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Learning the Nuclear: Educational Tourism in (Post)Industrial Sites


Edited By Natalija Mazeikiene

This book illuminates the educational potential of nuclear tourism and learning about nuclear power in informal and non-formal learning settings. The authors present a case of elaboration of the educational virtual nuclear route in the Ignalina Power Plant Region, Lithuania. Nuclear tourism takes its shape at the junction of several types of tourism – energy, industrial, cultural, and heritage and it becomes a site of outdoor and place-based education, promotes STEM, energy literacy, critical thinking, and environmental skills, and creates a valuable source for virtual learning. The book reveals peculiarities of learning and experience at nuclear power plants and disaster tourism destinations such as the Chernobyl Museum and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

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Energy Tourism at Nuclear Power Plants: Between Educational Mission and Retention of “Safety Myth” (Eglė GerulaitienėandNatalija Mažeikienė)

Eglė GerulaitienėandNatalija Mažeikienė

Energy Tourism at Nuclear Power Plants: Between Educational Mission and Retention of “Safety Myth”

Abstract: This chapter has two principal objectives: first, to conceptualize the recent development in energy tourism by giving special attention to nuclear tourism as a distinct form of energy tourism and illuminating the educational potential of nuclear tourism sites and tours. Second, the chapter provides an explorative field research study of nuclear energy tourism in Scotland and Lithuania. The case study is based on field trips and observations conducted while visiting two energy tourism attractions – the Torness Nuclear Power Station and Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP) with Visitor Centres at these nuclear industry facilities. Features of nuclear tourism at atomic reactors and their premises are described in the chapter by pointing out the expansion of activities and target groups, going beyond the concept of expert-oriented tourism and moving to experience-oriented tourism, energy literacy, STEM education and orientation to wider groups of citizens and tourists (schoolchildren, families, etc.).

The authors of the chapter shed light on energy and nuclear tourism as an open and covert corporate branding and seek to shape positive attitudes of consumers and citizens towards the nuclear energy industry. The nuclear companies deploy tourism and educational activities (STEM education) to build citizens’ perception of safety and security in the industry and strengthen pro-nuclear attitudes. Taking into consideration these aims of nuclear energy industry, a critical approach towards tourist attractions and educational sites at nuclear power plants has been employed by the authors.

Keywords: energy tourism nuclear tourism atomic tourism nuclear power plants Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP) Torness Nuclear Power Station


Extensive development of energy tourism has expanded the interest of visitors to travel to different sites of tourist destinations (wind turbines, coal mills, nuclear power plants, etc.). Tourists want “to gaze at different landscapes and townscapes that are unusual for them” (Urry and Larsen, 2011). Therefore, such objects as giant cooling towers at nuclear power plants could be experienced as tempting and fascinating by tourists. Energy tourism overlaps with other types of tourism, including cultural and heritage tourism, as well as adventure ←136 | 137→tourism and agricultural tourism. Nuclear tourism is continuing to expand and develop as a growing subset of the heritage tourism phenomenon, which has dramatically increased over the past several decades (Berger, 2006). Heritage tourism creates interest among visitors and provides enriching experiences. Extensive development of tourism is closely associated with a rise in the education demand for tourism activities. Energy tourism has the potential to improve people’s energy literacy and change their behaviour in using energy towards more sustainable “energy citizenship” (Devine-Wright, 2007).

As energy tourism contributes to science and STEM education; promotes environment education; fosters the development of responsible citizenship, knowledge of heritage and history; the authors analyse the educational mission (potential) at energy sites and atomic reactors. Recently, there has been a growing debate that in addition to the educational potential and satisfying professional or learning interests, energy tourism must be classified as experience-based tourism, where tourists are invited to experience special feelings. The authors also discuss the influence of new public relations and corporate branding strategies, which have been introduced by energy companies and interest groups in order to influence public opinion about certain types of energy and energy companies. Energy companies seek to represent themselves as socially responsible and environmentally aware producers (Frantál & Urbánková, 2017). The topic of “safety myth” as a pro-nuclear narrative, created by the nuclear industry establishments together with governments, is criticized in this chapter.

The purpose of the chapter is to reveal the educational potential, which is envisaged in the existing nuclear tourism sites and tours. This chapter has two principal objectives: first, to conceptualize the wider interrelationships between energy and tourism, provide a definition of energy tourism as a new niche of special interest tourism; second, to provide an explorative field research study of nuclear energy tourism destinations in Scotland and Lithuania.


The case studies presented in this chapter are based on field trips and qualitative observation conducted by visiting two energy and nuclear tourism attractions – excursions to the Torness nuclear power plant (Scotland, JK) and Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP) (Lithuania). Additionally, researchers conducted visits to Information/Visitor Centres at these nuclear sites (INPP and Torness) and analysed the content of these exhibitions. The researchers participated in two-hour tours inside the nuclear power plants and at Visitor/←137 | 138→Information centres. Additionally, these tours included conversations with guides working at INPP and Torness information centres about the narrative content of the excursions, which they provide for different tourist groups, and the topics and questions that interest visitors during the excursions. These two field research trips were arranged in 2019, the sites of nuclear tourism were explored from the perspective of a potential visitor. At the same time, experiences gained by the researchers and the content of the exhibits were interpreted by referring to theoretical considerations on energy and atomic/nuclear tourism, the role and functions of Visitor Centres at the atomic energy facilities and in relation to the concepts of publicity and openness, security and safety, and entertainment and education at the nuclear and atomic sites.

Both nuclear power plants offer two separate excursions for the visitors: one tour inside the nuclear power plants include a visit to three zones – the Reactor, the Control Panel and the Turbine Zone (from 1.5 to 2.5 hrs.); the other excursion – in the Visitor/Information Centres (from 1 to 2 hrs.), providing information on nuclear energy situation, safety, political/economic situation of the energy production and educational material.

Conceptualizing Nuclear Tourism as a Specific Form of Energy and Industrial Tourism

Nuclear tourism is viewed as a specific segment of energy and industrial tourism, which is characterized by the attractiveness of industrial sites in the country, new technologies and power plants (Otgaar, 2012; Frantál and R. Urbánková, 2017). Industrial tourism includes visits both to former, retired or regenerated sites (industrial heritage tourism) and to still operational industrial sites where some facilities have been provided specifically for tourists’ use, even though the core activity of the site is not oriented towards tourism (Frew, 2008; Otgaar, 2012).

Energy tourism and its specific form – nuclear tourism – takes its shape at the junction of several types of tourism – industrial, special interest, expert-oriented, experience-oriented, cultural and heritage, adventure, farm and agricultural tourism (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1:Interrelationships of energy tourism and other types of special interest tourism (adapted from Frew & Shaw, 1995) by Frantál & Urbánková (2017)

What attracts visitors to operating energy production sites? On the whole, energy and nuclear tourism сan be assigned to special interest tourism and expert-oriented tourism when certain groups (experts in energy, engineers, regional managers, students of technical universities, schoolchildren, etc.) have specific professional and educational interest in the subject related to their activities at work, in education and studies. Thus, in terms of the educational ←138 | 139→impact, it should be emphasized that energy tourism (including nuclear tourism) has the potential to improve people’s “energy literacy”, improve the understanding of how we consume energy, and raise awareness of nuclear waste repository or potential impacts of nuclear activities on local economies (Frantál & Urbánková, 2017).

Promoting STEM education at energy sites and atomic reactors. Energy tourism contributes to science and STEM education, promotes environment education, fosters the development of responsible citizenship, knowledge of heritage and history. Regarding nuclear power plants, a certain content of knowledge and experience is exposed here: the history and construction of power plants; the principles and technology of atomic energy production and related matters, such as nuclear safety and security; topics related to radioactive waste disposal; and environmental and landscape impacts. So, the educational impact of energy and nuclear tourism is obvious.←139 | 140→

STEM education through informal learning and “out of classroom experiences” is encouraged at most levels of the educational system as a way of strengthening students’ interest and motivation. Museum visits represent one type of such experience, and museums are investigated as a means for improving the scientific literacy of both students and adults (Henriksen and Jorde, 2001).

New forms of nuclear tourism – combining environmental education, the presentation of novel technologies, interactive popular science experiments and various outdoor activities – attract schools to organize educational visits to museums to provide understandable scientific information about different topics: atoms, radiation, ionizing radiation and health, reactors, robots, physics and much more. Nuclear Power Plants (NPP) Visitor/Information Centres organize school visits, which are supplementary to the physics and chemistry curriculum. As stated in the research by Henriksen and Jorde (2001) regarding school visits to museums, studies have shown that a museum visit, in combination with pre- or post-visit experiences in the classroom, may provide considerable improvement in learning outcomes for students.

Energy sites as experience-based tourist destinations. Recently, there has been a growing debate that in addition to educational potential and satisfying professional or learning interests, energy tourism must be classified as experience-based tourism, where tourists are invited to experience special feelings. There is a new tendency in the energy tourism sector to focus more on various target groups that do not have a specific professional and study interest in energy. Energy tourism seeks to attract experience-oriented tourists of all ages (including families), for whom not only education, experience and emotions, but also entertainment and leisure are important.

