Atoms for Peace (and War): US Forms of Influence on Italy’s Civilian Nuclear Energy Programs (1945-1964)
This chapter analyzes the ways in which the United States influenced Italian civilian nuclear energy policies between the end of World War II and the mid-1960s. It argues that until the mid-1950s, when the United States developed its Atoms for Peace program, the US administration remained quite suspicious about Italy’s project to develop a civilian nuclear energy program. The State Department and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) kept firmly under control Italy’s efforts to extract uranium in the North of the country. Their greatest concern was that the Italian government might decide to declare its uranium resources property of the state, like it had done with its hydrocarbon resources. Despite a series of requests from Italian scientists and industrial firms, the Marshall Plan did not provide any funds for the purchase of nuclear equipment. In the context of the Atoms for Peace program and of the signing in 1955 of a bilateral agreement, the United States gained increased influence over Italy’s atomic energy policies. Based on new archival sources from the United States and Italy, this chapter argues that after John F. Kennedy became President, and in the context of the so-called “center-left governments”, the US administration supported the expansion of Italy’s nuclear program and a greater role of the state in promoting civilian nuclear energy programs. Once ENEL was founded, however, the company chose to rely on oil, rather than nuclear power, to fuel most of its electric plants. Following a series of agreements between Standard Oil (N.J.) and ENI, Italy received large quantities of cheap oil from the Middle East. ENEL’s strategy was supported by American oil companies operating in Italy, and endorsed by the State Department as more cost-effective than a full-scale nuclear program. However, important sectors of the US administration remained critical of the rapid decline of Italy’s civilian nuclear program, which accompanied these agreements and, most importantly, the marginalization of Comitato Nazionale per l’Energia Nucleare’s Secretary General Felice Ippolito after the so-called “Ippolito affair”.
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Elisabetta Bini, “Atoms for Peace (and War): US Forms of Influence on Italy’s Civilian Nuclear Energy Programs (1945-1964)”, in Elisabetta Bini, Igor Londero (edited by), “Nuclear Italy. An International History of Italian Nuclear Policies during the Cold War”, Trieste, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2017, pp. 23-40