Astrid Mignon Kirchhof & Jan-Henrik Meyer (Eds.): Global Protest against Nuclear Power. Transfer and Transnational Exchange in the 1970s and 1980s Protest against nuclear power plants, uranium mining and nuclear testing was a major mobilizing force in the rise of mass environmental movements in the 1970s and 1980s around the globe. Nevertheless, the historiography of anti-nuclear protest remains largely limited to national stories about heroic conflict and the rise of movements. The contributions to this focus issue explore the so far under-researched transnational dimension of the conflict in a global perspective. They make visible for the first time relevant transfers of scientific knowledge and protest practices as well as transnational exchange between activists and experts from Western Europe, the United States and Australia. Rather than taking transnational interaction for granted, the authors explore the conditions facilitating and hampering the transfer of ideas. They analyse why only certain activists were committed and able to cross borders, as well as the obstacles they were facing. Thus, this focus issue contributes to current academic debates in environmental history, the history of social movements as well as global and transnational history.
"In the mid-1970s, French, German, and Swiss protesters jointly occupied the Wyhl nuclear reactor construction site in the Upper Rhine Valley. Even at the grassroots level, transnational cooperation allowed reactor opponents to transcend the limits of politics-as-usual and adopt 'new' protest strategies. Moreover, though it was minutely local, the Wyhl occupation had significant transnational effects. Activists throughout Europe and even across the Atlantic considered this protest to influence the situation in their home countries. They were eager to build on the 'example of Wyhl'. Yet, as this article shows, activists beyond the Rhine had a hard time deploying transnationalism in the mass anti-nuclear protests and political campaigns that followed Wyhl. The West German Greens' 1979 European Parliament campaign is perhaps the best example of the way that activists inspired by Rhenish protests continued to emphasize transnationalism. Despite their European outlook, however, the Greens' first major political success came in Bonn, not Strasbourg. Thus, for the Greens and many others transnational thinking proved difficult to sustain beyond the grassroots level. It may have been most effective as a means of reinvigorating national politics." (author's abstract)
"While the site occupation at Wyhl in 1975 is usually considered the symbolic birthplace of the West German anti-nuclear movement, it may also serve as the starting point for a transnational history of anti-nuclear protest. Local cross-border cooperation among protesters at Wyhl deeply impressed those anti-nuclear activists in the mid-1970s who considered nuclear power a global problem and encouraged them to take their protest to the international level. The central argument of this article is that protest directed against international organizations (IOs) - notably the European Communities (EC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) provided a crucial catalyst for transnational cooperation among anti-nuclear activists. Targeting IOs as the key promoters of nuclear power on a global scale, anti-nuclear activists cooperated across borders organizing protest events. Their goal was to challenge the IOs and win back the public on the issue across borders. Based on multi-archival research, this article analyzes five transnational protest events between 1975 and 1978 in Western Europe. Findings suggest that continued cooperation led to the emergence of a transnational anti-nuclear network and facilitated transnational transfers of scientific expertise and protest practices." (author's abstract)
"Transnational transfers are in practice transnational adaptations. Ideas and practices from one culture can only be implemented in another in the context of the target culture's values, institutions, and history. So there is no reason to expect that Germans would or should have simply adopted the American nonviolent civil disobedience model - to the contrary. And when Germans did look to that model, they proved more open to violence against things and even against people than their American counterparts. And rather than accepting punishment for deliberately breaking the law as honorable result of a commitment to democratic governance, Germans rejected it as 'criminalization' of dissent. Civil disobedience in the US developed amid a powerful religious basis and broad acceptance of the American system's legitimacy. It developed in Germany amid a constitutional right to 'resistance' and widespread doubts about the existing system's legitimacy. Hence, many West German anti-nuclear protesters could find militant, perhaps violent, activism fully justified and could deny to the state they mistrusted any right to treat protesters as criminals, apparently no matter what laws they broke." (author's abstract)
"In the 1970s and 1980s, 70 per cent of uranium deposits extracted worldwide was situated on the land of indigenous populations whose cultures and physical well-being were threatened by the mining activities. Nevertheless, bowing to the need for supply security which had become its primary concern in the wake of the oil crisis, the German government declared nuclear energy to be safe and secure. Under the motto 'Leave uranium in the ground', representatives of the West-German Green Party faction gave a voice to representatives of indigenous populations from various countries. In this article, I will discuss the hypothesis that, although international anti-nuclear and disarmament issues in the 1970s offered the basis for a global and transnational collective activist identity, this identity was more frequently negotiated in the respective national arenas. Rather than building on the involvement of movement activists, cross-border exchange was mostly established by, and often limited to, leading figures, prominent thinkers, institutions and alternative media. Besides these obstacles, a number of channels for transnational exchange, the transfer of information and ideas did in fact exist and the level of communication (albeit not so much cooperation) was significant, considering that the internet and other technical means were not yet available to bring the world more closely together." (author's abstract)
This book explores how different governments have leveraged their capacity to advance a revival of nuclear power. Presenting in-depth case studies of France, Finland, Britain and the United States, Baker and Stoker argue that governments may struggle to promote new investment in nuclear power.
This article uses the debate over environmental and human health effects of nuclear testing to shed light on the ambivalent relationship between scientists, the public, and the state in Britain during the crucial, but often overlooked, period leading up to the first cycle of anti-nuclear weapons mass protests. In this, it examines how members of Britain's main organization of nuclear scientists – the Atomic Scientists’ Association (ASA) – used their expertise in their engagement with both the public and the state to assess these effects of fallout from nuclear testing. What made the ASA stand out from other groups of the atomic scientists’ movement was its ambivalent relationship with the government. This was, by and large, the result of several ASA members’ occupational backgrounds in government employment and the association's self-imposed adherence to an ambiguous principle of scientific ‘objectivity’ in political matters. The ASA's role in the debate over fallout thus exemplifies a basic dilemma that many scientists in Britain and other Western liberal democracies faced between their roles as ‘objective’ and ‘unpolitical’ scientific experts, on the one hand, and socially responsible scientists, on the other, illustrating the ambivalent position of experts and uses of their knowledge.