Our Earth is currently littered with more than a quarter million metric ton of highly radioactive waste. Over 90,000 metric tons are in the United States, stored at 121 sites in 35 states.
“Monument For A Nuclear Dump” was inspired by the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository’s search for a system of surface markers to warn of its planned lethal underground cache for hundreds of thousands of years. A “toilet paper roll” encapsulating 32 years of newspaper clippings mimics the folly of this entombment while documenting ubiquitous nuclear waste proliferation. The fate of the proposed Yucca Mountain dump is still in contention and far from a reality.
On the other hand, featured in “Our Lethal Legacy,” New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is actively accepting nuclear waste with plans to seal its storage caverns sometime in the next 15 years. The question remains whether planned formidable barriers and posted warnings throughout this site will be comprehensible to civilizations millions of years in the future, with no guaranteed way to thwart normal human curiosity or natural geological upheavals.
Today, countries around the world subscribe to the “best practice” of isolating nuclear waste in deep geological repositories, which will be permanently sealed. But this “best practice” assumes a rather static geology instead of the living, breathing, shifting common ground that is our Earth.