Italy’s Nuclear Experience in an International and Comparative Perspective
University of Trieste, November 13-15, 2014

This conference aims at analyzing the history of Italy’s nuclear energy policies during the Cold War, by placing the Italian case in a comparative perspective and highlighting the importance of the international context in shaping the country’s specific experience. It builds upon a previous conference, organized by Elettra-Sincrotrone Trieste S.C.p.A and the University of Trieste in 2012 (Nuclear Energy in Italy after the Second World War: Research, Culture, Politics - This conference proposes to examine the ways in which international politics and economics, technological and scientific exchanges, as well as social and cultural movements, influenced Italian nuclear energy policies, both civilian and military. Furthermore, it seeks to understand how the Italian case compares to other national histories, in Western and Eastern Europe, the U.S., Latin America, Asia and Africa.

With few important exceptions, the Italian case has largely remained on the margins of a growing scholarship on the history of nuclear energy. This conference intends to provide a venue for work-inprogress by junior and senior scholars, with the aim of consolidating a national and international research group on this topic. We are particularly interested in fostering an interdisciplinary dialogue and encourage papers that use a variety of approaches, such as history, science and technology studies, physics, engineering, political science, economics, international relations, anthropology, and geography.

Some of the issues this conference aims to address are:

1. The ways in which the Cold War shaped Italian civilian and military nuclear policies.
We are interested in several issues in particular: a) how U.S. policies such as the Marshall Plan, the Atoms for Peace program, and American military and corporate involvement in Western Europe and the Mediterranean influenced Italian projects and strategies. While there are several studies on these topics, we still know too little about the forms of exchange between the U.S. and Italy, and how the U.S. influenced Italian civilian nuclear policies during the 1950s, in the context of the nationalization of electric power in the early 1960s, the 1970s energy crises, and the end of the Cold War; b) the relationship between civilian and military uses of nuclear energy, and the ways in which they influenced each other, especially after the Cuban and Berlin crises and after the signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; c) the ways in which the EEC shaped Italian nuclear policies, especially through Euratom and, in turn, the role Italy had in shaping European nuclear policies, through, for example, forms of cooperation between Italian scientists and the “fathers” of European integration; d) the forms of exchange of nuclear knowledge between Italian nuclear scientists and the nuclear research programs of the Eastern bloc; e) how Italian civilian and military programs compare to other national experiences, in terms of, for example, the relationship between the state, scientists, and the industrial world.

2. The role public opinion, social and cultural groups, anti-nuclear and pro-nuclear movements, had in shaping Italian nuclear policies.
We invite papers that can deal with the different cultural and political meanings intellectuals, scientists, women, youth, the media and the business world, assigned to nuclear energy, at a time when nuclear power symbolized both the promise of unlimited growth (embodied by the Atomium, built for the1958 Brussels World’s Fair) and the threat of global annihilation. While these issues have been at the center of a growing body of scholarship, the Italian case has mostly been overlooked. We are interested in examining the specificity of the Italian casein relation to other contexts, as well as the forms of influence and exchange between Italian, international and transnational movements and groups. We seek to address two broad issues in particular: a) the forms of communication and propaganda that were carried out in support of nuclear energy, especially between the 1950s and the 1970s, and how they intersected with the transformation of the country’s media and corporate communication, and with wider changes in society, symbolized by the spread of mass consumption and the emergence of a new national culture; b) The ways in which different groups critiqued and opposed the use of nuclear energy for military, civilian and research purposes. Compared to other countries, where anti-nuclear movements emerged during the 1950s and 1960s, and intersected with the rise of modern environmentalism and new forms of grass-roots democracy, in Italy the anti-nuclear movement was initially a rather elitist initiative –albeit an influential one indeed. It was only in the second half of the 1970s, and increasingly during the Euromissiles Crisis and the 1987 referendum, that it established itself as a significant political force, although it had certainly existed in the previous decades.

3. The ways in which an interdisciplinary approach such as that of Science and Technology Studies (STS) might provide a new understanding about the history of nuclear energy in Italy.
Our interest in overcoming disciplinary boundaries through STS stems from a willingness to challenge existing barriers between the humanities and the hard sciences, which usually characterize studies about the history of Italian nuclear energy. We are interested in papers that can use STS to study the Italian case, by examining, for example, the relationship between scientists, the state, firms and society; the intersection between technocracy and politics, especially in the context of the nationalization of electric energy in the early 1960s. In this context we are also interested in studies dealing with the specific contribution given by Italian research to the development of nuclear civilian technologies. In spite of the fact that throughout the period going from the inception of the Italian nuclear program to its final dismissal a consistent amount of scientific competence and know-how was accumulated in the country, no significant literature has been produced on the subject, nor have historical studies on the matter adequately touched the issue, leaving an empty space for further research that we aim to encourage.

This conference is organized by Elettra-Sincrotrone Trieste S.C.p.A., the Department of Humanities of the University of Trieste, the Department of Political Sciences of the University of Roma Tre, and the Department of Documentary, Linguistic-Philological and Geographic Sciences of the University of Rome “La Sapienza”.

Please send a paper proposal of no more than 500 words, along with a 2-page CV, to by June 1, 2014. The program committee will notify applicants by July 15, 2014.

The conference language will be English. A selection of the papers will be published in an edited volume.
Travel expenses will be covered and accommodation will be provided.

Organizing Committee: Giovanni Battimelli (University of Rome “La Sapienza”), Elisabetta Bini (University of Trieste), Igor Londero (Elettra-Sincrotrone Trieste S.C.p.A.), Leopoldo Nuti (University of Roma Tre), Giovanni Paoloni (University of Rome “La Sapienza”), Carlo Rizzuto (Elettra-Sincrotrone Trieste S.C.p.A.), Elisabetta Vezzosi (University of Trieste).