CFP: "Going critical: 70 years of Nuclear Energy" - 5-7 November 2012, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Spain) - Deadline: April 30, 2012


The History of Science Unit (HSU) of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra
( invites papers for the workshop “Going Critical: 70
Years of Nuclear Energy.” It will take place at the Universitat Pompeu
Fabra, Barcelona, November 5th-7th, 2012.

Interdisciplinary and comparative approaches are encouraged. Please submit an abstract of approximately 300 words and a short CV to Albert Presas i Puig ( by April 30, 2012.

Workshop description:

Seventy years ago, a select team of physicists working in secrecy at the University of Chicago carefully assembled the first reactor, Chicago Pile-1, a massive "atomic pile" of graphite bricks and uranium fuel which went critical on December 2, 1942. Under the direction of Enrico Fermi, the first man-made nuclear reactor came on line. Within the Manhattan Project aiming at building the world's first atomic bomb, the nuclear pioneers succeeded in controlling a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. This successful initiation of a chain-reacting pile was important not only for its help in assessing the properties of fission — needed for understanding the internal workings of an atomic bomb — but also because it would serve as a pilot plant for the power reactors.
Thereby begun the controlled release of nuclear energy. The atom bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 ushered the world into a new age of energy research. At that time, several nations began their own construction of nuclear reactors, primarily for military use, though research was also being undertaken for civilian electricity generation. December 1953 the US Administration started the "Atoms for Peace" program for the peaceful implementation of nuclear power. In 1955 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were created in order to promote a safe and sustainable nuclear powered world.
The birth and diffusion of nuclear science and technology are probably
among the most far-reaching and significant changes in the organizational forms, social and economic role, structure, and contents of science and technology during the 20th century. The complexity and demands of the nuclear energy option in terms of technology, industry, economics and politics constitute strong enough reasons to examine it from a wide variety of perspectives. The aim of interdisciplinary historical reflection on the development of the atomic programs which is proposed in this Workshop is to make a paradigmatic contribution to the generation of a framework of analysis for the assessment of new policies of technological development in general, and of that of energy in particular.

From this point of view, it is important to think over the nature of the
nuclear development programs between the 1950s and the 1980s in order to determine their internal dynamics, to establish their defining
characteristics and to be able to bring the results to the present-day
discussion. The aim of the Workshop is to provide a comparative historical and systematic study of the development and impact of nuclear programs in those European countries which hoped to reach higher levels of industrial and economic development by fostering nuclear power during the post-war period. This Workshop will help to show the historical character of processes of technological development, as well as the need to deploy co-ordinated economic theories and models in order to understand historical processes of techno-scientific and industrial development in contemporary societies. Because of the characteristics of nuclear energy,
the results of this Workshop will be of great interest to politicians, the
administrators of scientific and industrial policies, sociologists of
science and technology, historians of technology and science and of
economics, and general historians of 20th-century Europe.

Target questions to consider (among others):

-From the point of view of scientific innovation, how was the need to
develop nuclear energy justified? Can differences be identified, depending
on the political context and the areas of influence of the superpowers?

-What role international relations played in the transfer of nuclear

-What was the impact of nuclear programs on the scientific and technical development of the respective nations? What was their importance in industry and economic development?

-How did nuclear programs influence scientific and technological training systems?

-How did the countries receiving the new models of scientific development restructure their scientific-technological fabrics to adapt to the new demands?

-What roles were played by such groups as scientists, technicians,
politicians and administrators of development? How did scientists and
technicians gain acceptance for their claims and findings?

- What is revealed by comparative studies of the political contexts and
areas of influence of the superpowers during the Cold War?

-What mechanisms were needed, apart from efforts made in training and innovation, to ensure stable economic development? How was this achieved?

-What parameters are common to all of the projects? Where can differences
and particularities be identified? Can a general analytical framework be
derived for the study of these and other cases?

Invited speakers:
John Krige, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta
Paul Josephson, Colby College
Xu Yi-Chong, Griffith University
Jeff Hughes, University of Manchester
Etel Solingen, University of California Irvine
Cathryn Carson, University of California Berkeley
Maria Rentetzi, National Technical University Athen
Angelo Baracca, University of Florence
Christian Forstner, Universität Jena
Carola Sachse, Universität Wien
Maja Fjæstad, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm
Margrit Müller, University of Zurich
Mar Rubio Varas, Universidad Pública de Navarra
Karl-Erik Michelsen, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Helsinki
Albert Presas i Puig, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona