Speaker: Jayita Sarkar, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

How do the exports of U.S. power reactors relate to nonproliferation, global capitalism, and U.S. empire? And what does that tell us about the dominance by design of U.S. government and businesses in the decolonized world, where they promised development but delivered debt? This seminar pursues this inquiry through investigating the role of the light water reactor as an instrument of U.S. nonproliferation policy from the mid-1950s until the end of the 1980s.

The recipient countries located in Western Europe in the mid-1950s and in the global South from the 1960s onward began to depend on U.S. companies such as General Electric and Westinghouse for the construction of the reactors, the Export-Import Bank and USAID for loans to finance the cost-intensive reactor projects, and the Atomic Energy Commission (later the Department of Energy) for the low-enriched uranium as reactor fuel. Light water reactor exports thereby permitted U.S. government agencies to control the recipient countries' technological choices in their nuclear programs as well as their economic choices through generating debt and offering debt financing options.

This created "techno-economic dependence" of the recipient countries on U.S. government and corporate actors. Much of the success of light water capitalism in attaining nonproliferation goals depended on U.S. capitalist actors, their global networks and technological flows, on the one hand, and on U.S. government support for the U.S. nuclear industry at home and abroad, on the other.

Everyone is welcome to join us via Zoom! Register before the seminar here:

For more information, email the International Security Program Assistant at susan_lynch@harvard.edu.