Industrial infrastructure and industrial landscapes in general, and energy industry sites in particular, present tourists with an extraordinary visual experience. Tourists get fascinated and intrigued by the spectacular sizes and unusual shapes of industrial sites. Energy sites become a tourist attraction as something very specific and different from the places where the tourists themselves live, and visitors want to gaze at different landscapes and townscapes that are unusual for them (Pasqualetti, 2012; Frantál & Urbánková, 2017; Urry & Larsen 2011).

Some traditional energy landscapes are perceived as visually or environmentally polluted; that is why they potentially discourage tourists from visiting them. On the other hand, because of the difference from the usual environment, industrial sites attract tourists.←140 | 141→

Recently, new energy tourism destinations have also attracted tourists’ interest by exposing power plants with renewable energy sources (wind farms, photovoltaic, geothermal, hydropower plants, etc.). These facilities attract tourists due to unique technical nature, design and movement (Beer et al., 2017). Tourists visiting renewable energy source power plants are fascinated by the unique visual aspects of such places. As the authors (Beer et al., 2017) state, the visitors’ interest is mainly caused by curiosity and in some countries by the rarity of similar types of technologies. Tourists visiting renewable energy sources sites are described as environmentally concerned visitors.

Nuclear power plants are also becoming an experience-based tourism destination. These sites evoke special aesthetic unique feelings of impressiveness and grandeur. Giant cooling towers of nuclear power plants are associated with modern cathedrals (Hecht, 1997). People even organize wedding ceremonies with a nuclear plant as a backdrop, as in the case of Temelın power plant in the Czech Republic1.

Other authors describing thrill and excitement felt by tourists at nuclear power plants distinguish a heightened experience of being in an authentic place loaded with potential dangers (Storm et al., 2019). However, it is important to emphasize that a sense of risk arises not only from the immediate experience at the atomic facility, but also from the appeal to the broader nuclear imaginary. These are conceptions and imagination of nuclear power, which is constructed by political discourse, literature, media, cinematography, art, education, etc. According to Storm et al. (2019), visitors’ imagination is fuelled by a mix of ambivalent understandings when appealed, on the one hand, to scientific utopian visions of the 1940s and 1950s, and, on the other, to dystopian fears of radioactive catastrophes and contamination.

Visitors’ fear is amplified by the non-sensory qualities of radiation: it cannot be seen, heard or smelled by human senses unaided (Ibid.). So, nuclear power plants construct a peculiar perception of risk and security in the excursions and expositions at the Visitor Centres – this is where a kind of “security theatre” is arranged to calibrate the concordance between, on the one hand, calculable risk and security and, on the other hand, perceived risk, and security (Schneier, 2003 cit. Storm et al., 2019). The security theatre evoking a perception of risk ←141 | 142→is articulated through the partially limited and also ritualized access, through security procedures and rituals. The enhanced perception of risk increases the attraction of nuclear places.

Another very specific energy tourism destination that evokes unusual feelings and experiences is dark and disaster tourism destinations (e.g. tours to the Chernobyl power plant accident area). Such objects attract more and more visitors every year since they are treated as mysterious places. Visiting such places evoke a particular existential feeling – sublime, which can be described as a mixture of ungraspable and unimaginable horror with pleasure and excitement. The sublime is “a mode of subjective experience, a broadly pleasurable sense stimulated by landscape, but combining terror and awe, which anticipates dark and thana-tourism as a leisure activity. The sublime combines fear in the face of the infinite or incomprehensible, with a transcendence of that fear” (Goatcher & Brunsden, 2011, p. 127–128)

A Shift from Special Interest Groups’ Tourism to Attracting Families and Children to Nuclear Power Plants

As mentioned above, energy tourism is moving from special interest and expert-oriented tourism to experience-based tourism. At the same time, there is a shift from orientation towards energy experts to attracting families and children. Therefore, a new aim is raised to combine educational activities with recreation, entertainment and adventure. New forms of nuclear tourism – combining environmental education, the presentation of novel technologies, interactive popular science experiments and various outdoor activities – have been designed to attract not only those who are interested in energy technologies (i.e. expert energy tourism), but also family-oriented or adventure-seeking tourists (Frantál & Urbánková, 2017).

A similar trend emerging in a broader field – industrial and energy tourism – is observed. The characteristics of tourism are changing, moving from one main target group (experts, students, pupils) to wider target groups (families, individual tourists and groups looking for entertainment and adventure) (Jiricka et al., 2010).

When focusing on special interest groups (experts, students, school pupils), it is expected that this group of tourists visits energy facilities in larger groups (e.g. student classes); their visits take place during workdays; and it is a short stay lasting 1–2 days, independent from the weather. Their main interest is related to work, education, know-how transfer; and they are focused on the cognitive dimension, with aims to obtain factual and practical knowledge, ←142 | 143→technological and scientific information on energy production facility (Ibid.). The special interest groups mostly attend energy sites and indoor activities (visits to reactors, Visitor Centres). The main format of tourist activities embraces guided tours, expert lectures, discussions and seminars. Cultural activities here are just an additional incentive.

Meanwhile, the new paradigm in energy tourism to focus on families and children and the wider audience implies that the main motive for visiting is an orientation towards experience and entertainment, leisure, recreation and informal learning (Jiricka et al., 2010). Just recently, energy companies have begun offering new event and experience-oriented tourism products to attract – separately from experts, enthusiasts, or businesses – additional segments of tourists, such as young people, families with children or seniors. These tourists visit energy sites and their surroundings during weekends and holidays, in small groups, and they combine outdoor and indoor activities. The duration of their stay could be shorter (weekend trips) or longer (combination with other tourism offers, camps). It is rather seasonal and depends on the weather. To meet the needs of this group of visitors, the infrastructure of all regions is used (hotels, restaurants, camps, adventure parks, culinary, sport and entertainment facilities). According to Jiricka et al. (2010), unlike the special interest groups, this type of tourist is focused on affective (feelings) and kinaesthetic (motor skills) dimension, “learning by doing and feeling”. They prefer guided offers, self-discovery offers (e.g. interpretive energy trail, energy fun parks, exhibitions and holiday camps).

Energy Tourism as a Part of Corporate Branding. Creating a “Safety Myth” at the Visitor Centres of Nuclear Power Plants

All these declared and anticipated educational benefits of energy tourism (including nuclear tourism) are questioned, taking into consideration the strong intention of energy companies supporting and organizing this tourism to influence the public opinion about the use of certain types of energy and energy providers. The companies tend to show a certain energy sector and energy sources as safe and economically useful. They seek to represent themselves as socially responsible and environmentally aware producers (Frantál & Urbánková, 2017). So, the implementation of educational benefits is contested and challenged by the “hidden curriculum” (concealed content and message as a part of public relations and corporate branding strategies of energy companies).

The nuclear industry establishment, together with governments, has been criticized for creating pro-nuclear narratives and constructing the “safety myth”. ←143 | 144→In a broader cultural and political discourse, communication and public relations of the industry, nuclear energy is represented as safe and reliable (Onishi 2011; Simon, 2019). Visitor Centres at nuclear power plants became a powerful public relations tool and tourist attraction in persuading the public about the safety and necessity of nuclear power. Nuclear tourism at nuclear power plants (NPP) is aimed to influence public opinion and shape public policy in favour of the pro-nuclear agenda. Nuclear tourism has already become a usual public relations’ strategy of the nuclear industry (Sumihara, 2003). Through broader public communication in media, tourist and educational activities at the sites of nuclear plants, the nuclear industry seeks to reduce doubts, fears and anxiety in the public consciousness about the nuclear industry (Ibid.). A similar evaluation of narratives produced by the nuclear industry is given by Storm et al. (2019) in the observation that danger and unsafety related to the nuclear energy are not mentioned and represented. Anxieties of citizens are minimized during their tourist visits at nuclear reactors, and their worries shrink down; the inherent risks are rationalized through entertaining exhibits, nuclear fear is assuaged, and nuclear anxieties are transformed into nuclear acceptance via a visit (Simon, 2019). Visitor Centres become “paradoxically both a kind of multi-media warning sign, a marker for the danger that indicates you are entering a monitored and demarcated zone of limited access, as well as a place of tourism that promotes nuclear power, a safe space to process your nuclear fears” (Ibid., p. 64).

Scholars exploring the development of the Visitor Centers in Japan before the Fukushima accident in 2011 (Sumihara, 2003) describe how nuclear industry companies promote communication with local residents and tourists seeking to shape a positive image of the industry, impose a perception of nuclear facilities as safe and secure. Usually, the narratives about nuclear energy stress that it is an important part of the general energy landscape of the country, and nuclear energy is “clean” energy, which can create a proper response to global warming. Economic aspects are highlighted by pointing out that the supply of energy is at a relatively low cost. At the same time, harm to human beings and human costs of possible accidents are not sufficiently underlined.

