Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, Georgia, has been called the site of the nuclear renaissance. Here, commercial nuclear energy reactors have been under construction for the first time in the United States since the 1979 partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Like the boomtowns that emerged from rapid industrial expansion, Waynesboro’s population increase will be short-lived. Workers come from across the country for temporary jobs such as welding and running power lines from the new cooling towers. While some residents embrace the plant, others have fought against it since the 1980s when the first two reactors were built and they witnessed health and economic decline. Most recently, a community of activists has risen up against what they see as the nuclear industry using health as currency in exchange for temporary jobs. Other groups and individuals view nuclear energy as a solution in the climate change battle. Reactors 3 and 4 are set to go online in 2021 and 2022. Interested in the town of Waynesboro and Plant Vogtle, I spent a number of years researching the area. While visiting Waynesboro, I spent time with members of the community as well as Plant Vogtle workers. Eventually I gained access to Plant Vogtle and began interviewing town residents about the plant’s history and the way it has affected the community.
Abbey Hepner is an artist and educator. Her artistic practice examines health, technology, and our relationship with place through photography, video, and installation-based work. She frequently works at the intersection of art and science, investigating biopolitics and the use of health as a currency. Hepner holds undergraduate degrees in Art and Psychology from the University of Utah and an MFA in Photography from the University of New Mexico. Her work has been exhibited widely in such venues as the Mt. Rokko International Photography Festival, SITE Santa Fe, the Krannert Art Museum, Sheldon Art Galleries, and the Lianzhou Foto Festival. Her monograph, The Light at the End of History, about nuclear issues was published by Daylight Books in 2021.
Originally published at artdept.nd.edu.