The Material Culture of Nuclear Diplomacy
A Two-Sided Study of Diplomacy over Nuclear Material: The Shipment of Radioisotopes from the United States to Japan in 1950
This paper concerns Antimony 125 sent as the first shipment of radioisotope after the World War II from the United States to Japan in 1950. The international distribution of radioisotopes by the United States after World War II is one of the most prominent examples of nuclear diplomacy of radioactive materials (Creager 2009, 2013). While studies on nuclear diplomacy tend to focus more on the more powerful side of the diplomatic relation for various reasons, this paper will study both sides of diplomacy. By doing so, this paper will show how differently this radioisotope appeared in the US and Japan. While the US side of the story fits well in the Cold War narrative, the Japanese side does not so much. For US diplomats, it was part of the natural extension of the international distribution of radioisotopes to include occupied territories, especially Germany, where the US scientific presence could be important against Russian propaganda. For Japanese, especially for Japanese physicists like Nishina Yoshio, who had been tenaciously negotiating with the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) for radioisotopes, the shipment was realized thanks to the goodwill of American scientists who, in Nishina’s view, continued to be good friends despite the war and became sympathetic to Japanese physicists after SCAP’s destruction of cyclotrons in Japan. It was thus an icon of scientific internationalism to overcome past conflicts.
The Beginning of Japanese Atoms for Peace Cooperation toward Asian Countries
The failure to win a bid to host the Asian Nuclear Center proposed by the US in 1955 wounded Japan’s pride over its advanced science. This experience made some politicians recognize the need to promote a Japanese version of nuclear diplomacy toward Asian countries. The Japanese delegation, mainly consisted of the ruling party politicians, was dispatched to the US, European countries, and Asian countries including India, Thailand, and Burma in the fall of 1956. India had already held a nuclear conference in which five Asian countries participated. Japan feared that it might not be able to ride on the Asian “bus” to a bright future filled with the benefits of nuclear energy. Calling for a conference among Asian nations, anxious Japanese politicians adopted “a resolution on the establishment of the system for nuclear energy cooperation in Asian countries,” in November 1957. From 1957 to 1962, Japan accepted trainees from Asian countries at the Isotopes School at Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute. This was what Japanese Foreign Ministry had predicted when it looked to the future of international nuclear cooperation during the Bandung Conference in 1955. The experience of accepting trainees encouraged Japanese politicians to promote nuclear diplomacy. At the IAEA assembly of 1962, Japan proposed establishing the Radioisotope Training Center for the Asian Region, although this endeavor fell through. However, the Japanese government eventually hosted the nuclear conference for Asia in 1963. Through the experiences mentioned above, Japan gradually came around to the idea that it should maintain nuclear energy aid programs toward Asian countries.
The Mobile Laboratory in Taiwan in 1960s
A Mobile Radioisotope Training Laboratory (Mobile Lab), dispatched by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the United Nations to further training in the peaceful uses of radioisotopes for its member countries, arrived in Taiwan, on September 26, 1960, during its world round training trip through Austria, Greece, Yugoslavia, Western Germany and Korea. The sending of the Mobile Lab was at the request of the Atomic Council of the Republic of China (Taiwan), a country in a strategic position in the struggle between the “free world” and “iron cage.” The Mobile Lab was as much a promotional device of the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy as an active ingredient for the nation building project of the “Free China.” Taiwan was trying to make a place in the world— “trying to catch up with or even go head of this ever-progressing world” as the minister of Economy Yang proclaimed at the opening ceremony for the Mobile Lab. The Union Industrial Research Institute of Ministry of Economic Affairs conducted a training program for ten terms in Hsinchu, just 13 kilometers from National Tsing Hua University, where a nuclear reactor was just about to complete. This paper explores the material culture of the Mobile Lab in Taiwan in the context of Cold War geopolitics, focusing particularly on the materials, instruments, and practices. Primary sources used include the documents of the Taiwan Atomic Council, Industrial Development Bureau, and oral history interviews of participants.
Fessenheim – a nuclear power plant for peace
In this paper I show that the cooperation and co-financing of a nuclear power plant in Fessenheim on the French border with Germany and Switzerland in the 1970s, that is in Alsace, a region heavily touched by WWII can be seen as a peace building project and a diplomatic act. I see here the NPP as a cultural artefact which materializes the appeased relations between the two countries and sealed the peace-building process.
But if the “top-down” peacebuilding action sealed the political and economic relations at the national and international level, it didn’t comprehend any rapprochement between the cross-border communities. And it is the grassroots reaction against the construction of this nuclear power plant (and the 14 others planned nuclear power plants along the Upper Rhine Valley) that became a moment of cross-border reconciliation and an opportunity to transcend the legacy of WWII through a cooperation for a common future.
Godofredo and Francoise Travel Together: Science Diplomacy and the Material Culture of the IAEA
One of the most valuable diagnostic applications of radioactive isotopes during the 1960s was the determination of the uptake of radioactive iodine by the thyroid gland of patients suffering from thyroid disorders. Since there was not a standard method to carry this procedure worldwide the newly established International Atomic Energy Agency embarked in a major standardization project. IAEA scientists constructed a calibration equipment- a box like suitcase that included a dummy figure of the upper part of the human body—named Francoise— filled with a small amount of radioiodine to stimulate “body background.” The suitcase included a number of standard vessels of various sizes and shapes containing amounts of mock iodine. From spring 1962 to the end of 1965 Godofredo Crespo, an IAEA scientist visited 199 medical isotope laboratories in 41 countries carrying the calibration box. The aim was to standardize the measurements of the uptake of radioactive iodine worldwide. Travelling together, Godofredo and Francoise calibrated laboratory equipment in several UN Member States and at the same time promoted IAEA’s standardized technique of measuring thyroid radioiodine uptake for general use. I argue that their standardization project was a form of diplomacy—taking diplomacy as the management of international relations by negotiations—that could only take place with the material resources and culture of an international organization such as the IAEA.
Radioactive Materials, Nuclear Diplomacy and Construction of Invisibility of Nuclear Risk in the Palomares Accident (Spain 1966)
Health risk associated to nuclear materials is invisible to human senses and can only be mediated through objects, artefacts -and the narratives associated to them- (Hecht 2012, Kuchinskaya 2014). Many visible materials, objects and artefacts become involved in the aftermath of a nuclear accident, but their visibility or invisibility and the narratives linking them to nuclear risk are to be constructed. This paper reflects on the role nuclear objects and their visibility had in the diplomatic negotiations between Spain and US after the Palomares nuclear accident. In 1966 four nuclear bombs fell onto a Spanish town, Palomares, due to a crash between two US Air Force planes, contaminating wide areas of the territory. Radioactive materials where piled to be removed; sophisticated US-technologies were brought for radioactivity detection and clean-up; soldiers and scientists on site wore special dresses. Despite the visibility of all these objects, nuclear risk was successfully rendered invisible in the public domain, as a key part of the diplomatic strategy to solve the crisis. Minimizing public attention to the accident had high priority in the diplomatic negotiations and had epistemic effects. The argument to avoid the visibility of a burial pit of radioactive materials in Palomares, for instance, determined the scientific and diplomatic negotiations for the radioactivity threshold for burial. This paper shows how nuclear materials, their visibility/invisibility and nuclear diplomacy shaped each other.
Ana Romero de Pablos
Spanish Uranium: a Round Trip
The strategy of Franco dictatorship’s authorities to use Spanish uranium to load the nucleus of the first power plant reactor that was built up in Spain in 1965 (Zorita nuclear power plant) launched a round trip, that of uranium for its enrichment, which was connected, both in Spain and United States, to political, scientific and industrial interests. In my presentation I will discuss the negotiations between the Spanish firm Unión Eléctrica Madrileña (the owner of the plant), the Spanish National Board of Nuclear Energy (that governed and implemented Spanish nuclear policy), the US Atomic Energy Commission and the American firm Allied Chemical for the enrichment of Spanish uranium in the US. The contracts signed by these entities show a round trip, in which political, industrial and business agents, as well as technical capabilities were involved. 137 tons of Spanish uranium arrived in 1966 at the port of New Orleans from the port of Cádiz (Spain). The uranium ore travelled to the sampling station that the US Department of Energy had in Grand Junction, Colorado, so as to check and calibrate its uranium concentration. Allied Chemical processed the Spanish mineral and obtained uranium hexafluoride. After the manufacture of the fuel elements at the Westinghouse factory in Cheswick (Pennsylvania), the “enriched uranium” – as it was called by the Spanish authorities – returned to Spain converted into fuel ready to be used in Zorita power plant. The uranium trip had great media coverage that did not mention the high economic cost of uranium enrichment and the technical dependency while it was supposed to be under the control and strict surveillance of the United States capabilities.
Loukas Freris, Mirto Dimitrokali and Maria Rentetzi
The Materiality of Science Diplomacy: The Use of Film Badge Dosimeters for Personnel Monitoring in Post-War Greece
“We have this morning sent, by air, 27 badge films, ready for use. Enclosed with this letter is a list in which you have to fill in the names of the users of badges, and the other information indicted.” This is how Arturo Cairo, a senior member of the Division of Exchange and Training of the International Atomic Energy Agency informed Alfred Maddock a physicist from the University of Cambridge who came to assist Greece in developing its nuclear research program in 1959. Working for the IAEA, Maddock’s mission was to put into operation the radiochemistry laboratories at the country’s nuclear research center. He requested the film badges as part of his training course on the use of radioisotopes and for monitoring the students’ radiation exposure for safety purposes. These first film badge dosimeters arrived in the country as part of the IAEA’s technical assistance program. At stake was the standardization of processes related to radiation protection and radiation dosimetry. This paper argues that the dissemination and implementation of standard dosimetric methods and the promotion of specific nuclear material culture worldwide was not just a matter of international scientific cooperation. It involved delicate diplomatic negotiations and had often a diplomatic mission: to enlist the supported country as an ally in IAEA’s strategic development. Thus, film badges can be perceived as regulatory devices constitutive of concepts of public health, safety, and permitted levels of radiation exposure as well as the material culture of nuclear diplomacy in the early 1960s.