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2017 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

1. Seeking the Perennial Fountain of the World’s Prosperity

Authors: M. d. Mar Rubio-Varas, Joseba De la Torre

Published in: The Economic History of Nuclear Energy in Spain

Publisher: Springer International Publishing



This chapter offers a global overview synthetizing the macro-economic and political developments on which the nuclear programs rooted around the world, from the Golden age and until after the two oil crises. Most nuclear programs started and grew during the Golden Age, but slowed down in the mist of the economic crisis of the 1970s. A technology that aspired to become the perennial fountain of world’s prosperity was adopted by a little more than 30 of the almost 200 nations of the world. And it was a decision taken (or not) well before any major accident took place. May be because the atomic choice had more economic policy implications than just the average pick of an energy technology over another to meet future electricity demands. This background helps to contextualize the Spanish case within these worldwide dynamics, offering the key elements to build a comparative history, and some initial indications about the true dimensions of the Spanish nuclear program.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Atoms for Peace Speech | IAEA,” 1953, https://​www.​iaea.​org/​about/​history/​atoms-for-peace-speech. Mara Drogan, “The Nuclear Imperative: Atoms for Peace and the Development of U.S. Policy on Exporting Nuclear Power, 1953–1955,” Diplomatic History 40, no. 5 (November 2016): 948–74, doi:10.1093/dh/dhv049.
A quote attributed to Churchill, David Fischer and International Atomic Energy Agency, History of the International Atomic Energy Agency: The First Forty Years (Vienna: The Agency, 1997), 32.
US Department of Energy, “The First 50 Years of ORNL,” Oak Ridge National Laboratory Review 25, no. 3 (1992): 1–235, http://​web.​ornl.​gov/​info/​ornlreview/​archive_​pdf/​vol25–3-4.​pdf
Sam H. Schurr and Jacob Marschak, Economic Aspects of Atomic Power (York, PA: Princeton University Press, 1950), http://​cowles.​yale.​edu/​sites/​default/​files/​files/​pub/​misc/​specpupb-schurr-marschak.​pdf
Gabrielle Hecht, Entangled Geographies: Empire and Technopolitics in the Global Cold War, Inside Technology (MIT Press, 2011), doi:10.1126/science.1247727; Gabrielle Hecht, The Radiance of France: Nuclear Power and National Identity after World War II (MIT Press, 2009), https://​mitpress.​mit.​edu/​books/​radiance-france; Gabrielle Hecht, Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade (MIT Press, 2014).
Brian Balogh, Chain Reaction: Expert Debate and Public Participation in American Commercial Nuclear Power, 1945–1975 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Paul Josephson, “Technological Utopianism in the Twenty-First Century: Russia’s Nuclear Future,” History and Technology 3, no. 19 (2003): 277–92; Paul Josephson, Red Atom: Russia’s Nuclear Power Program from Stalin to Today (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005); Arne Kaiser, “Redirecting Power: Swedish Nuclear Power Policies in Historical Perspective,” Annual Review of Energy and the Environment 17 (1992): 437–62.
Richard G. Hewlett and Jack M. Holl, Atoms for Peace and War, 1953–1961: Eisenhower and the Atomic Energy Commission (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989); John Krige, American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe (Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 2006); and William J. Nuttall and Alexandre Bredimas, “A Comparison of International Regulatory Organizations and Licensing Procedures for New Nuclear Power Plants,” Energy Policy, no. 36 (2008): 1344–54.
Stephen I. Schwartz, ed., Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons since 1940 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1998); Sharon Tanzer, Steven Solley and Paul L. Leventhal, Nuclear Power and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons (Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 2002); Williams Burr, “A Scheme of ‘Control: The United States and the Origins of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, 1974–1976,” The International History Review 36, no. 2 (2014): 252–76, doi:10.1080/07075332.2013.864690.
