On nuclear pasts
and radiant futures
Artistic research
and exhibition

Rheinsberg Relief

Marc Herbst
AKW Rheinsberg

"Chose One photo from our curatorial research trips that you want to highlight for the blog, and why."

model of control rods, hand
A curious researcher strokes a model of the control rods of a nuclear power plant

For two reasons,I am interested in this photo of me touching a scaled-down model of a the reactor core rods at the Rheinsberg nuclear reactor:

First of all, I love the minor transgression that this photo documents. Normally, a reactor’s core is highly radioactive– one does not touch it.

Second, this was a model at Rheinsberg in Germany, where the whole reactor is cooling down and being decommissioned.

The SALT. CLAY. ROCK. curatorial collective took a scheduled tour of the plant at the end of our Germany Research Trip.

I was feeling punchy. Perhaps it was all the road trip food we were eating, perhaps it was the excitement about the fact that accompanying us on this tour was an MDR media crew. So really, I was in a very playful mood. The tour became a tired afternoon tableau for some much appreciated laughter. While In general, nuclear power plants are not playgrounds, nor really full of laughter, this afternoon was different. The tour guide was explaining to the MDR crew the politics of the deactivation, while we trailed along like bad school kids.

The situation resulted in a lot of goofiness. Rather than whistling in a graveyard, we were more like clowns trying out for zealous private security force. This, because Rheinsburg had all the seriousness of a nuclear power plant, with none of the attendant risk. It felt like a defanged dog... and was such a relief to play in.

So, I snapped this photo of me massaging the model cooling rods. At other plants, I had opportunity to tough models like this, but never thought to caress them. I never thought to laugh about it. "Take this seriously Marc!" I scolded myself while touring the Pacs nuclear power plant.

The first nuclear tour I took, I was sharp to keen my ears for the tour guide's implicit pro-nuclear bias, questionable data, misinformation or outright propaganda. I also feared the air I breathed, aware that behind the lead linings, through the safety walls, and outside of the protective suits, there was a chance to encounter the ghost of split atoms, neutrons. Neutron! Maybe there are some on that handrail. Neutron! Maybe they are on the staircase or in the corner below those shelves. Neutron! Is that one floating by?

Not in Rheinsberg. We let it all hang out in Rheinsberg.
All the neutrons have been taken away. What a relief.