Stephanie Palazzo

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Chicago, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10019

Approve Date

August 26, 2020

Project Title

Palazzo, Stephanie (Chicago, U. of) "Decomissioned: Safeguarding the Future After Three Mile Island"

STEPHANIE PALAZZO, then a graduate student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, received a grant in August 2020 to aid research on ‘Decomissioned: Safeguarding the Future After Three Mile Island,’ supervised by Dr. Eugene Raikhel. The proposed project tracks community responses to the decommissioning of Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant to investigate how future uncertainty and historical memory inform people’s everyday conceptualizations of safety and containment. Nuclear energy as a carbon free and safe energy source is hotly contested, and TMI in Middletown, Pennsylvania has historically emerged at the center of such debates since its partial meltdown in 1979. Today, TMI is one of several nuclear power plants slated to close over the next fifty years due to growing competition from low-cost fossil fuels and aging 20th century infrastructure. Despite its growing frequency, decommissioning is a politically, economically, and scientifically fraught process. This project asks whether local concerns around the plant’s decommissioning are primarily motivated by the presence or absence of nuclear threat or if they also reflect and enact a broader orientation to pasts and futures in which environmental, economic, and physical health is uncertain. This project encompassed an 11-month, multi-sited ethnographic study of central Pennsylvania to examine competing articulations of socioeconomic, environmental, and biophysical safety, how they are informed by the past accident, and how they come to bear on visions of the future. It combines participant observation, interviews, oral histories, and archival work to examine how multiple actors around TMI respond to and understand the aftereffects of an industry which promised the good life, but has now proven temporary and perhaps harmful.