different countries. Critics of nuclear power often started to cooperate transnationally. Secondly, at the nation-state level: border sites occasionally led to diplomatic difficulties, even across the Iron Curtain. Thirdly, at the international level: international organizations, including the European Communities, (unsuccessfully) attempted to set rules for such cross-border issues.

The presentations at this workshop analyse the implications of siting nuclear facilities at national borders in a comparative and transnational perspective. Contributors will compare societal and political responses and trace transnational cooperation, interaction, and perceptions on reactors in Northern, Central and Southern Europe and give an outlook on toxic waste dump also beyond Europe. Methodological ideas on ‘border concepts’ will kick off the workshop.