22 February 2021

The Nuclear Waste Burial Sites of Central France

22 February 2021 - Written by PhMuseum

With her documentary work that indagates radioactive waste disposal facilities throughout the French interior, Emily Graham seeks to question our perceptions of permanence and explore the traditional objects of memory.

In rural central France, vast amounts of nuclear waste will be buried deep underground, in what is now viewed as the safest way to dispose of it. The radioactive waste hidden here will potentially remain dangerous for one million years. The secureness of the site must, therefore, last forever, and so should its memory; ensuring that future generations do not accidentally, or through curiosity, disturb its contents.

Languages have a habit of disappearing. Signs and symbols can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Communities, environments, landscapes shift over thousands of years. Scientists, anthropologists, archaeologists, architects, philosophers, and semioticians have all been trying to answer the question of how you leave a warning that future societies can understand and respect? Creating a culture of memory around burial sites is seen as one answer.

Making photographs around the research sites and potential locations for burying said remains, and working with a combination of documentation, construction, and manipulation, I aim to question notions of “permanence” and the “ephemeral”; examining the materials of memory and our fallible structures for preservation and record keeping.

Work initiated through Wellcome Trust commission.

Words Helen Gordon & Emily Graham, Pictures by Emily Graham.


Emily Graham is a photographer based in London. She gained her BA (Hons) in Photography at the University of Brighton, and her MA in Photography at the University of West England. Her work has been recognised in various awards, including as third prize winner in the British Journal of Photography’s International Photography Award 2019. Her work has been exhibited nationally & internationally, most recently at Landskrona Foto 2020 in Sweden. Find her on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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