Award for beautiful waste facility

12 February 2008

The artistic concept of the Habog facility has won operators Covra the PIME Award for communication in the nuclear industry. Its theme of gaining value from decay was developed by the artist William Verstraeten.


HabogThe award was presented today at the PIME (Public Information Materials Exchange) conference, organised by the European Nuclear Society and held in Prague, Czech Republic. Receiving the award, Covra's Ewoud Verhoef said the company had transformed the facility into a statement, which had helped to engage the public better on the topics of safety and radioactive waste management.


Habog - an interim store for high-level radioactive waste - features a bright orange exterior and prominently displays of Albert Einstein's equation, E=mc2, and Max Planck's E=hv. Designed to last for up to 300 years, it contains the waste resulting from the reprocessing of all the nuclear fuel ever removed from the Netherlands' Borsselle and Dodewaard nuclear power stations after electricity generation.


The waste inside Habog is planned to remain there for 100 years, during which time its radioactivity will decrease through decay. This process is symbolised by the colour of the building's exterior, which is to be repainted every 20 years in lighter and lighter shades of orange until reaching white. Verhoef told PIME that the orange colour was chosen in part because it is the national colour of the Netherlands, but mainly because it is halfway between red and green, that usually symbolise danger and safety.


The theme of decay is extended to the inside of the facility, where four large pictures hang. They all feature the same local natural scene, but occur in a sequence in which base colours are removed one by one. The final two-tone image is printed on gold leaf, to introduce the idea that the waste has more value after its radioactivity has decayed.


The visual appeal of the building and its nature as a talking point have led to a doubling of visitors each year to the Habog site, some of which are proudly led by the mayor of a nearby town.


Museum pieces


After the success of Habog, Covra has continued to use its facilities as statements It has now begun to store museum artifacts in unused space within a low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste store. Verhoef said that the long timescales involved in managing nuclear waste can be hard for people to understand, and this contrasts with their easy understanding of some similar timescales involved in preserving great works of art. Verhoef added that Covra has benefited from allowing the museums to introduce some of the concepts surrounding nuclear power to new audiences.