Governing the Atom: The Politics of Risk

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Promoted as a form of limitless, low-cost energy without the polluting effects of its fossil fuel counterparts, nuclear power has enjoyed unparalleled support in several countries. Despite the development of an extensive set of policy and institutional mechanisms to foster its use, nuclear technology has been troubled by a wide range of problems and continues to pose risks many believe are far greater than society should accept. The legacy of failure ranges from catastrophic accidents like that at Chernobyl to the declaration of bankruptcy by the Washington Public Power Supply System. Governing the Atom explores why support for the technology remains substantial.

The first part of this volume examines the social institutions that have accompanied the development of nuclear power. The second part details the numerous accommodations which have been required of society, beginning with the technology’s impact on communities and geographic regions particularly affected by mining and milling. The technology’s inherent tendency towards “normal accidents” and the conflict between expert and public opinion on the dangers involved is examined, as are the on-going problems of waste disposal and decommissioning. The volume concludes with an examination of nuclear power developments in France, Germany, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eastern Europe, Korea, and Japan.

The volume provides a needed vehicle for the timely consultation and dissemination of current research on important energy policy issues. Governing the Atom provides insightful commentary regarding the initiation and development of nuclear technology. It will be of interest to policymakers, energy and environmental experts, sociologists and historians of technology, and all those interested in the problem of democracy in a technological society.

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Editorial Reviews

Nine contributions examine the social institutions that have accompanied the development of nuclear power, the accommodations which have been required of society, and developments in France, Germany, Russia, Eastern Europe, Korea, and Japan. They consider such topics as globalization, policy choices, the effect on the American political economy, safety issues, and waste disposal, and argue for the strict regulation of nuclear power. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560008347
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/1995
  • Series: Energy Policy Studies, #7
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 307
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

John Byrne is distinguished professor of energy and climate policy and director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP) at the University of Delaware. He is also chairman of the board of the Foundation for Renewable Energy and Environment. He has contributed since 1992 to Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and shares the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the panel’s authors. He is editor of Transaction’s book series Energy and Environmental Policy.

Steven M. Hoffman is an associate professor of political science at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota, and director of its environmental studies program. He is also an adjunct research professor at the center for energy and environmental policy research at the University of Delaware.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The Ideology of Progress and the Globalization of Nuclear Power 11
2 Nuclear Policy as Projection: How Policy Choices Can Create Their Own Justification 47
3 Science, Society and the State: The Nuclear Project and the Transformation of the American Political Economy 67
4 No One Ever Told Us: Native Americans and the Great Uranium Experiment 103
5 Safety, Accidents, and Public Acceptance 127
6 Waste Disposal and Decommissioning 177
7 Nuclear Power and Postindustrial Politics in the West 201
8 Nuclear Politics in Soviet and Post-Soviet Europe 247
9 The Asian Atom: Hard-Path Nuclearization in East Asia 271
Contributors 299
Index 303
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