World in View: Nuclear Histories and Stories: Hiroshima & Nagasaki 75 Years After

  • Monday, March 8, 2021
  • 7:00 PM
  • Zoom link will be provided

A World in View discussion led by Dr. Ran Zwigenberg (Penn State) and Dr. Robert Jacobs (Hiroshima Peace Institute and Hiroshima City University)

Now, ten years after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, it is useful to place that event into a longer perspective on the history and legacy of nuclear power. From the beginning of the nuclear age, nuclear power has been depicted as the "peaceful atom" in contrast to nuclear weapons. However, nuclear power was actually invented before nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan Project, specifically to manufacture plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. It was a full eleven years after reactors were first brought online, before they were adapted (in the Soviet Union) to contribute electricity to the public grid. The United States and other nations soon followed, and eventually hundreds of nuclear reactors were built on every continent to produce electricity. Two issues have plagued the use of nuclear power plants since 1945: accidents and waste. There have been dozens of nuclear power plant accidents since their invention, several of which have been catastrophic. We will look at the nuclear disasters at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima to see the impact these accidents have had on human beings, communities and the ecosystems from Pennsylvania to Northern Europe. We will then examine the dilemma of nuclear waste. The storage of spent nuclear fuel is a particularly vexing issue, with over 300,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel currently in temporary storage worldwide and no feasible solution for the safety of future communities and ecosystems. Both waste and accidents were also features of the Manhattan Project, and are connected, via Fukushima, to the experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and we will conclude with a look at these connections.

Ran Zwigenberg is an Associate Professor at Penn State. His research focuses on modern Japanese and European history, with a specialization in memory and intellectual history. Robert Jacobs is a Professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute and the Graduate School of Peace Studies of Hiroshima City University. He is a historian of nuclear technologies and radiation technopolitics.

Please note: Registration for events in this series is required and, given the topics and speakers, we anticipate interest to be high. For this reason, each event is limited to 25 students and early registration is strongly encouraged. Scholar participants will receive a complimentary electronic gift card.

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Sarah Lyall-Combs
Schreyer Scholar Blake Greenspan

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