Vol. 37 No. 2 (2022)
By Petra Tjitske Kalshoven
The nuclear site of Sellafield in West Cumbria, North West England, embarks on a long period of decommissioning. Sellafield Limited (SL), the government-owned company running the site, is intent on disentangling the strong socioeconomic and affective relations with its host area with a view to making West Cumbria less dependent on SL, the area’s major employer, as the company prepares for a slow withdrawal. Comparing West Cumbria to a whale fall, the habitat that comes into being around the nourishing presence of a decomposing whale carcass, I suggest that West Cumbria has feasted on Sellafield through different stages of nuclear activity, from its production of plutonium down to the long-life materiality of its nuclear legacy wastes. From this perspective on a symbiotic relationship, dependency is shown to be not a one-sided reality but a discursive tool wielded by both the industry and West Cumbrians for different strategic purposes.
nuclear decommissioning; Sellafield; dependency; organic metaphor; symbiosis; whale fall