OEEC, “European Nuclear Energy Agency, The Industrial Challenge of Nuclear Energy. Stresa Conference, Vol. III Survey of European Programmes. Economics of Nuclear Power and Financing Programmes” (New York: OEEC, 1959); P.W. Mummery, P. Sporn and I.R. Maxwell, Progress in Nuclear Energy, The Economics of Nuclear Power (New York: Pergamon Press, 1959); Federal Power Commission, The 1970 National Power Survey (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1971), chaps. 2, 6 and 20.
Steve D. Thomas, “Federal Republic of Germany,” in The Realities of Nuclear Power: International Economic and Regulatory Experience, ed. Steve D. Thomas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 128–64; James M. Jasper, Nuclear Politics: Energy and the State in the United States, Sweden, and France (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990); Andrew Blowers and David Pepper, Nuclear Power in Crisis: Politics and Planning for the Nuclear State (New York: Nichols PubCo, 1987); Duncan Lyall Burn, Nuclear Power and the Energy Crisis: Politics and the Atomic Industry (London: Macmillan for the Trade Policy Research Centre, 1978); Jack N. Bankerbus, “Nuclear Power Ad Government Structure: The Divergent Paths of the United States and France,” Social Science Quarterly 65, no. 1 (1984): 37–47; James Everett Katz and Onkar S. Marwah, Nuclear Power in Developing Countries: An Analysis of Decision Making (Lexington Books, 1982).
Jonathan Scurlock, “A Concise History of the Nuclear Industry Worldwide,” in Nuclear or Not? Does Nuclear Power Have a Place in a Sustainable Energy Future?, ed. David Elliott, Energy, Cl (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 24–34.
Zsuzsanna Csereklyei, M.d. Mar Rubio-Varas and David I. Stern, “Energy and Economic Growth: The Stylized Facts,” Energy Journal 37, no. 2 (2016): 223–55, doi:10.​5547/​01956574.​37.​2.​zcse.
Chien-Chiang Lee, Chun-Ping Chang and Pei-Fen Chen, “Energy-Income Causality in OECD Countries Revisited: The Key Role of Capital Stock,” Energy Economics 30, no. 5 (2008): 2359–73.
M.d. Mar Rubio and Mauricio Folchi, “Will Small Energy Consumers Be Faster in Transition? Evidence from the Early Shift from Coal to Oil in Latin America,” Energy Policy 50, no. 34 (2012): 50–61, doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2012.03.054; M.d. Mar Rubio et al., “Energy as an Indicator of Modernization in Latin America, 1890–1925,” Economic History Review 63, no. 3 (2010): 769–804, doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.2009.00463.x.
Cluter J. Cleveland, Robert K. Kaufman and David I. Stern, “Aggregation and the Role of Energy in the Economy,” Ecological Economics 32 (2000): 301–17, doi:10.1016/s0921-8009(99)00113-5.
See section I in Rubio et al., “Energy as an Indicator of Modernization in Latin America, 1890–1925.”
Angus Maddison, Monitoring The World Economy, 1820–1992 (Paris: OECD, Development Centre Studies, 1995).
Primary energy refers to sources which involve human induced extraction or capture (such as coal, crude oil, natural gas, biomass). Secondary energy is energy embodied in primary energy and extracted by human transformation. Nuclear and hydroelectricity tend to be considered among primary energies. Primary electricity is only a commonly used abridged expression for hydro- and nuclear electricity. Actually primary electricity does not exist, electricity being in any case a secondary form of energy. Ben Gales et al., “North versus South: Energy Transition and Energy Intensity in Europe over 200 Years,” European Review of Economic History 11, no. 2 (2007): 219–53, doi:10.1017/S1361491607001967.