Visitor Centres at nuclear power plants in Japan have gone through dramatic changes since the last decades. Starting from the mid-80s, Visitors Centres have started to reach a diverse population (not only male experts and politicians), especially women and children. Visitor Centres became an important asset to bring a sense of safety to women in general, especially those with small children. It is considered important by the nuclear industry to familiarize people from childhood as future decision-makers with nuclear power plants (Sumihara, ←144 | 145→2003, 2019). The Visitor Centres founded in the 1970s were generally small, low cost and humble-looking buildings. They were situated at the edge of the power plant premises, which were located in remote and inaccessible areas. The visitor centres developed since the mid-1980s were very high-budget projects with a distinguished aesthetic concept – these centres were established in large-scale, fancy-looking, flamboyant and luxurious, futuristic appearance buildings of modern architecture.

These new Visitor Centres seek to attract children and young people. Interiors of the Centres are usually colourful, expositions are equipped with high-tech media, participative and interactive machines and displays, games, 3-D installations, science theatre and show-like presentations, cartoons, animation films, etc. All these audio-visual representations, music and imagery not only provide information on nuclear reactors, but also create strong emotional feelings. As Sumihara (2003, 2019) points out, Visitor Centres at Japanese nuclear plants after the late 1980s began to operate as multifunctional recreational and entertainment facilities. Visitors get access to seaside and natural parks, camping sites, outdoor open grass spaces, field athletic facilities (baseball stadium, swimming pools, tennis courts, etc.), other cultural attractions (i.e. archaeological museums). Visitor Centres started to organize sport and entertainment events (classes, competitions, picnics, etc.) for the local community, to attract people of all generations, families and children. New Visitor Centres included stores selling local commercial products, crafts, food. So, Visitor Centres performed activities such as recreation and tourism, which had nothing to do with nuclear power plants.

Sumihara (2019), comparing the concept of Visitor Centres in Japan and the UK, observed differences in narratives about a nuclear power plant. During a visit to the Visitor Centre at Sellafied in 2002, the researcher found that the UK nuclear plant did not attempt to persuade visitors to adopt a pro-nuclear stance. The exhibition avoids a one-sided depiction of nuclear power.

A debate on opinions supporting and opposing nuclear power explains the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy, and offers to “weigh the risks” are presented. Visitors are also introduced to the anti-nuclear movement in the country. It can be assumed that the exposition itself and a more general public discourse on nuclear energy in the UK and other countries were influenced by the antinuclear movement. This narrative is very different from the uncritical construction of nuclear power in Japan before the Fukushima accident in March 2011. From the mid-1970s onwards, public support for nuclear power fell in the UK and the US, exacerbated by the Three Mile Island accident in the US in 1979. Since the 1980s, opposition to nuclear power has been greater ←145 | 146→than support, both in the US and the UK. Similarly, in Sweden, the issue of risk related to nuclear power had begun to enter the public agenda (early 80s) (Storm et al., 2019). Public support for nuclear power was seriously damaged by the Chernobyl accident in 1986. The Chernobyl accident led to anti-nuclear energy movements and protests all over Europe and influenced governance to open the atomic industry to the broad public.

The history of the anti-nuclear movement in Europe defines the content of current communication in current visitor centres. N. Sumihara (2019) states that the myth of safety about nuclear power plants was destroyed by the Fukushima accident. Japan’s Visitor Centres after 3/11 stress that their nuclear power plants have significantly improved safety measures, especially against earthquakes and tsunamis, and introduced new procedures of safety.

Nuclear Power Plants as Objects of Cultural and Historical Heritage

One more development in energy and nuclear tourism is the process of heritagization. Energy tourism presents power plants as objects of industrial heritage; that is why, the features of cultural and heritage tourism stand out here.

On the one hand, the process of heritagization process implies the process when nuclear power is displayed as an object of heritage value; on the other hand, it is presented as a promising and potent technology of the future (Storm et al., 2019). During the process of heritagization, many nuclear sites were featured as museum-like information centres which were constructed and managed by the nuclear industry. In Great Britain and France, nuclear energy facilities gained a specific cultural value since some nuclear power plants were designed by famous architects.

The narrative at these facilities is generally focused on technical descriptions. At the same time, these newly created atomic heritage objects appeal to a utopian narrative of future visions and promises of atomic power, scientific and technological achievements, and progress in the nuclear field. This heritagization process by the nuclear companies creates an image of a safe and secure industry and does not reveal the dangers and insecurities of nuclear power. As Storm et al. (2019) point out, the heritagization process promoted by the nuclear industry is rather optimistic and does not represent messages and narratives on danger and unsafety of the nuclear industry, disastrous consequences of nuclear accidents. Anti-nuclear narratives are represented in other areas that are independent of the nuclear industry – in museums, art exhibitions, and broader cultural and artistic discourse.←146 | 147→

Heritagization process of atomic sites and the nuclear past started earlier in the military nuclear industry. Atomic museums, established in the early decades of the Cold War at America’s nuclear weapons complexes have become popular tourist destinations and educational institutions in the USA (Molella, 2003). The museums underlined “technical aspects of atomic bomb development but virtually nothing about their actual uses and unimagined destructiveness” (Ibid., p. 211). Their mission has been to preserve and exhibit the memory of the atomic bomb development under the Manhattan Project, celebrate and preserve the atomic heritage of the American nation. These museums contextualized the Bomb within Cold War culture by presenting the life of ordinary nuclear workers, exhibiting popular media and music, clothing styles, toys, furniture, etc.

The process of heritagization through “heritage preservation” at museums, monuments and visitor centres could be considered as an expression of public relations arranged by nuclear industry in promoting the “safety myth” (Simon, 2019).

The opening up as a response to the pressure of anti-nuclear movement. The establishment of Visitor Centres in the USA and Europe is a broad movement throughout the nuclear industry to make the transition from the secrecy of the atomic industry to openness to the society, allowing the general public better understand nuclear energy generation. Opening up of nuclear plants for the public could be considered as a search for forms of transparency and openness to the public. It has been prompted as a result of pressure by the anti-nuclear movement and the public’s demand to know more about what is going on in nuclear power plants. Excessive secrecy has been an integral part of the nuclear industry– starting from the American military atomic energy programme and becoming a part of the military industry during nuclear proliferation in the context of the Cold War (Palfrey, 1953, cited Schuck and Crowley-Buck, 2015). A unique feature of the Soviet defence-industry complex was its secret “closed cities” (Barber and Harrison, 2000). The civil use of nuclear energy was surrounded by secrecy too, especially in the early stages of nuclear development. The Chernobyl nuclear accident was named a monument to the secrecy and failings of the Cold War (Hetherington, 1997). The establishment of Information/Visitor Centres has become a powerful communication tool to realize the openness of the atomic industry; it has become an opportunity to introduce the public to how nuclear energy works, leaving as little secrecy as possible.

Visitors at nuclear power plants are allowed to have a look at what is happening in the nuclear power station; how operations of the plant are performed, ←147 | 148→monitored and checked; and how equipment and structures are managed. Information/Visitor Centres provide information for their visitors concerning the history and development of the nuclear industry; achievements in the physical science; energy development view; nuclear industry; and the relevant infrastructure construction, radiation and the measures to be taken for the protection from radiation. Visitor Centres are usually equipped with exhibits, panels and interactive displays to provide visitors with scientific and technical information about atomic energy, explaining how nuclear energy is produced and how safety is ensured.

Education in STEM for school children is among the key activities of Information/Visitor Centres. As an example of STEM education, it could be referred to Dukovany and Temelin NPP, where tourists can find a Reactor core model and Reactor model which allows them to learn what happens inside the reactor in the course of operation. In the Information Centre of Dukovany, informal evaluation of pupils’ knowledge in physics is performed through “Play”, where the players (visitors/learners) are invited to connect and relate images (faces) of discoverers (scientists), their names and their discoveries. Education activities are provided through simulations on how electric energy is produced in NPPs. Cloud chamber is one of a few devices enabling the observation of radiation particle trajectories.

Most Information/Visitor Centres are drawing upon various initiatives to build up better communication with visitors, including local inhabitants. One pre-condition for the educational infrastructure to work within the leisure–vacation context is that it ought to have a fun-oriented conception. First-hand experiences and learning by doing are the most important communication tools. Family-oriented offers and holiday camps are important parts of this experience-oriented tourism.

Summarizing the features of nuclear tourism at atomic reactors and their premises, the expansion of activities and target groups is distinguished, going beyond the concept of expert-oriented tourism and moving to experience-oriented tourism, energy literacy, STEM education and orientation to wider groups of citizens and tourists (schoolchildren, families, etc.).

Like many other energy companies, nuclear power plants implement open and covert corporate branding policy and seek to shape positive attitudes of consumers and citizens towards the nuclear energy industry. The nuclear companies deploy tourism and educational activities (STEM education) to build citizens’ and customers’ perception of safety and reliability of the industry and strengthen pro-nuclear attitudes. Taking into consideration these aims of ←148 | 149→nuclear energy industry, a critical approach should be applied while assessing tourist attractions and educational sites at nuclear power plants.

