The Nuclear Project

Radiant World. Chalk on board. Part of Nuclear Project by Noriko Matsubara.

Radiant World. chalk on blackboard, 2008

The Nuclear Project is an art project I took on while I was doing my MA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

I’m from the area in Japan where a nuclear waste reprocessing plant was being built and its landscapes were rapidly changing. I felt compelled to face the nuclear issues through my art.

The blackboard drawing titled Radiant World expresses the world’s connection with the nuclear industry, its problems and impact on the world at various levels.

Despite the unsolved technical, social and environmental problems of the nuclear industry, political decisions are often driven by business conceit and militaristic greed. Nuclear power is rationalised by the industry as a panacea to the energy industry’s contribution to global warming, and by-products of nuclear power generation are used for producing weapons of mass destruction.

This work conveys a contradictory human existence within the conflict between nature, culture, technology, politics and economy. It intends to introduce questions about the structure on which our contemporary society lies, and to raise awareness about effects of the nuclear industry, encouraging the audience to engage with issues surrounding us.

Radiant World. Chalk on board. Part of Nuclear Project by Noriko Matsubara.

Radiant World. chalk on blackboard, 2008

An image showing danger of uranium mining

Uranium mining

To extract uranium ore (5%), radioactive surplus soil (95%) is left behind.

Uranium tailing


To extract natural uranium from uranium ore, radioactive slag is left behind. Radioactive pollution remains in the neighbouring area.

Half life of U238

Half-life of U238

U238 is radioactive for 45,000 million years.

Displacement of local residents from uranium mining site


Local residents are often displaced due to uranium mining.

Image of mother holding disappearing children

Impact on life

Mining sites often cause miscarriages, deformities, leukaemia in children.

Chernobyl nuclear accident


The Chernobyl accident has faded away from people’s memories while people left behind still continue to be affected by the aftermath.

portrait of John Wayne

John Wayne

Hollywood actors filming westerns in Nevada, Arizona and Utah suffered an unusually high rate of cancers.



The Bikini swimsuit was named after the Bikini Atoll, where the first public test of a nuclear bomb had taken place (atom split into half). The legacy of nuclear bomb testing has affected the Micronesian inhabitants around Bikini Atoll.

Departing souls

Departing Souls

Victims of the nuclear industry.

Nuclear reactors in Japan


Japan, the only country on which nuclear bombs were dropped, now owns fifty-five nuclear reactors.

Diagram of nuclear business in Japan

Nuclear business

Japan’s nuclear policy determined by the capitalist mentality is backed by the intimate relationships between the government, power companies and nuclear reactor manufacturing companies.

Diagram of the Anglo-American economic empire

The nuclear syndicate

There is a hidden agenda and secret economic partnership that monopolise the nuclear industry.

Diagram of nuclear waste reprocessing

Nuclear fuel reprocessing

Originally developed for producing nuclear weapons, reprocessing is used to recycle plutonium and uranium. However, more radioactive waste is created when nuclear waste is reprocessed.

Sellafield's nuclear pollution of the Irish Sea

Sellafield (Windscale)

The Europe's largest nuclear site has been polluting the Irish Sea with radioactive contamination.

Disposal of nuclear waste

Disposal of nuclear waste

When Somali Civil War that started in 1991 left the nation with no government or coast guard, European vessels started to dump toxic wastes including radioactive uranium.

Depleted uranium

Depleted uranium as a by-product of the production of enriched uranium is used to make munitions. American troops who served in Iraq now suffer from Gulf War syndrome caused by their own depleted uranium munitions.

Tibetan prisoners forced to work for missile manufacturing factories


In China, 1/4 nuclear missiles are deployed in Tibet. Tibetan prisoners are forced to work for missile manufacturing factories. China also accepted to store radioactive waste from European nuclear reactors and dumped in Tibet highland.

Figure showing Radioactive isotope accumulates in parts of the body.

Biological effect

Radioactive isotope accumulates in parts of the body and causes various health problems.

Radiant World (sculptural). chalk on blackboard, 2011

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle- Cause & Effect, ink on paper

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle – Cause & Effect. Ink on paper, 2009

The diagram drawing titled The Nuclear Fuel Cycle – Cause & Effect – takes on the issue of monopolised information by the nuclear industry, power companies and the government. In Japan, official pamphlets and brochures about nuclear power often have a diagram of ‘the nuclear fuel cycle’: a picture of a clean circle showing how nuclear fuel flows in order to produce electricity and is recycled after use. The reality, however, is neither simple nor clean as shown in the diagram. The work The Nuclear Fuel Cycle – Cause & Effect – suggests the hidden sides of the nuclear fuel cycle which are not displayed on the official diagram. The purpose of this work is to draw audience attention to the problems of nuclear policy by showing how individual’s everyday life is connected to the larger-scaled issue, and also to change the way the audience looks at reality.

Diagram of The Nuclear Fuel Cycle - Cause

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle - Cause

Diagram of The Nuclear Fuel Cycle - Effect

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle - Effect

Small drawing of a tree on a hill with disappearing house and children

This is where I used to graze my knees, pencil on paper, 2009

This small drawing expresses a loss of home. 
When I was a child, the Japanese government came up with a nuclear fuel cycle project. They started building nuclear facilities near my hometown. When the Chernobyl power plant exploded, I got really scared that something similar might happen near my hometown in the future. A fear of losing home where I used to spend my childhood has always been with me. The site near my childhood playground has become a burial ground for radioactive waste from all nuclear power plants in Japan. The reprocessing plant will probably be causing radioactive contamination of crops and seafood, which will directly affect health of people on the spot including my family. This small drawing attempts to show the value and fragility of simple daily life and the sense of loss and bewilderment on its disappearance at the hands of an unfeeling power.