Nuclear Information Centre

The Half-Life Afterlife

Although physically situated firmly in the present, The Half-life Afterlife is an ongoing, evolving and time-travelling sculptural installation that reflects on our human generated atomic activities from the vantage point of an unspecified post-nuclear future. It assumes the form of a collection of ancient looking bentonite clay objects that have recently been discovered in the vicinity of what was once thought to have been the site of a UK Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). Possibly created as radioactive waste burial charms, they have been subject to speculative research methods fusing nuclear fact and fiction before being catalogued and displayed in a very human attempt to imbue them with cultural significance and meaning as future nuclear artefacts.


2. 4.

What are these recently made yet strangely ancient looking objects?

Nobody really knows but perhaps they are radioactive waste burial charms or grave goods, created by human hands and unearthed sometime in the far future from deep within the bedrock, a place from which they should never have returned.

There is speculation they were made as token offerings to appease the gods of nuclear fission and designed to accompany high-activity radioactive waste on its final journey deep underground inside a geological disposal facility (GDF) as it crossed over into the half-life afterlife. Whether or not they actually served this purpose remains uncertain. At the time of writing we find ourselves in an uncharted post-nuclear future where all written and oral records pertaining to human activities have seemingly long-since disappeared from the face of the earth.

Surprisingly though, one thing we do know is that they are made from bentonite clay which was one of the proposed engineered barrier materials surrounding the deposited waste packages and intended to protect against the corrosive properties of water should it find its way into the facility during the many millenia is was designed to operate.

Non-human experts have recently suggested that some of these objects may have been designed as pendants to wear against the body to give protection against the harmful by-products of human generated nuclear fission. Some pendants have been found with copper chains attached which may be a reference to the large, thick-walled copper canisters that were sometimes used to house groups of individual waste packages prior to burial.

The Nuclear Information Centre (Department of Speculative Research) has been cataloguing the various items discovered thus far. It is probable that each entry will be added to over time as further research is undertaken.

1. Alpha particle pendant. This may have been designed to buried along with the waste containers but there is also the possibilty it would have been worn by people living in close proximity to the burial site, possibly to protect the wearer against close contact with alpha radiation emitting radionuclides that may have found through the movement of groundwater and back to the surface. It is thought the four points represent the two neutrons and two protons that make up an alpha particle. The yellow jute string appears to have been added much more recently, possibly by the finder.

2. Beta particle pendant. Presumably similar in purpose to the alpha particle pendant, this charm appears to take the form a single electron so may have served to offer protection against harmful beta radiation from toxic by-products of nuclear fission such as Strontuim 90 and Caesium 137.  However, it could also be that ‘pendants’ might actually have not been intended for human use but buried alongside the waste with the depositied waste package becoming the “wearer” to protect against future leaks over time.

3. Trident warhead pendant (It was long believed by some that the possession of a nuclear deterrent somehow offered protection against potential Armageddon). The exact function of these pendants is unclear and like the alpha and beta particle pendants, they may have been worn by humans or used as burial charms for deposited ex-military UK radioactive waste.

5. Mushroom (purpose unknown but some speculate on a possible link between the network of tunnels and vaults that comprise a Geological Disposal Facility and the underground fungal threads of a mycelium of which mushrooms are the fruit).

4. Plutonium ring. (Legend has it the UK once held the largest global stockpile of global Plutonium which for many years was not classed as waste due to its potential for converting into civil nuclear fuel or for military purposes. (Weapons grade plutonium would be cast in ~5kg rings, each one enough to form the spherical core of one bomb).

6. Radiation protection charm (believed to be a type of all-purpose charm to help on warding off harmful alpha, beta and gamma radiation).

7 & 8. This two-piece charm may represent a single alpha particle comprising 2x neutrons and 2x protons. The two sections were probably designed to be loosely fitted together to form what is essentially a schematic version of a helium nucleus.

Information last updated: Fri 03 May 2024