Torness Nuclear Power Station as an Educational Site and Energy Tourism Attraction

Torness is a nuclear power station – one of the eight in the UK owned and operated by EDF Energy. It is situated some 50 km east of Edinburgh, at Torness Point, near Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland. Torness has two reactors (AGR Advanced Gas-cooled reactors), able to generate 1364 MWe electricity. The construction of Torness atomic power plant started in 1980, and it was commissioned in 1988. Torness construction faced a wide public opposition. In Scotland, direct action against nuclear power was held between 1978 and 1980 (Rudig, 1994). Antinuclear movement in Torness started in May 1978, when 4000 people from Dunbar occupied the Torness construction site. 400 groups and individuals signed the “Torness Declaration” which committed signatories to take “all non-violent steps necessary to prevent the construction of a nuclear power station at Torness” (Torness Alliance 1979, p. 4) Held in the summer of 1979, the poll found 90 % opposed to any nuclear development in the area, 8 % demanding further safety analysis and just 2 % in favour of proceeding. The Torness Alliance continued to attempt annual occupations of the site, but were neutralized by the police, so the campaign to ‘Stop Torness’ and the wider aim of bringing an end to nuclear power did fail (Welsh, 2001).

Torness is the last of the second generation nuclear power plants in the UK to continue working. According to the plans, Torness power plant will operate until 2030. EDF is one of the UKs largest energy providers. They generate low carbon power via nuclear, gas and coal power stations that are spread throughout the UK. EDF energy company is engaged in decommissioning and closing the old generation reactors; it also uses fossil fuel, and is oriented towards the renewable sources of energy (wind, solar, hydropower). EDF invests in building wind farms across the UK and is running a large fleet of low carbon nuclear power stations and a smaller fleet of coal and gas stations. EDF is investing in Nuclear New Build projects by building a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point and are planning a second one at Sizewell.

The energy landscape is undergoing restructuring in the UK. The UK’s electricity demands are currently met by a diverse energy mix – power generated in a number of ways: nuclear; fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil; and renewables like wind, solar and hydro. The UK needs new investment in energy infrastructure to replace old and polluting electricity generation sources and address climate ←149 | 150→change challenges. Since 2010, 26 power stations have closed, which equates to 20 % of the UK’s generation capacity. By 2030, a further 35 % of the existing generation capacity will close down. EDF committed to providing a clean, secure and reliable solution to the climate change problem; at the same time, nuclear power has still an important role to play. The planned decommissioning of all “Magnox” type reactors and many Advanced Gas Cooled Reactors (AGR) means that, without a new generation of power plants, the contribution of nuclear energy will be reduced to around 5 % or 6 % of the total electricity production (till 2030).

The fact that EDF company is involved in generating different kinds of energy – nuclear, solar, wind, fossil fuel – and the whole country’s power economy is in the company’s hands is highly stressed in the power plant’s Visitor Centre exhibition, which describes the importance of various types of power: information about fossil fuels, solar, wind and nuclear power. The exhibition introduces the structure of the national energy economy, defining the different roles of energy types and stressing the idea of energy mix. Nuclear energy is presented as part of the energy economy, and its specificity is discussed in comparison with other types of energy. The visual material of the exhibition displays information that nuclear energy is the biggest low carbon power source in the UK, producing 21 % of the nation’s electricity supply in 2017. It is pointed out that solar power works best in sunny countries, but solar power still contributed 4 % of the UK’s renewable electricity in 2017, and its generation was up to 87 % in the previous year. Wind power generated just under half of the UK’s renewable electricity, while burning “fossil fuels” – coal, gas and oil – produced half of the electricity. It is noted that all fossil fuels are rich in carbon, so burning them releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which means they are major contributors to climate change.

Fig. 2:Torness Nuclear Power Plant and Visitor Center (Photographs by E.Gerulaitienė)

The enterprise takes care of the citizens’ education and communication. The Visitor Centre, established in 2013, informs visitors about nuclear technology, basic properties of radioactivity and protection against ionising radiation. The guides of the Visitor Centre offer free tours in the power plant (see Fig. 2). The Centre was recently awarded five stars by “Visit Scotland” for the service quality and the range of services. The Visitor Centre is involved in educational, energy literacy and career STEM activities; introduces and discusses the use and combination of different types of energy (wind, solar, hydro, non-carbon); and attention is also given to general energy literacy. The Visitor Centre at Torness power station, opened six years ago, welcomed its 30,000th visitor at the end of 2019. In addition to offering educational tours of the power station, the Visitor ←150 | 151→Centre also holds themed family events, fairy and safari trails, school Christmas Cracker week and Santa’s grotto, attracting people from around the area.

The review of the activities at the Visitor Centre leads to a conclusion that it aims at educating citizens and encouraging them to be active in making decisions about economic issues both in personal households and the country’s economy, preparing citizens to take part in discussions on energy consumption and energy-related decisions. The Visitor Centre cooperates with educational institutions, organizes Career Days. The Torness Visitor Centre employs eight persons, who guide tours in the power plant, participate in promotional and educational activities. The EDF company, owning Torness NPP and the Visitor Centre, has developed an interactive training platform for teachers and children. This educational platform is available for visitors and clients of other EDF enterprises (NPP) and Visitor Centres. The platform offers free school lesson plans and practical tasks, organizes meetings, demonstrates films, and presents games and other information. The Torness tour guide mentions that not only excursions are organized for tourists and schoolchildren in the power plant, but outreach trainings can also be arranged at schools. Thus, well-organized educational activities are part of the EDF energy enterprise policy. A policy of openness of NPP was adopted with the agreement of the authorities. Visits to nuclear power plants have been encouraged. Such openness to the public might be considered as the common situation that has developed in the country and in the world in order to overcome isolation and to unveil the secrecy of nuclear energy, which was characteristic since the beginning of the atomic industry, to reduce and alleviate resistance to nuclear energy, and to improve the general energy literacy. This is extremely important in the countries and regions ←151 | 152→where anti-nuclear movement has been strong and anti-nuclear sentiment is quite obvious. The anti-nuclear movement resulted in changes of the information and communication policy of all NPPs. These events and processes have evidently influenced the public communication policy of EDF as well.

Visitors’ participation in “security theatre” performance. A special exclusive component of tourism at the NPP is the visitor’s feelings and experience. Nuclear tourism is considered experience-based tourism, where, on the one hand, a sense of security and the perception of visiting a place loaded with potential dangers are constructed (Storm et al. 2019), and on the other hand, one of the communication goals of nuclear energy companies is to show that this place is protected and at the same time safe since strict security procedures are applied. According to Schneier (2007), security is both a reality and a feeling. The reality of security is mathematical, based on the probability of different risks and the effectiveness of different countermeasures. But security is also a feeling, based on individual psychological reactions to both the risks and the countermeasures. And the two things are different: you can be secure even though you dont feel secure, and you can feel secure even though you are not really secure.

During an excursion to NPP, the visitor becomes a participant of “security theatre performance”, consisting of theatrical screening procedures and security rituals, which are arranged to calibrate the concordance between, on the one hand, calculable risk and security and, on the other hand, perceived risk and security (Schneier, 2003 cit. Storm et al., 2019). It is these constructed feelings that become the key element in experience-based tourism at NPP.

Similarly, a tourist visiting the Torness nuclear power plant becomes not only a spectator of the “security theatre”, but also its co-creator and co-participant. From the very first moment of communication with the Visitor Centre, the visitor understands that the excursion is taking place in an operating enterprise, where security requirements are of prime importance. Extreme security measures were introduced in all atomic power plants after 11 September 2001. Since then, security in organizing and conducting tours of nuclear power plants is strengthened.

To make the tourist understand that he/she is coming to an object which is a danger zone with an existing “security mode”, before the visit (not later than a month before) he/she receives a list of questions and recommendations related to safety (a memorandum on personal protective equipment (PPE), a warning that personal belongings and equipment are not allowed in the NPP; that tourists need to inform about special needs (e.g., medicines) in advance; information that a security declaration form will need to be signed); and the ←152 | 153→requirement to have a proof of identity. When registering one month before the tour by e-mail, the tourist sends the passport data, and a presentation on the power plant is sent to him/her him/her. The procedure for organizing the excursions is very clear and carefully planned: after the confirmation of admission to the tour, a concrete time is set for the tour and its duration is defined – 90 minutes.

The second stage of security assurance takes place upon the visitor’s arrival at the Torness nuclear power plant at the appointed time, where the security check procedure is performed: the visitor’s passport is checked, and oral instructions are given. All personal belongings, handbags, computers and other electronic gadgets are left in the locker of the Visitor Centre. Only a pen and note paper are allowed during the tour.

