Mobilizing Modernity: The Nuclear Moment

By Ian Welsh | Go to book overview

1

Introduction

I grew up in a house where drafts were prevented from blowing round ill-fitting doors by 'atomic strip', where we were kept warm by 'radiation' gas fires. As a youngster I peered with eager anticipation from train windows hoping to catch a glimpse of the atomic power station being built at Hartlepool. It was impossible to know whether I had actually seen it as neither I, nor the accompanying adults, had a clear picture of what one of these fantastic creations looked like. There was, however, a great sense of excitement that one of these glamorous reactors was to be built in the north-east of England. The excitement was communicated via school and news bulletins with their fantastic comparisons of British atomic prowess and Russian space technology. In my naivety I expected to see something as sleek and other-worldly as a rocket or sputnik from the train window and was thus blind to the innocuous cuboid structure which contained the wonders of the atom.

These anecdotal observations illustrate the extent to which nuclear metaphor had become positively linked to both the most mundane domestic items and transcendant visions of progress by the early 1960s. Later I marched around a school playground chanting 'ban the bomb' along with the majority of other children. Our passive occupation of the playground and refusal to return to lessons until something was done about 'the bomb' resulted in a stern lecture from the headmaster and block detention for everyone involved. The link between 'the bomb' and nuclear power was never fully made in the public mind, being displaced by President Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace initiative. This was the rosy dawn of the atomic and nuclear age. In common with all technologically inspired new ages, including the space age, the information age and the genetic engineering age, the rosy dawn was supposed to banish the dark shadows currently afflicting society. As is so often the case with rosy dawns it led to a rather bleak midday and, to pursue the analogy, an absolutely dismal mid-afternoon leading into an almost perpetual twilight as nuclear power is apparently left to wither on the vine of failed promise. Why then write another book on the nuclear case through a predominantly British lens when several already exist (e.g. Gowing 1964, 1974; Williams 1980; Wynne

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Mobilizing Modernity: The Nuclear Moment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Acronyms x
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Nuclear Moment 34
  • 3 - Resisting the Juggernaut 68
  • 4 - Accidents Will Happen 95
  • 5 - Modernity's Mobilisation Stalls 118
  • 6 - The Moment of Direct Action 150
  • 7 - Networking 183
  • 8 - Conclusions 206
  • Notes 228
  • Bibliography 244
  • Author Index 256
  • Subject Index 259
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