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Journal Article

A Most Active Customer: How the U.S. Administration Helped the Italian Atomic Energy Project to “De-Develop”

Simone Turchetti
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Vol. 44, No. 5 (Nov., 2014), pp. 470-502
DOI: 10.1525/hsns.2014.44.5.470
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/hsns.2014.44.5.470
Page Count: 33

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A Most Active Customer
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Abstract

After World War II had ended, Italy, not unlike other developed countries, held the ambition to establish an atomic energy program. The Peace Treaty of 1947 forbade its administration from seeking to acquire atomic weaponry, but in 1952 a national research committee was set up to explore the peaceful uses of atomic energy, in particular with regard to building nuclear reactors. One of the committee’s goals was to use nuclear power to make the country less reliant on foreign energy provisions. Yet, this paper reveals that the atomic energy project resulted in actually increasing Italy’s dependence on overseas assistance. I explain the reasons for this outcome by looking at the unfolding of U.S.–Italy relations and the offers of collaboration in the atomic energy field put forth by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. I argue that these offers undermined plans to shape the nuclear program as its Italian architects had envisioned, caused them to reconsider the goal of self-sufficiency in energy provisioning, and reconfigured the project to be amenable to the security and economic priorities of the U.S. administration. In this way, I conclude, the path for the Italian project to “de-develop” was set.

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