The visitor’s participation in this procedure creates an experience for him/her – it evokes feelings, and there are various actions and procedures, giving rise to many thoughts and impressions. The visitors can only guess why they are not allowed to take the mentioned things with them. Upon the arrival at the Visitor Centre, prior to the tour, the visitor has to sign documents: pre-tour questions, asking to assess the tourist’s preparation for the tour and to self-evaluate whether he/she will be able to spend 90 minutes walking through large premises, climbing stairs, moving up and down in lifts; asking if the visitor has medical problems. The next document is signing a confidentiality agreement. The instruction part is very important, as the handrail must be observed throughout the nuclear tour (this is reminded throughout the tour); visitors are informed that when they hear the alarm, they have to follow the guide; they cannot keep their hands in their pockets and wear high heels (so as not to fall). In the Visitor Centre building, an employee (guide) and security staff check the identity documents, and upon entering the NPP itself, a personal search is performed using a hand-held metal detector and/or an explosive gas detector. Similar procedures, according to Storm et al. (2019), could be described as “security theatre” that refers to security measures taken to counteract terrorism, such as scanning bodies and luggage at airports – measures that create and construct the experience of security. In that way, it is not real, but rather a “theatre” of improved safety. Thus, security theatre performance is widely practised in atomic power plants and has a “side effect” – a special experience is created for the tourist, and the sense of danger and risk is strengthened. All of these actions, including strict staff supervision and surveillance – stripping of items, walking on a separated pavement strip, along a high-barbed wire fence, a thorough physical inspection at the nuclear site itself with detectors, and passing through inspection and detention gates – give ←153 | 154→the visitor a feeling that there are potential dangers in this place: on the one hand, a physical danger of falling, injury in a specific space; on the other hand – the physical tourist’s inspection shows that someone may try to harm or cause danger to the operation and safety of the atomic power plant, to spy using electronic equipment (cameras, computers). These security measures and all the procedures indirectly create a sense of the hidden dangers of nuclear energy – radiation and its harm, which can be exploited by criminals (spies and terrorists), who need cameras, computers and explosives for carrying out their evil intentions. On the other hand, as stated by the authors analysing security theatre (Schneier, 2007, Storm et al., 2019), such exceptional attention to security is needed not only for the real security when visiting an atomic power plant, but for creating perceived security, for calibrating psychologically the real and perceived danger. However, real and perceived risks do not always coincide. Schneier argues that in some cases we tend to exaggerate risks, such that the security theatre may then help to adjust feelings and reactions to match the calculable level of threat. In other cases, the risks are greater and the security lower than we recognize; the reason for this might be traced to performances of a security theatre that is an expression of power abuse – that is, to actually disguise risks (Schneier, 2007). It is difficult to decide how in this concrete case real danger and risk are calibrated with the security theatre performance played for the visitors, and the authors of this chapter could not claim that the performed risk procedures at the Tornes NPP exaggerate real risks; however, it can be said with great certainty and conviction that all these actions and rituals really create an exciting experience for the visitor and it is an important part of nuclear tourism. The tourist begins to realize the exceptional importance of the object itself, the dangers that lie here (the danger of radiation and the potential crimes (terrorist attacks) that are prevented here). These safety rituals at nuclear power plants are exceptional, unknown to many people, unusual and in this sense exotic, thus creating completely new long-lasting experiences and feelings for the tourist.

The excursion in the nuclear power plant premises, after passing through the inspection post, proceeds in the controlled power plant area: reactor hall, engine/turbine hall, and unit control panel. The tour takes place in an operating enterprise, so there are certain rules that are observed by the guide. The guide takes visitors along the intended path-route. While moving along the corridors and looking round the premises and halls, the tour participants meet and see the company employees, who move among units and perform work tasks. The only staff member who the tourists can contact directly is the guide. This is foreseen and regulated in the memos and is followed during the tour itself as ←154 | 155→a physical-communicative pattern so that the visitors cannot move wherever they want and initiate contacts with the employees. A tour in this enterprise is a tightly controlled, supervised action, when the trajectory of the visitor’s movement around various planned areas, contacts (communication) are quite strictly guided, supervised and surveilled. The movement of the visitors’ group is supervised – the guide opens and closes the door, visitors are invited to follow her/him along the corridors, and they take the lift with the guide, who constantly explains and shows by hand where to go and how to go (repeatedly reminding to hold on to the handrail). This physical and communicative guidance and supervision are also part of the security theatre performance, creating a distinctive unusual experience that is undoubtedly an integral part of this tourist destination attractiveness. The whole course of the tour, when the visitor feels controlled, directed and guided, at the same time monitored and followed, enhances the tourist’s sense and perception that he/she is in a place where strict security requirements are taken while protecting something, and the tourist himself/herself is, on the one hand, protected against injuries, on the other hand, is considered a potential source of danger, the one who can cause harm (because of which all the personal belongings were taken away, personal and passport data were checked, documents against collecting and disseminating information about the company were signed, talks with the staff were forbidden). All this constitutes a perhaps completely incomprehensible experience for the tourist himself.

When walking along the corridors of the power plant, the guide tells the visitors by demonstrating the visual educational materials on the walls, about the history of the atomic power plant, the construction, posters to commemorate the start and finish of the construction, dates, educational material about the gas cooled reactor type, etc. A separate topic is storing of the used fuel, transfer to Sellafield for reprocessing and recycling into new fuel.

In the reactor hall, in order to better acquaint the visitors with the principles of the reactor’s operation, there is a glass room from which a view of the huge spacious reactor hall opens from above. This room also features training material, reactor parts and an explanatory text on the reactor design, commented by the guide. Next to the control panel room, there is also a large glass window, through which visitors are allowed to observe the technological processes taking place there, i.e., computers, buttons and the complex monitoring of the nuclear power plant. The tour lasts approx. 1.5 hours. However, visitors have an opportunity to ask additional questions, which are not part of the standard planned narration. Therefore, depending on the visitors’ education, interests and activity, the story can be easily expanded and guides willingly provide ←155 | 156→additional commentaries, direct towards other topics. For example, the authors of this chapter initiated a discussion with the guide about the technical factors that caused the Fukushima disaster, how technological processes are arranged in the Tornes reactor and how disaster prevention mechanisms work. The guide explained the differences between the technological processes in Tornes and Fukushima in detail. It is important to mention that talk about accidents in nuclear power plants is not a usual part of a tour narrative; however, when it is initiated by tourists, guides are ready for a competent discussion.

Educational Mission at the Torness Visitor Centre. The Visitor Centre is not large, and it covers about 80 sq. m. It is divided into educational spaces (desks, chairs, information about atomic energy and the atom, interactive game screens, etc.). The Visitor Centre contains a lot of stand information about the reactor, how it functions, how energy is generated and how much of it is produced at the Torness atomic power station. Great attention is given to the description of how the power plant safety as well as the removal and storage of used fuel are ensured. There is also a full stand with handouts, information material on used reactors, renewable energy, used waste management and storage, etc. (see Fig. 3).

Fig. 3:Interactive exhibition in the Visitor Centre (Photographs by E.Gerulaitienė)

Lectures and demonstrations about nuclear technology and radiation protection are intended primarily for school students. Occasionally the visitors are pupils from lower grades of primary school and even kindergarten children. For these children, lectures about power plant operation and nuclear technology ←156 | 157→are appropriately adjusted according to the level of their knowledge. Therefore, various interactive displays and demonstrations are held in the Visitor Centre (see Fig. 4).

Fig. 4:Interactive displays and exhibits to familiarize visitors with nuclear energy

The Visitor Centre can boast of a very interesting educational exhibit/experiment: measuring the radiation level by selecting which material is most likely to inhibit the spread of radiation. The photo shows two overlapping wheels, the blue one of which contains various radioactive materials (dinosaur bones, uranium glass, granite, welding rods, etc.), while the orange wheel contains materials that block the action of radiation as a shield (wood, clothing, glass, aluminum, lead). The radiation level is shown at the top (see Fig. 5).

Fig. 5:Interactive educational exhibit – measurement of radiation level

Another interesting exhibit demonstrates the operation of the advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) and how much electricity the electric reactor can generate at what capacity. The process is demonstrated quite simply: on the left side there is a hand which regulates the reactor capacity, then the process of generating electricity starts. To the right are houses with light bulbs that turn on when electricity is started; if the reactor power is pressed low, then one or two houses turn on the lights, while if the reactor is started at full capacity, then electricity appears in all the houses, thus allowing the visitor to understand how much ←157 | 158→energy is needed to have electricity in the house. This exhibit is meant for younger children who enjoy physical interactive activities. At the same time, the operation of energy is demonstrated here, when the energy power generated by the reactor transmits electricity to households.

One of the topics at the Visitor Centre presented for target groups is management and storage of used fuel. The sequence of the whole process of managing used fuel is introduced.

Another significant educational environment is the virtual online space. The Internet website contains educational films about how energy is generated, safety issues are discussed and the future of energy industry is described. Altogether, five films are offered. By using virtual reality and CGI animation, the visitor is suggested to trace the journey of an atom to the core of a nuclear reactor. The films show how nuclear fission happens inside power stations and how the energy is then used as steam to turn turbines – producing electricity for people’s homes.