Robert Millward, “Public Enterprise in the Modern Western World. An Historical Analysis,” Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Vol. 82, Issue 4, (2011) pp. 375–398
There was an array of possible designs for nuclear reactors, the basic differences depending on the fuel, the cooling and the moderating elements, and until the late 1960s there were no clear advantages to either of them. Eventually, three types of reactors commercialized internationally: the light-water nuclear power reactor, using low enriched uranium as its fuel and ordinary water as its coolant and moderator was built originally to a US design in Western countries and to a similar Soviet design in the USSR and Eastern European countries. The gas graphite reactor using natural uranium as its fuel, moderated by graphite and cooled by carbon dioxide was a technological design favored by Britain and France. Finally, Canada marketed a quite different nuclear power reactor using natural gas as its fuel and heavy water as its coolant and moderator. Within each of these three main types there will be further design categories. For instance, among the light-water reactors, there will be pressurised (LPW) and boiling water (BWR) reactors in the west, while the Soviets will built two types: the WWER series and the RBMK, the type made conspicuous by Chernobyl. Fischer and International Atomic, History of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 149.
Steve Cohn, “The Political Economy of Nuclear Power (1945–1990): The Rise and Fall of an Official Technology,” Journal of Economic Issues 24, no. 3 (1990): 781–811; Balogh, Chain Reaction: Expert Debate and Public Participation in American Commercial Nuclear Power, 1945–1975.
US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), “Nuclear Power and the Demand for Uranium Enrichment Services” (Washington, 1974), opp. 2–3, https://​www.​cia.​gov/​library/​readingroom/​docs/​CIA-RDP85T00875R0019​00030095–1.​pdf
Fischer and International Atomic, History of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 147.
H. Stuart Burness, W. David Montgomery and James P. Quirk, “The Turnkey Era in Nuclear Power,” Source: Land Economics 56, no. 2 (1980): 188–202, http://​www.​jstor.​org
US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), “Nuclear Power and the Demand for Uranium Enrichment Services,” 2–3.
And the US embassies through the world received orders to explain the advantages of nuclear power to their host economies. The US embassy in Madrid responded to the request for opportunities in the following terms 8 March 1974:
“Embassy suggests following areas presenting either new opportunities for US exports or good prospects for increased US export share of Spanish market as result higher petroleum and raw material prices and supply shortages: 1. Technical assistance and equipment sales for Spain’s expanding nuclear energy and thermal energy industry […] While Westinghouse and GE as well as us design firms, e.g. Bechtel, Foster Wheeler, have played major role in Spanish nuclear energy program, US industry must continue be energetic in meeting other competition sources in order exploit increasingly attractive possibilities.” NARA, Document number 974MADRID01553.
Steve Cohn, Too Cheap to Meter: An Economic and Philosophical Analysis of the Nuclear Dream (State University of New York Press, 1997), 127.
Comptroller General’s Report to the Congress, “U.S. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Policy: Impact on Exports and Nuclear Industry Could Not Be Determined” (Washington, DC, 1980), 10. See also Chap. 5 in this volume.
The 1970s were a decade of significant opposition to nuclear power in Europe. Austria in 1978 had rejected nuclear power in a general referendum, opposition had stopped Ireland and Portuguese attempts at nuclear development in the late 1970s, and in 1980 Swedish voters approved a referendum to phase out the country’s operating nuclear power plants.
William H. Becker and William M. McClenahah, Jr., The Market, the State and the Export–Import Bank of the United States 1934–2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2003). Appendix B. No nuclear credit was authorized in 1986 and a tiny credit of $8900 was authorized in 1987. None thereafter.
Some summaries of the nuclear histories of Eastern Europe can be found in HoNESt Consortium, “Validated Short Country Report, Deliverable 3.6,” 2017.
Fischer and International Atomic, History of the International Atomic Energy Agency, p. 118.
Nathan Hultman and Jonathan Koomey, “Three Mile Island: The Driver of US Nuclear Power’s Decline?” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 69, no. 3 (May 1, 2013): 63–70, doi:10.1177/0096340213485949.
Fischer and International Atomic, History of the International Atomic Energy Agency, p. 29.
Italy should appear in the list of nuclear powered nations right after the US, but voted in 1987 to shut down all four of its NPPs. The first Italian nuclear power plant began construction in 1958. Igor Londero and Elisabet Bini, Nuclear Italy: An International History of Italy’s Nuclear Policies during the Cold War (Trieste: EUT, 2017).
