HoNESt has published its report on The First Nuclear Industry: Radioisotopes, State and Society by Nestor Herran (UPMC) and Sebastian Grevsmühl (CRH, CNRS).
Radioisotopes, as well as military uses of nuclear energy, crucially shaped the social responses to nuclear technology. In fact, the only non-military application of nuclear reactors between their creation (Fermi’s Chicago pile, 1942) and the first commercial nuclear power reactor (Shippingport, 1957) was the production of radioisotopes. As the only real civil product of reactors, radioisotopes moulded early images of the nuclear, and helped to counteract military related images, becoming essential resources for legitimising the nuclear sector. The study of the history of radioisotope industry can help to understand continuities and discontinuities in the representations of nuclear energy, and their long term effects in shaping the image of atomic energy. In particular, we sought to understand how the rhetoric strategies developed in relation to radioisotopes were later to be used in the advertising of nuclear energy and in helping to build an image of a “clean” atomic energy.
Read the full report here