The Pod is an award-winning school programme, launched back in September 2008, and has since become the largest programme that lays a particular focus on energy, waste and biodiversity, and also covers a range of other environmental topics. The Pod presents topics on energy, waste transport, biodiversity and climate change. The emphasis on learning through science, technology, engineering and mathematics is provided in – an interactive website for teachers, community group leaders and children. All of the resources are curriculum linked, free and are aimed at 4–16 year olds. The Pod provides lesson plans, practical activities, assemblies, films, games and information packs, as well as posters, stickers and badges. The analysis of the ←158 | 159→materials on the Pod platform highlights the main topics: energy information pack, which describes energy use, energy mix, global energy mix, UK’s current energy mix, energy demand; minimising the effects of climate change; reducing our demand for energy; energy sources; advantages and disadvantages of different types of energy production; curriculum links; plastic waste information pack; and history of food packaging timeline. Each topic encloses a separate information pack with theoretical and practical tasks and games.

Another interesting communication and education trend at the EDF is attracting and retaining female talent to the energy industry. The programme aims to spark the imagination of 11–16-year-old girls, encouraging them to pursue STEM subjects at school and in their careers. This programme is called “Pretty Curious” and aims to inspire teenage girls to imagine a future where they use STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – to help make a difference ( The platform also includes the STEM career quiz, which can be tried by any child. The quiz game shows whether the child is interested in science, technology, engineering or maths.

In summary, the Torness Visitor Centre performs an educational mission to educate the public, especially school-age youth, not only by providing them with knowledge about nuclear energy and its production, safety, technological solutions, future renewable energy resources in connection with formal education, but also by allowing them to experiment, to touch, to experience very closely and practically how energy is produced, to simulate processes, to take a close look at the grandiosity and complexity of a nuclear power plant that was hidden from society for many years. The Visitor Centre carries out educational, energy literacy and career STEM activities; presents and discusses the use and combination of different types of energy (wind, solar, hydro, without coal), with a focus on and care of general energy literacy. The Visitor Centre also promotes and develops citizens’ involvement, political participation and energy literacy.

Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant: Exploring Education and Tourist Facilities at the Enterprise Under Decommissioning

In 1974, preparatory work for the construction of INPP began. At that time, the most powerful NPP in the world, INPP, was built not only to meet the needs of Lithuania, but also those of the integrated North-West energy system of the former Soviet Union. In 1974, the INNP atom city-power plant satellite monoindustrial town Sniečkus (present Visaginas) was founded. The first reactor unit was put into operation in 1983. The second unit started operating in 1987. After the Chernobyl accident, the construction of the third unit of the ←159 | 160→INPP was preserved, and in 1989 stopped completely. After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence in 1991, the INPP became an important part of the country’s energy system. In 1993, the INPP produced about 88 % of the electric power needed by the state. Following the Chernobyl accident, a number of detailed investigations and safety assessments were carried out at INPP, and additional safety measures were introduced. However, the operational risk of RBMK-type reactors could not be reduced to the level that would be safe enough to operate for a long time. The first unit of INPP was shut down in 2004, the second in 2009. An important political aspect of the closure of the INNP was that it was the condition of Lithuania’s accession to the EU.

After Lithuania closed its nuclear power plant, gas and oil, which are imported energy sources, accounted for the largest share of energy consumption. Lithuania has inherited technologically inefficient and resource-guzzling centralized energy sector, long time relying on Russia’s natural resources. After the closure of the INPP in 2009 and finally terminating the operation of the nuclear energy, Lithuania focuses more on expansion of renewable resources of energy, green energy. Production of bio-fuel, bio-mass, bio-gas and wind energy is being developed. In 2020, Lithuania will produce 35 % of the needed electrical energy from renewable resources.

According to Lithuania’s National energy independence strategy (2018), the strategic directions of the Lithuanian energy sector will be followed by implementing the outlined objectives: the breakthrough – more electricity produced in Lithuania than imported – should take place in 2030, when electricity import will decrease twice and Lithuania will produce 70 % of the necessary electricity. By 2050, complete energy independence from imported energy resources will be ensured – all consumed electricity (100 %) should be generated in Lithuania (see Tab. 1).

Tab. 1: The strategic directions of the Lithuanian energy sector (Lithuania National energy independence strategy, 2018)


Energy Security


Competetive Energy Market


Energy Sustainability and Independence


1. Integration of the energy system in the EU energy system


1. Energy price in the industry

sector will be the lowest in


1. 80 % of the country’s

energy needs is

generated from non-polluting

2. Improvement of

efficiency of energy


the region (compared to other

(Baltic, Scandinavian and


emissions of GHG and

air pollutants) sources

3.Balanced and sustainable RES development

Central and Eastern European

countries); for citizens – a

2. 100 % of local electricity

production in the

country’s gross

4. Optimisation and

modernisation of energy

decreasing share of energy

expenditure compared to

average income

electricity consumption


2. Smooth transition from fossil-based energy sources to RES

In INPP, two water-graphite nuclear reactors RBMK-1500 operated. These were the most powerful energy reactors in the world. The thermal capacity of one unit was 4800 MW, the energetic capacity – 1500 MW. After the accident in Chernobyl NPP, the capacity of the RBMK-1500 reactors was reduced and they were allowed to operate only with a maximum thermal capacity of 4,200 MW. In INPP, as in all power plants with RBMK reactors, a single-circuit thermal scheme was used: saturated 6.5 MPa pressure steam supplied to the turbines was generated simply by boiling light water circulating through the reactor in a closed circuit. The power plant had only two power units. Each power unit had premises for nuclear fuel transportation systems and control panels. Common to both power units were the engine hall, rooms for gas cleaning and water treatment systems.←160 | 161→

According to the data of 1 January 2019, Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant had 1901 employees, of which 985 employees were Russians, 314 – Lithuanians, 195 – Belarusians, a similar number of Poles and Ukranians ( This specific demographic composition of the company’s employees reflects the circumstances of how nuclear energy was developed in Lithuania in the 1970s. Workers, engineers and nuclear energy specialists from other nuclear power plants in the Soviet Union were sent to build and work at the enterprise. The current Lithuanian city of Visaginas (INPP satellite) also has a very specific demographic profile, with about 18 % of the population (according to 2011 data) belonging to the titular nation (Lithuanians), the main part of the population being Russians, Belarusians, Poles, Ukrainians and others. The Russian language in this city is the lingua franca, next to Lithuanian as the state language. In 2018, this city had a population of about 18 thousand, over 30 nationalities.

Interest in excursions at the INPP has grown significantly since May 2019, after the premiere of the HBO series Chernobyl. INPP received huge attention from tourists, as the series, which became popular, was filmed here. In total, ←161 | 162→in 2019, almost 5 thousand people visited INPP from Lithuania and foreign countries, and about 500 excursions were organized (See Fig. 6). For comparison, in 2018, INPP organized 240 excursions (which is twice less), comprising over 2 thousand people. During the excursions in the controlled INPP territory, visitors have a unique opportunity to visit the reactor hall, the turbine hall currently in the process of dismantling, and the unit control panel room. Excursions are organized for both individuals and groups of visitors interested in the history of the INPP the principle of operation, decommissioning work, radioactive waste management, radiation safety requirements, etc. Since the opening of the INPP Information Centre in 1995, about 100 thousand visitors from around the world have taken part in the excursions.

Fig. 6:Statistics of INPP visitors in 2018–2019 (based on data by INPP Communication Unit)

The organization of excursions in INPP reflects the goals of public communication carried out by nuclear power plants around the world – to inform the general public about the safe work of the enterprise. Prior to the closure of the nuclear power plant as a part of the energy industry, the excursions served the purpose of realizing the idea of openness to the public, demonstrating operational safety, and carrying out STEM education. In the context of the INPP decommissioning mission, the main content of the communication includes a message on the safe and efficient implementation of decommissioning of the nuclear power plant with RBMK-type reactors, safe and reliable management of radioactive waste. The INPP communication on decommissioning declares that ←162 | 163→the project under implementation has no analogues, and Lithuania is the first country in the world to dismantle an RBMK-type reactor and related systems after the unloading of spent nuclear fuel. The society’s support and information about the work being done and planned is a significant part of this process.

Visit to Ignalina NPP Closed Territory – “Security Theatre” and the Masquerade

The excursion after the checkpoint takes place in the controlled (closed) territory of the INPP: reactor hall, engine room, unit control panel. The tour lasts approximately 2.5 hours. The excursion, unlike in Torness NPP, is paid – the cost of organizing the excursion per person is about 60 Eur. Actually, the fee does not apply to companies controlling INPP activities, members of the Seimas and Government of the Republic of Lithuania, official delegations, journalists, representatives of educational institutions, students, public and non-governmental organizations and other persons visiting INPP on official visits. Excursions are organized for groups of up to 15 people on weekdays. Due to the increased interest in the object after the release of the series Chernobyl in 2019, INPP organizes two excursions per day. Participation is prohibited for persons under 18 years of age and pregnant women. Before arriving at INPP, a memorandum is sent to INPP visitors about prohibited items and general internal rules, which state that the INPP nuclear power facilities are equipped with a physical security system. Safety is ensured by armed security officers. The territory is monitored by video cameras, and videos are made. Access to the territory of INPP facilities is possible with permits issued by INPP. Persons, vehicles, transported objects and cargo are inspected at the control point.

