This book examines the history of Italy’s nuclear policies
during the Cold War, by placing the Italian case in an international
and comparative framework. It analyzes the ways in which international
politics and economics, technological and scientific exchanges,
as well as social and cultural movements, influenced Italian nuclear policies, both civilian and military. The essays – divided into four sections devoted to “Civilian Uses of Nuclear Energy”, “Military Aspects of Nuclear Power”, “Public Opinion and Anti-nuclear Movements”,
and “The Role of Scientists and Scientific Research” – use new
methodological tools and incorporate a variety of approaches coming from different disciplines, such as the history of science, Science
and Technology Studies, international relations, business history,
literature and media studies, and the history of social movements.
By doing so, they contribute to the growing literature about the history of nuclear policies during the twentieth century, and allow for a new understanding of the specificities – and in some ways uniqueness –
of Italy’s nuclear experience, a country characterized by a strong tradition in nuclear physics and research, which abandoned
its nuclear program much earlier than other European countries.
Elisabetta Bini is assistant professor of Contemporary History at the University of Naples Federico II. Between 2014 and 2016 she was a research fellow at the University of Trieste, where she coordinated the Nuclear Italy Research Group (Nireg). Her publications include: Atomi per la pace? Gli Stati Uniti e le politiche nucleari dell’Italia durante la Guerra fredda (Roma: Carocci, forthcoming); “Nuclear Energy in the Twentieth Century: New International Approaches”, special forum, Contemporanea 4 (2015) (with I. Londero); Oil Shock: The Crisis of 1973 and its Economic Legacy (ed., with F. Romero and G. Garavini) (London: I.B. Tauris, 2016);
La potente benzina italiana. Guerra fredda e consumi di massa tra Italia,
Stati Uniti e Terzo mondo (1945-1973) (Roma: Carocci, 2013).
Igor Londero received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Trieste, with a doctoral thesis titled Felice Ippolito intellettuale e grand commis. La ricerca nucleare in Italia dal dopoguerra al primo centrosinistra.
His publications include Pa sopravivence, no pa l’anarchie – forme di autogestione nel Friuli terremotato. L’esperienza della tendopoli di Godo (Gemona del Friuli) (Udine: Forum editrice universitaria udinese-Istituto friulano per la storia del movimento di liberazione, 2008).
Between 1968 and 1987, I was in charge of control activities on nuclear fuel design and fabrication of all nuclear power plants of ENEL. At the same time, I attended to several cooperation agreements signed between ENEL and Euratom focused on Post Irradiated fuel Examination (PIE), which was the largest PIE program realized in Europe on power reactors.
After the oil shock of 1973, my attitude toward nuclear power changed because the role of nuclear energy was not longer the one outlined in the program Atoms for Peace “to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world”. On the contrary, its role become to strengthen the position of big energy companies and of the countries that controlled this new technology. So I became an antinuke. Throughout this period, I continued to carry out my control activities on ENEL nuclear fuel, until 1987 when, after the Chernobyl disaster, I decided for a moral objection, as I wrote in an official letter to ENEL, making my decision public.
This chapter discusses the Brazilian-Italian cooperation in the nuclear field between the early 1950s and 1986. Since the late 1930s, Italian or Italian-Brazilian scientists promoted the development of studies in nuclear physics. Immediately after World War II, the Brazilian-Italian collaboration continued. Between the 1950s and the 1970s, Brazilian nuclear scientists studied in Italian institutions. Relying on primary sources from Brazilian archives and oral history interviews with protagonists of the Brazilian nuclear program, this chapter explore the relations between Italy and Brazil from 1951, the year of the establishment of the Brazilian nuclear program, until the 1980s. This study focuses on the bidirectional transfer of knowledge on sensitive technologies, and on the formal and informal cooperation between the two countries.
The chapter analyzes Edoardo Amaldi’s commitment to disarmament and détente in Italy during the Cold War and in particular during the debate about the signing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Amaldi (1908-1989) can be considered one of the leading Italian scientists involved in the national and international campaign against nuclear proliferation. In the mid-1960s, a strong civil commitment began to emerge among physicists, as they claimed a voice in Italian security policy, in order to increase public opinion’s awareness about the dangers of the nuclear age and to promote Italian accession to the NPT. While it is difficult to assess to what extent Italian scientists’ efforts in favor of arms control succeeded in influencing Italian politics during the Cold War, their strong involvement in their country’s security policy is in itself a relevant issue for the history of the Italian nuclear experience.
The first Italian researcher to mention the possibility of producing energy by breaking the energy bonds of atomic nuclei was Enrico Fermi at the end of the 1920s, and the idea echoed during the 1930s and 1940s. After 1945, his students who had remained in Rome, together with other physicists in Milan, Padua and Turin, created the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) (1951), and participated in the Italian nuclear committee CNRN, then nuclear agency CNEN-ENEA. While trying to promote the development of nuclear power in Italy, the nuclear committee subsidized the INFN and created research centers for applied nuclear research and for particle physics. The committee also became involved in other fields (such as genetics and molecular biology), and in programs to improve science education and the public understanding of science. All these commitments, notwithstanding some ambiguities, played a key role in shaping the scientific environment of Italy during the 1950s and the 1960s. With all its limitations, the Italian nuclear program was an important driver for industrial innovation and scientific research, well beyond the boundaries of closely related fields, and its crisis after the “Ippolito affair” in 1963-1964 hit the Italian research and development system deeply.
Popular movements and public opinion had a crucial role in shaping the fate of Italian nuclear programs. In parallel with the growing technical and safety problems revealed by nuclear technology, they have conditioned (as is obvious) political decisions. The experience that we have reconstructed is significant also for an assessment of nuclear technology, and the relationship between specialists and popular points of view.
In the mid 1970s, a group of students from the University of Florence published one of the first exhaustive books on the subject (I Nucleodollari), and developed an active role in the growing Italian anti-nuclear movement, as popular nuclear “experts”, alongside professional nuclear experts. Professor Angelo Baracca inherited their experience and public engagement. This activity continued in the 1980s in the anti-nuclear movement, opposing civilian nuclear programs and supporting nuclear disarmament.