Atoms for Peace Campaign (03:38)
After World War II, the capabilities of atomic power were internationally acknowledged. In 1955, an exhibition opened in Tokyo; interest in civil use developed globally.
Technology Pioneers (02:31)
Britain established the first nuclear power plant at Calder Hall. France presented a prototype for energy generation, but it was not a reactor; their goal was to create weapons grade plutonium.
Corporate Interest (03:20)
Atomic power privatized. General Electric promoted with comic books and cartoons while reactors became tourist attractions. Westinghouse turn-key stations, guaranteeing low startup prices; plant workers were proud.
Atomic Energy Opposition (03:59)
The public was unaware of nuclear plant accidents, downplayed by station management. Protests arose concerning radioactivity, waste, and catastrophic possibilities. Ralph Nader called the Critical Mass conference. Physicists expressed safety concerns, advising design and staff modifications.
Oil Embargo (04:45)
In 1973, the Middle East cut off petroleum supplies to major consumers; when restored, prices were four times higher. Nuclear energy was promoted to curb dependence on foreign resources. In America, corporate influence increased reactor construction costs; France's campaign built 58 stations.
Wyhl Site Occupation (03:04)
Concerns regarding illnesses and environmental changes surrounding German plants triggered occupational protests. Other events were less peaceful; police used violent means to deal with activists. Worldwide, citizens expressed worry over plant accident repercussions.
Three Mile Island and Windscale (04:21)
In 1979, a Pennsylvania reactor meltdown triggered public fears and prevented nuclear power proponents from claiming the energy was safe. Investigations found plant operators unqualified. In Britain, Greenpeace protested contaminated materials disposal into the Irish Sea.
Chernobyl Setback (05:50)
The nuclear industry persisted that atomic energy was how to end foreign oil dependence. Windscale was renamed Sellafield and citizens were encouraged to visit. A reactor explosion and resulting fallout resurfaced public fears; Western governments claimed the same event could not occur in their countries.
Citizen Owned Energy Cooperative (05:53)
German families started Parents for a Nuclear Free Future in response to Chernobyl. In 2000, the country began phasing out atomic power. The British government privatized plants, but operational costs sent the industry into decline.
Nuclear Renaissance (05:18)
As global warming became an apparent problem, the American government promoted atomic power; 13 companies applied to build 25 reactors. France aspired to lead the international market, signing contracts to build stations in other countries.
Fukushima Disaster (04:32)
In Japan, a tsunami and earthquake revealed that the best constructed facility was unstable in a natural disaster. United States and Japanese governments downplayed the catastrophe. Germany reestablished phaseout of nuclear power.
Political Technology (05:57)
Solar and wind power combined with natural gas could make nuclear energy obsolete. Some physicists aspire to design new reactors and solve waste disposal problems. China is building new reactors for domestic and international use.
Credits: The Atom and Us (00:37)
Credits: The Atom and Us
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