For the development of the safeguards policies see Chap. 8 in Fischer and International Atomic, History of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Irvin Bupp and J.C. Derian, “‘The Nuclear Power Industry’ in Commission on the Organization of the Government for the Conduct of Foreign Policy (‘Murphy Commission’) Vol. 1” (Washington, DC, 1975), 94.
Comptroller General’s Report to the Congress, “U.S. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Policy: Impact on Exports and Nuclear Industry Could Not Be Determined,” 34.
Arnulf Grubler, “The Costs of the French Nuclear Scale-up: A Case of Negative Learning by Doing,” Energy Policy 38, no. 9 (2010): 5174–88, doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2010.05.003.
Hultman, Koomey and Kammen, “What History Can Teach Us about the Future Cost of U.S. Nuclear Power.”
Fischer and International Atomic, History of the International Atomic Energy Agency, p. 166.
EXIM, George Holliday, Eximbank’s Involvement in Nuclear Exports, Congressional Research Service (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, GPO, March 2, 1981), 20. Box L1, Folder 277. Ex-Im Bank Archives.
Koomey and Hultman, “A Reactor-Level Analysis of Busbar Costs for U.S. Nuclear Plants, 1970–2005.”
Lina Escobar Rangel and François Lévêsque, “Revisiting the Nuclear Power Construction Costs Escalation Curse,” IAEE Newsletter, no. 3 (2013): 14–6.
Brad Plumer, “Why America Abandoned Nuclear Power (and What We Can Learn from South Korea),” , 2016, http://​www.​vox.​com/​2016/​2/​29/​11132930/​nuclear-power-costs-us-france-korea
Burness, Montgomery, and Quirk, “The Turnkey Era in Nuclear Power.”
Allan Cohen, “General Electric,” Sales and Marketing Management, 1997; Bernard L. Cohen, “Costs of Nuclear Power—The Achilles’ Heel,” in Before It’s Too Late: A Scientist’s Case for Nuclear Energy (Boston, MA: Springer US, 1983), 217–39, doi:10.1007/978-1-4684-4577-0_8.
Plumer , “Why America Abandoned Nuclear Power (and What We Can Learn from South Korea).”
Sungyeol Choi et al., “Fourteen Lessons Learned from the Successful Nuclear Power Program of the Republic of Korea,” Energy Policy 37, no. 12 (2009): 5494–508, doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2009.08.025.
Plumer, “Why America Abandoned Nuclear Power (and What We Can Learn from South Korea).”
Grant Harris et al., “Cost Estimates for Nuclear Power in the UK,” Energy Policy 62 (2013): 431–42, doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2013.07.116.
EXIM, “Speech Outline for Rees Nuclear Testimony,” 2 (1982). Ex-Im Bank Archives Box H128, Folder 705, College Park, Maryland, US.
EXIM, Eximbank Programs in Support of Nuclear Power Projects (Washington, DC, 1970), 3. Box J11, Folder 2347. Ex-Im Bank Archives, College Park, Maryland, US.
Scott Victor Valentine and Benjamin K. Sovacool, “The Socio-Political Economy of Nuclear Power Development in Japan and South Korea,” Energy Policy 38, no. 12 (December 2010): 7971–9, doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2010.09.036. Comparing these two countries the authors find the following sharing features: (1) strong state involvement guiding economic development; (2) centralization of national energy policymaking; (3) campaigns to link technological progress with national revitalization; (4) influence of technocratic ideology on policy decisions; (5) subordination of challenges to political authority; and (6) low levels of civic activism. We extend some of these characteristics to all nuclear countries adding some more.