When entering the main administrative building, tourists have to wait for a guide; they are not allowed to take photos, videos or use the Internet in the building itself. It should be noted that most of the guides are people working in the INPP Communication Department, but when there is a high flow of visitors, INPP employees from different departments lead the tours. Upon arrival of the guide, a permit to enter the territory is issued at the box, but before that, visitors must present passports or personal ID. Before passing the inspection, the issued permit must be attached to the outer garments at the chest level so that it is clearly visible. Visitors may enter the premises and be in the territory of different objects only if they are accompanied by a designated person. The visitor is informed that if he/she loses the permit, he/she must immediately inform the accompanying person. Before passing the control room, it is mandatory to remove metal items from the pockets and place all the possessions on the ←163 | 164→conveyor of the baggage control X-ray machine. Personal belongings and items for which a permit has not been given to take them to the INPP site may be left in the lockers.

Visitors must comply with all legal requirements of the accompanying person, employees of the INPP Physical Security Organization Service and officers of the Security Unit. When visiting INPP, passing through security posts takes quite a long time because each visitor scans his/her permit, enters the code, then passes through the metal rotating turnstile and waits for others to perform the same action. The equipment (camera) owned by the guides, who are INPP employees, is also checked. There are signs on the doors of the building prohibiting photography, filming and even using the Internet. After meeting at the Permit Office, the participants and the guide – (INPP employee) are issued permits. Before that, the visitors could put their belongings in lockers for storing things, because computers, equipment and cameras cannot be carried inside.

After passing through security detectors (similar to the airport), the guide informs that all employees have their own movement routes within the INPP territory, i.e., not everyone is allowed to move around the whole area; usually the staff, depending on the specifics of his/her work, get a designed route they can move along. The person is not allowed to enter the zones outside the movement route because no permit has been granted. The tour guide must also withdraw a permission to lead the participants along the established trajectory in the enterprise.

One of the greatest impressions of the tour for the visitors is the application of physical safety measures – to avoid taking radioactivity and contamination outside the controlled area. The participants of the tour change their clothes, putting on special clothing, the same as that worn by all the employees of this company inside the company. This procedure is specific at RBMK reactors: since there is no container over the reactor, or protection layer, radioactivity is more dispersed in the controlled area and the worker’s or visitor’s own clothes could be contaminated during a longer contact with the body. That is why there is a requirement to change the clothes before entering and leaving the INPP. So, the visit to the controlled area of the RBMK reactor can be considered more risky than in reactors of other types. White professional clothing at RMBK reactors and in the Soviet atomic industry can illustrate the symbolic connection with science culture – nuclear physicists were using white robes for protection purposes. Additionally, white robes and uniforms are a widespread symbol depicting scientists working in laboratories and medical doctors working in hospitals. This association of white robes and uniforms of the Soviet ←164 | 165→nuclear industry staff with medical doctors has been noted while analysing the iconography of the Chernobyl accident. “On Soviet TV, the workers in the front lines of the clean-up at the Chernobyl nuclear plant all wear white cloth caps, white mouth guards and white uniforms. They look eerily like surgeons operating with bulldozers and precast concrete blocks instead of scalpels and surgical thread” (Barringer,1986).

Thus, visitors at the INPP continue to participate in the “safety theatre” performance by adding a new attraction – dressing, which becomes a kind of carnival or masquerade. Radiation measurement and control procedures on potential radioactive contamination give tourists a sense of thrill experiences, health and life risks, which is a valuable experience for this type of tourism. On the other hand, the fact that it takes place as part of tourism creates a sense of safety..

After the security checkpoint, the visitors are taken to the “Sanitary Sweeper”, i.e., the changing rooms for the staff. Visitors take off their clothes and put on white underwear pants and a white shirt. Then they pick up beige socks and tuck the pants into the socks. Then, wearing blue rubber slippers, they go to another room where they put on top white clothes – pants and a jacket, pick up white shoes from the closet (similar to medical staff hospital clogs, but with closed heels) of each size, put on a white hat, a helmet and tie hair with rubber bands; the visitors are explained that this is done so that their hair does not absorb radioactive substances (see Fig. 6). At the end, they put on white gloves. Each visitor receives a dosimeter that they put in their pocket. The dosimeter shows how the radiation level, measured by the dosimeter, has changed during the tour.

Fig. 7:Excursion in Ignalina Nuclear Power plant: EDUATOM project researchers Ilona Tandezegolskienė and Eglė Gerulaitienė

The tourist route in the NPP includes a visit to three zones: Reactor zone, Control panel and Turbine zone. The move towards the starting point – the Reactor area – makes a big impression, as it goes primarily through the glass transit corridors. The guide also stops in the corridors and tells about the specificity of INPP: it consists of 6 generators for 1 unit. During the tour, in which the author of this chapter Eglė Gerulaitienė participated (see Fig. 7), the story of the INPP was linked to the well-known nuclear accidents in Fukushima and Chernobyl. The guide commented on the low probability of an accident at INPP compared to the Fukushima accident, pointing to certain technical details (INPP generators are 25 m above ground level, while in Fukushima it was underground). A lot of attention was given to the Chernobyl theme, mostly about filming the HBO series at this enterprise. The guide commented on where certain scenes in the series were filmed. It was noted that during the filming, the filming team faced the challenge of participating in all security procedures, ←165 | 166→when both the filming team members and all filming equipment and props had to be thoroughly inspected according to the usual security protocols here.

During the tour, visitors walked along long, dimly lit stuffy corridors, climbed stairs to the sixth floor. Upon entering the Reactor area, visitors had to put disposable bags on their shoes. Before entering this zone, there was an apparatus for measuring how much the hands and feet were contaminated. The green colour would indicate that they were clean, uncontaminated, yellow colour would show that the hand or foot were more contaminated, and the red colour would indicate high contamination. When standing in the reactor area, the visitors are greatly impressed by the size of the room and the height of the ceiling. Visitors are explained about the removal and replacement of fuel cartridges, about special safety measures (during the operation, removal of the cartridges used to take place at night, when it was unlikely that many people would be injured in case of an accident).

In summary, a visit to the nuclear power plant makes a really strong impression, enhanced by the ritual of changing clothes, safety assurance rituals, and long dark corridors along which the visitors walk for two hours.

Exploring Narratives of INPP at Information Centre

The INPP Information Centre introduces tourists to information about the former most powerful INPP in the world. The centre is located in a separate ←166 | 167→building, which is not subject to any inspection procedures. Visitors register for a tour of this centre in advance. The exposition includes several rooms (one larger and two smaller rooms). Guides provide information about INPP, its history, construction, operating principles, safety and decommissioning, waste storage and atom functions; but very often visitors also ask additional questions, are interested in economic issues, e.g., what is the cost of decommissioning, what is most expensive and what is the share of the EU. The Information Centre is meant for various visiting groups, from schoolchildren (physics, biology teachers with pupils), students from various universities (especially engineering and technology profile) and families, to representatives of public authorities, politicians and energy experts, who are interested in decommissioning and financing.

At the beginning, a 10-minute educational film is demonstrated in Lithuanian or English. The guide tells about how the nuclear power plant works, what is uranium, and the technical capabilities of the RBMK 1500 (high power reactor, channel reactor) work. A total 17 such reactors have been built around the world.

The INPP Information Centre has a working model of the INPP unit, a model of fuel assembly, a model of a spent nuclear fuel storage container CASTOR and models of short-lived radioactive waste storage or disposal of low and medium radioactivity to be built. During the tour, a live view of the INPP interior – the reactor room, the turbine hall and the spent fuel storage hall – can be observed on the TV screen. Video films about INPP and other educational films about radioactive radiation (in Lithuanian or Russian) can be shown upon request.

Throughout the tour, visitors are shown and explained in detail how the dismantling takes place, how the technical management of radioactive waste procedures takes place.

The Information Centre also mentions the Chernobyl accident, as this power plant’s reactor is the same as it was in Chernobyl (RBMK 1500), explaining to visitors the reasons associated with the power experiment at the Chernobyl power plant at that time.

As the Information Centre focuses on narration and communication about the decommissioning of the power plant, it is natural that most of the narrative is devoted to telling about various dismantling work, discussing radioactive waste management mechanisms and financial aspects (see Fig. 8).

Fig. 8:INPP Information Centre

It should be noted that the educational material in the INPP Information Centre is oriented towards senior gymnasium classes, technology students or specialists who work and are interested in the field of nuclear energy – the history of the nuclear power plant, the principle of operation, safety and ←167 | 168→decommissioning. It can be assumed that the presented visual material, posters with educational information and layouts are sufficiently complex and incomprehensible for younger school-age children. Besides, there are no interactive educational solutions here that visiting students could try, feel and understand.

