Alexander Nikitin. The Power and Responsibility of the Atom. The Cost and Importance of Contemporary Ecology

Public program accompanying Taryn Simon’s exhibition Action Research / The Stagecraft of Power
18 March 2016
7:30–9:00 pm


During the introductory session, the environmentalist and human rights activist Alexander Nikitin will talk about what duty and responsibility in the face of environmental threats really mean. In examples from his own experience, he will discuss what it means to make decisions that have ethical implications that go beyond local geopolitical interests.

If the nuclear power industry did not produce any hazardous waste, then it would truly provide humankind with a virtually ideal, inexhaustible source of energy. However, over the past 70 years, it has become clear that taming energy was the pleasant part of the process. The work of nuclear reactors leads to the accumulation of nuclear waste and the threat of nuclear bombs, radiation leaks, and other manmade disasters.

Society—and especially the environmental community—has an ambiguous, somewhat cautious attitude towards nuclear power. The problem of radioactive waste is not limited to a single country. It is transnational and arises everywhere nuclear technologies are used, no matter in what field: electric power, the military, space, medicine, science, everyday life. All the approaches to solving this problem look for ways of isolating waste in a safe, reliable, and long-term manner.

Humankind must decide what price it is willing to pay for heat and electric power. An individual’s personal stance on environmental issues has more to do with the ethical and moral domain than with professional matters. For this reason, one should begin by creating a system of public ethical consensus on radioactive waste management before trying to solve the everyday problems of the industry. Today, virtually all radioactive waste facilities in the north of Russia are located in such a way that they do not pose a threat to people or the environment. However, it took activists five years of court proceedings and prison sentences to achieve this.



Alexander Nikitin is an environmentalist and an expert on atomic projects. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Bellona environmental and human rights center (St. Petersburg) and a member of the Public Council of ROSATOM. From 1974 to 1994, he was a naval officer and a specialist in atomic equipment. In 1995, he became a directing expert of an environmental organization. In 1996, he was arrested and accused of disclosing state secrets for preparing a report on radiation pollution on the Kola Peninsula. He was acquitted in 2000. Nikitin is the recipient of many international prizes and the author of numerous books and reports. He has published articles in Newsweek,Demokratizatsiya, and Ekologiya i pravo.



Nikita Medyantsev is Head of PR and International Relations of the National Operator for Radioactive Waste Management. Since 2012, he has been responsible for communications support for a state environmental project on creating a system of disposal of accumulated and newly-formed radioactive waste. He previously worked in communications at ROSATOM,  Gazprom, and Russian Railways.

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