Security and the shaping of identity for nuclear specialists

Johnston, S.F. (2011) Security and the shaping of identity for nuclear specialists. History and Technology, 27(2), pp. 123-153. (doi:10.1080/07341512.2011.573265)

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Atomic energy developed from 1940 as a subject shrouded in secrecy. Identified successively as a crucial element in military strategy, national status and export aspirations, the research and development of atomic piles (nuclear chain-reactors) were nurtured at isolated installations. Like monastic orders, new national laboratories managed their specialist workers in occupational environments that were simultaneously cosseted and constrained, defining regional variants of a new state-managed discipline: reactor technology. This paper discusses the significance of security in defining the new subject in the USA, UK and Canada – wartime allies with similar political traditions but distinct trajectories in this field during the Cold War. The intellectual borders and content of the subject developed differently in each country, shaped under the umbrella of secrecy by disparate clusters of expertise, industrial traditions, and national goals. The nascent cadre was contained until the mid 1950s by classified publications and state-sponsored specialist courses. The early context of high security filtered its members and capped enduringly both their professional aspirations and public engagement.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:nuclear engineer; security; secrecy; identity; profession; atomic energy
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Johnston, Professor Sean
Authors: Johnston, S.F.
Subjects:T Technology > T Technology (General)
T Technology > TK Electrical engineering. Electronics Nuclear engineering
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > C Auxiliary sciences of history (General)
Q Science > QC Physics
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Journal Name:History and Technology
ISSN (Online):1477-2620
Published Online:18 July 2011

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
445351The nuclear engineer - shaping a professionSean JohnstonEconomic & Social Research Council (ESRC)ES/E018483/1Interdisciplinary Studies