To sum up, four topics can be identified, which are reflected in the Torness and Ignalina Information Centres and nuclear power plants (see Fig. 9):

Fig. 9:Topics reflected in Torness and Ignalina Information Centres and Nuclear Power Plants

Energy Literacy. This topic is reflected through presenting general knowledge about energy as an economic branch at the country’s macro level, i.e., tourists gain knowledge about the energy sector, how energy is produced in the country, how nuclear energy contributes to the country’s economy, what is the role of nuclear energy, and how environmental issues, CO2, energetic and technological parameters arise. Visitors learn the story about the nuclear power plant in the context of the nationwide energy, e.g., how many NPPs there are, how many are obsolete, what happens to the decommissioned NPPs, and what are the related economic processes, environmental, waste disposal and technological aspects. ←168 | 169→

STEM Education. The topic is reflected in the analysis of the technological aspects of a nuclear reactor. Various information is provided about the reactor, a nuclear power plant as an aggregate in the territory of which different technological processes take place, e.g., in the reactor hall, engine room, unit control panel (which combines information about the atom, gas, turbines, rods, graphite, the whole Mendeleev table). All this includes various sciences – physics, chemistry, technologies, engineering and mathematics.

Experiencial learning is the third very clearly observed aspect in both power plants and their Information Centres. It is related not only to the ability to focus on kinaesthetic (motor skills) dimensions, where “learning by doing and feeling” or first-hand experience is involved in the learning process, but most importantly – affective (feelings) or common phenomenological sensation, because visiting nuclear power plants disclose their greatness, security, organization and control. The very complexity of the nuclear power generation process opens up; tourists see lots of buttons, wires, turbines, mechanisms large and small; and guides try to explain it all in simple words that will help at least bring the tourist closer through experiential learning to greater knowledge.

Security Theatre” performance – an important element in enhancing the impression for nuclear power plant visitors. As mentioned before, security is both a reality and a feeling. A member of an excursion to NPP becomes a participant of “security theatre performance”, consisting of a theatrical checking procedure and safety ensurance rituals, which are arranged to calibrate the concordance between, on the one hand, calculable risk and security and, on the other hand, perceived risk and security (Schneier, 2003 cit. Storm ←169 | 170→et al., 2019). When visiting the Torness NPP, the tourist becomes not only a spectator of the “security theatre”, but also its co-creator and co-participant. Safety requirements are extremely important both in the active Torness Nuclear Power Station and in INPP under closure.


Turning a nuclear power plant into a tourist attraction goes in line with the main aims of public communication of nuclear energy companies – to open nuclear energy generation facilities to citizens; to “spread the veil of mystery” and remove the secrecy; to acquaint with the principles of operation of a nuclear power plant, technical aspects of ensuring safety; and to conduct STEM education and develop energy literacy. At the same time, through tourism, nuclear industry companies also accomplish corporate branding to shape positive pronuclear public opinion about nuclear energy. The aim is to create an image of the nuclear industry as safe and reliable.

Both Torness Nuclear Power Station and INPP are undergoing the process of heritagization of the atomic industry. The expositions of Visitor and Information Centres present the history of the nuclear industry and the companies and tell how these power plants were built. The story about the construction of the satellite city Visaginas occupies an important part in the INPP exposition. It is discussed and presented in the expositions how nuclear energy played an important role in the general industrial history of the country and in the period of 1980–2000.

Today, the Visitor/Information Centres carry out an educational mission to educate the public, especially school-age youth, by providing them not only with knowledge about nuclear energy and its production, safety and technological solutions, but also about future renewable energy sources. At the same time, nuclear companies seek to provide an opportunity to visitors and learners to see from a very close range the grandeur and technical complexity of a nuclear power plant.

The Torness NPP exhibition aims to develop schoolchildren’s energy literacy by presenting information and knowledge about nuclear energy together with the role and importance of renewable energy sources in the further development of the country’s economy and the important impact on sustainability.

After analysing the expositions of INPP and Torness NPP, it can be seen that they aim at presenting technological processes to the public, showing how safely and reliably nuclear power generation processes are carried out here, and safety is ensured. Torness NPP is an operating company producing energy, so the aim ←170 | 171→is to show through nuclear tourism that the processes are smoothly organized and controlled. The content of the exposition of the INPP Communication Information Centre and the excursion inside the company create a narrative about the safety of decommissioning processes, professionalism and high reliability of the work performed.

In the excursions of both analysed NPPs, facts about failures (Chernobyl, Fukushima accidents) are only partially included. Stories about these accidents are presented to reassure visitors that the technological processes and safety are significantly different from those at the Chernobyl and Fukushima power plants, and therefore, similar accidents cannot occur here. This topic about nuclear accidents is of great interest to visitors, who ask questions and initiate discussions. It should be noted that in both power plants the topics concerning non-safety of nuclear energy are not initiated by the companies themselves. The analysis of these two tourist destinations reveals the features of the atomic industry narrative, identified by Storm et al. (2019) that messages on danger and unsafety of the nuclear industry are usually not presented in the expositions.

The main communication message of the INPP is to tell about the safety of the decommissioning and waste management procedures. However, the challenges and problems of waste management are not extensively presented to the visitors. In the exposition of the Information Centre, one of the last exhibits mentions the general problem of nuclear waste, noting that the decay of nuclear elements has been going on for hundreds and even thousands of years. Yet, the real and topical technological and environmental waste management problems faced by the company and the nuclear industry as a whole are not raised or discussed. The story of Chernobyl in the current INPP tours appeared due to the interest generated by the HBO series Chernobyl. The staff of the nuclear power plant included this topic in the story of their tour after the premiere of the series. However, the tour guides focus more on filming the series on the INPP site than on INPP’s links with the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, both of which operated the RMBK reactor with an inherent design unsafety.

INPP communication in the exposition and excursion of the Information Centre follows the line that despite the unsafety of the RMBK reactor, all necessary improvements were made at the INPP power plant after the Chernobyl accident, a new incident was prevented, and INPP was closed due to political decision, when the EU politicians raised the issue of closure as a condition for Lithuania’s accession to the EU. This narrative is widely developed by the company itself, as well as by the public media, in political discourse, and formal education content (textbooks).←171 | 172→

After analysing the excursions of the two power plants, it becomes clear that in addition to the common goals of nuclear tourism (development of energy literacy and STEM, corporate branding of energy companies, development of a narrative on nuclear safety and reliability), this aspect of tourism becomes more evident: it becomes experience-based tourism, creating an exceptional and striking visitor experience. Being in these facilities, visitors have a unique opportunity to admire the grandeur of the objects in this industry and the complexity of the nuclear power generation process – visitors view a lot of buttons, wires, turbines, large and small mechanisms. Visitors feel the grandeur when looking around, spotting huge production halls and seeing enormous-size aggregates.

A separate memorable experience for visitors is participation in security screening and assurance procedures, what researchers (Schneier, 2008, Storm et al., 2019) called security theatre, described earlier in this chapter as security theatre performance. Visitors experience special feelings that allow them to understand what the nuclear power is, what the invisible risks and dangers associated with radiation are, and thus indirectly understand and feel how safety procedures seek to prevent harm to human health and the environment. This part of tourism becomes the most important part for the person who visits the nuclear area itself, causing affective (feelings) or common sensations. Participation in security screening procedures and rituals creates a sense and understanding of security, management and control. The function of the Visitor Centre is usually ancillary and secondary to the main excursion inside the power plant.

Torness Visitor Centre, compared to INPP Information Centre, lays greater focus on affective (feelings) and kinaesthetic (motor skills) dimensions “learning by doing and feeling”, first-hand experience, touching interactive displays and playing simulated energy games.

Tornes Visitor Centre exposition demonstrates transition from expert-based tourism, where the main target groups are experts and students, to attracting other groups of tourists and visitors. Torness Nuclear power station offers educational tours and holds themed family events, fairy and safari trails, school Christmas Cracker week and Santa’s grotto, attracting people from around the area. Integration of additional attractions and entertainment takes place, thus expanding target groups, involving families.

It must be acknowledged that the communication and education of these power plants with old-generation reactors goes in line with the general contraction and declining role of this industry. Lithuania has closed its nuclear power industry, Scotland is undergoing a major restructuring of its energy industry ←172 | 173→to reduce the share of nuclear power by closing old reactors and investing in renewables.

However, the development of STEM skills and energy literacy at the Visitor/Information Centres demonstrate the educational potential of power and nuclear tourism. At the Torness Nuclear Power Station Visitor Centre, the staff are actively working with the local community, with local and regional schools organizing events, and the exhibition itself demonstrates an orientation towards younger children. Despite the decline in total nuclear energy in the UK, Tornes NPP is part of the EDF company, which supplies all types of electricity and operates the energy sector, has an interest in building a positive reputation and brand, in forming positive attitudes of young people towards the enterprise generating electricity, in developing general energy literacy and ensuring the training of specialists by contributing to the joint STEM training in the region and the country.

1V. Lukasova, Cooling towers for a witness: Weddings by a nuclear power plant Temelin, Czech Republic, 2011. Retrieved from


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