Creative Work

November 3, 2020

Breathing within the Zones of Dissonance: Cape Town, Koeberg and Nuclearity

Neil Overy

As a researcher and photographer working on social and environmental issues, this exhibition is the culmination of specific academic, activist and artistic work I have undertaken to raise awareness of the problem of nuclear power within the context of the climate crisis.

The project examines the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station and its relationship to Cape Town. It adopts historian Gabrielle Hecht’s notion of ‘nuclearity’ that explores how landscapes, spaces and objects that are/become ‘nuclear’ or are part of the ‘nuclear energy complex’ are often ‘hidden’ from citizens because of their apparent banality. And yet, like the demarcation of emergency accident zones, these spaces, places and objects are in a constant state of potentially ‘becoming’ something inimical to life. They can become inimical to life because after a serious nuclear accident various radioactive substance are released into the air that we breathe in, some of which remain dangerous for hundreds of years. For example, Iodine-131 is released which, if breathed in, accumulates in the thyroid and causes cancer. Other radiative substances that are released and cause cancer if breathed in are, among others, Strontium-90 (which accumulates in bones), and Plutonium-239 (which accumulates in blood cells and the liver).

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Neil Overy

About Neil Overy

Neil Overy is a freelance researcher, writer and photographer who is particularly interested in the intersections between environmental and social justice issues. He is an historian by training, and is currently a Research Associate in Environmental Humanities South at the University of Cape Town. In recent years his research has focussed on the extractives sector, Just Energy Transitions, sanitation and nuclear power. His website, which hosts his writing and photography, can be viewed at