Spain signed the first bilateral nuclear agreement with the US AEC in 1955 (see Chap. 5), and the second with the French CEA the following year (see Chap. 6). A Spanish delegation attended all of the Geneva Conferences from the first one—the First International Conference on the Peaceful uses of Atomic Energy, held in August 1955; as a consequence, Spain was among the original signatories of Statute of the IAEA in 1957; Spain participated in the ENEA from 1958, under a decision of the OEEC Council, a year before the official ascension of the country to the OEEC/OECD; there it followed that Spain was admitted to the study group working of the creation of the European Company for the Chemical Processing of Irradiated Fuels (Eurochemic) which was set up on 27 July 1959 (on Eurochemic see https://​www.​oecd-nea.​org/​cen/​publications/​68-eurochemic.​pdf).
None of the three exports of US reactors that were ordered before 1962 had commercial uses. The reactor for the nuclear plant of Taipur (India), which was also a turnkey project, was ordered in 1963 but it was connected by 1969, a year after the Spanish plant of Zorita was finished. Joseba De La Torre and M.d. Mar Rubio-Varas, “Learning by Doing: The First Spanish Nuclear Plant,” Business History Review (forthcoming), fnt. 1.
Joseba De la Torre and M.d.Mar Rubio-Varas, “Nuclear Power for a Dictatorship: State and Business Involvement in the Spanish Atomic Program, 1950–85,” Journal of Contemporary History 51, no. 2 (October 23, 2016), 385–411, doi:10.1177/0022009415599448.
Red Electrica de España (2016) www.​ree.​es
Other countries under dictatorial rule starting nuclear programs coming after the Spanish example, such as South Korea or Turkey, had periods of civil rule in between. Other non-democratic nations such Argentina or Yugoslavia had yet to make their nuclear plans while Spain had is first reactor already plugged to the network. De la Torre and Rubio-Varas, “Nuclear Power for a Dictatorship”: fnt. 1.
De la Torre and Rubio-Varas, “Nuclear Power for a Dictatorship”: 409.
Balogh, Chain Reaction: Expert Debate and Public Participation in American Commercial Nuclear Power, 1945–1975; Tony Hall, Nuclear Politics: The History of Nuclear Power in Britain (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986); Hecht, The Radiance of France: Nuclear Power and National Identity after World War II; Joachim Radkau, Aufstieg Und Krise Der Deutschen Atomwirtschaft 1945–1975 (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1983); Choi et al., “Fourteen Lessons Learned from the Successful Nuclear Power Program of the Republic of Korea”; Wolfgang D. Müller, Geschichte Der Kernenergie in Der Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Anfänge Und Weichenstellungen, vol. 1 (Stuttgart: Schäffer Verlag für Wirtschaft und Steuern, 1990); Selahattin Murat Sirin, “An Assessment of Turkey’s Nuclear Energy Policy in Light of South Korea’s Nuclear Experience,” Energy Policy 38, no. 10 (October 2010): 6145–52, doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2010.05.071; Sonja D. Schmid, Producing Power (The MIT Press, 2015), https://​mitpress.​mit.​edu/​producing-power
Joseba De la Torre and M.d. Mar Rubio-Varas, La financiación exterior del desarrollo industrial español a través del IEME (1950–1982), Estudios de Historia Económica, vol. 69 (Banco de España, 2015), chap. 5. The dictatorship restricted the access to the country’s uranium and radioactive mineral resources from 1948, forbidding exporting it. Decree of December 29, 1948 published in Boletín Oficial del Estado [BOE] no. 19 (Madrid, 1949).
The Factory General Hernandez Vidal, operated in Andújar (Jaen) from 1959 to 1981.
Gonzalo Anes and Antonio Gómez Gómez Mendoza, Un Siglo de Luz : Historia Empresarial de Iberdrola (Madrid: Iberdrola, 2006); Gonzalo Anes, Santiago Fernández Plasencia and Juan Temboury Villarejo, Endesa En Su Historia (1944–2000) (Fundación Endesa, 2001); Antonio Gómez Mendoza, Javier Pueyo, and Carles Sudrià, Electra y el Estado: La intervención pública en la industria eléctrica bajo el Franquismo, 1st ed. (Cizur Menor: Thomson Civitas, 2007); Julio Alcaide Inchausti and et al., Compañía Sevillana de Electricidad: Cien Años de Historia (Sevillana de Electricidad, 1994), http://​books.​google.​es/​books?​id=​lJPLAAAACAAJ
Josean Garrues, “Las estrategias productivas, financieras e institucionales de Iberduero” (Madrid: Iberdrola, 2006), 497–573; Esther Sánchez Sánchez, Rumbo al Sur: Francia y la España del desarrollo, 1958–1969 (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2006).
Albert Presas i Puig, “The Correspondence between Jose Maria Otero Navascues and Karl Wirtz: An Episode in the International Relations of the Junta de Energia Nuclear,” Arbor-Ciencia Pensamiento y Cultura 167, no. 659–60 (December 2000): 527–601; Albert Presas i Puig, “On a Speech by Jose Maria Albareda Given before Germany’s Academic Authorities: A Historical Note,” Arbor-Ciencia Pensamiento y Cultura 160, nos. 631–2 (August 1998): 343–57; Albert Presas i Puig, “Science on the Periphery. The Spanish Reception of Nuclear Energy: An Attempt at Modernity?” Minerva 43, no. 2 (June 2005): 197–218, doi:10.1007/s11024-005-2332-7; Ana Romero de Pablos, “The Early Days of Nuclear Energy Research in Spain: Jose Maria Otero Navascues’s Foreign Trip (1949),” Arbor-Ciencia Pensamiento y Cultura 167, no. 659–60 (December 2000): 509–25; Javier Ordoñez and José M. Sánchez-Ron, “Nuclear Energy in Spain: From Hiroshima to the Sixties” (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1996), 185–213; José M. Sánchez-Ron, “International Relations in Spanish Physics from 1900 to the Cold War,” Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 33, no. 1 (2002): 3–31, doi:10.1525/hsps.2002.33.1.3; Francesc X. Barca-Salom, “La Politica Nuclear Espanyola: el cas del reactor nuclear Argos,” Quaderns d’Història de l’Enginyeria IV (2000): 12–44.
Ana Romero de Pablos and José M. Sánchez Ron, Energía Nuclear en España. De la JEN al CIEMAT (CIEMAT, Madrid: Ediciones Doce Calles, 2001); Ana Romero de Pablos, “Poder político y poder tecnológico: El desarrollo nuclear español (1950–1975),” CTS: Revista Iberoamericana de Ciencia, Tecnología y Sociedad 7, no. 21 (2012): 141–162; Ordoñez and Sánchez-Ron, “Nuclear Energy in Spain: From Hiroshima to the Sixties.”
Manuel Castell Fàbrega, Historia de La Medicina Nuclear En España (Bellaterra: Publicacions de la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 1992); Alfredo Menéndez Navarro, “Atoms for Peace … and for Medicine: Popularization of the Medical Applications of Nuclear Energy in Spain,” Revista Espanola de Medicina Nuclear 26, no. 6 (November 2007): 385–99; Mª Jesús Santesmases, “Peace Propaganda and Biomedical Experimentation: Influential Uses of Radioisotopes in Endocrinology and Molecular Genetics in Spain (1947–1971),” Journal of the History of Biology 39, no. 4 (November 2006): 765–94, doi:10.1007/s10739-006-9112-6.
Francesc X. Barca-Salom, “Dreams and Needs: The Applications of Isotopes to Industry in Spain in the 1960s,” Dynamis 29 (2009): 307–36.
Benito Sanz, Centrales nucleares en España. El parón nuclear (Valencia: Fernando Torres, 1984).
Joseba De la Torre and María del Mar Rubio-Varas, “Nuclear Power for a Dictatorship: State and Business Involvement in the Spanish Atomic Program, 1950–1985,” Journal of Contemporary History 51, no. 2 (2016): 385–411, doi:0022009415599448.
Seeking the Perennial Fountain of the World’s Prosperity
M. d. Mar Rubio-Varas
Joseba De la Torre
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