Nuclear Politics

Nuclear Politics: Energy and the State in the United States, Sweden, and France

James M. Jasper
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 348
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  • Book Info
    Nuclear Politics
    Book Description:

    Why did nuclear energy policies in France, Sweden, and the United States, very similar at the time of the oil crisis of 1973 and 1974, diverge so greatly in the following years? In answering this question, James Jasper challenges one of the most popular trends in political analysis: explanations relying exclusively on political and economic structures to account for public policies. Jasper proposes a new cultural and state-centered approach--one heeding not only structural factors but cultural meanings, individual biographies, and elite discretion. Surveying the period from the successful commercialization of light-water-reactor technology in the early 1960s to the present, he explains the events that occurred after 1973: France built even more reactors than it needed, the United States canceled most reactor orders, and Sweden completed planned nuclear plants but decided to phase out nuclear energy by 2010.

    This work is based on one hundred interviews with managers, policymakers, and activists in the three countries. In addition to providing a unique theoretical perspective, it broadens our understanding of nuclear policy by looking at three countries in depth and over a long historical span.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6143-9
    Subjects: Political Science, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xix)
  6. Part One: Explaining Nuclear Policies
    • CHAPTER 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-20)

      When the oil crisis struck in the fall of 1973, the United States, Sweden, and France each had plans to increase reliance on nuclear energy as a source of electricity. Each country had been developing nuclear energy since the 1940s, and each had an ambitious nuclear industry capable of producing reactors and optimistic about exporting them. Each had significant numbers of reactors already in operation, as well as many more planned or under construction, and each had domestic uranium supplies. By 1973 each country was committed to the American light water technology that was thought to be the least expensive...

    • CHAPTER 2 Partisan Cleavages and Policy Styles
      (pp. 21-38)

      There are many systems of meaning that men and women bring to their political actions, and these can supplement the structural account of politics. Two are especially useful to me in explaining how political systems affect nuclear policy. One set arises from competition between political parties in electoral systems. Members of any given party see themselves as a certain kind of person standing for a certain kind of policy and principle. Party members see and use any political action or policy as a way of reaffirming their party’s distinct identity and competing for votes. Thus it is important to understand...

  7. Part Two: Creating Nuclear Systems:: The Triumph of Technological Enthusiasm, 1960–1973
    • CHAPTER 3 The Triumph of Technological Enthusiasm in the United States
      (pp. 41-63)

      The United States, Sweden, and France all use the light water reactor (LWR) in their nuclear energy programs. Originally developed under Hyman Rickover to power American submarines, this reactor uses a heavily processed, “enriched” uranium as fuel, and regular water as coolant. The LWR was the design most commonly adopted throughout the world from among dozens of types that have been attempted and developed (everything short of sawdust fuel and beer coolant, one engineer said). The LWR in turn has two main forms, the pressurized water reactor, in which pressurized water cools the fissioning uranium and causes an additional loop...

    • CHAPTER 4 Early Victory for Light Water in Sweden
      (pp. 64-73)

      Whereas the LWR developed from the American submarine program and was the natural choice of technology in the United States, in other countries it often had to displace indigenous reactor designs. Most other countries did not pursue light water technology before the mid-1960s, partly because it required high-grade uranium available only from enrichment plants in the United States and the Soviet Union. Sweden developed a reactor using natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as a moderator, one of the reactor types that seemed most promising in the early 1960s. Sweden had to abandon this heavy water design before it...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Difficult Transition to Light Water in France
      (pp. 74-97)

      In spite of centralized political and economic control, France got off to a rocky start with its nuclear program. In the 1950s the French had concentrated on building a nuclear reactor based on natural uranium, like the Swedish model, but with a gas coolant and graphite moderator. For both countries there were two important factors: the unavailability of enriched uranium and the desire to produce plutonium for use in weapons (something this design does well).¹ France differed from Sweden in clinging to its own gas-graphite reactor line until 1969, delaying its adoption of a large reactor construction program. Renewed political...

    • CHAPTER 6 Commercial Success in Three Countries
      (pp. 98-104)

      What determined nuclear policy before the 1973 oil crisis, when it was still developed through discussions between various state bureaucracies and private companies? There was controversy, but it was rarely public, rarely a topic worthy of media attention. The commercialization of light water reactors had succeeded in the United States, Sweden, and France before energy policy became a prominent public issue after 1973. How did commercialization happen? The debates in utilities and government agencies were similar in all three countries as the initial conflict between cost-benefiters and technological enthusiasts grew into a firm alliance. Differences in political structure played little...

  8. Part Three: To Build or Conserve:: Dilemmas Arising from Public Opposition and the Oil Crisis, 1973-1976
    • CHAPTER 7 The Reassertion of the Economic Perspective in the United States
      (pp. 107-128)

      The oil crisis of 1973–1974 changed the cozy nature of nuclear energy policymaking in the United States. Chapter 3 argued that the prospects for nuclear energy were good in 1973, since it looked as though minor financial and regulatory hindrances were only temporary. When the oil embargo hit in October 1973 and the price of imported oil quadrupled in the following months, these events seemed to cement nuclear power’s bright future. President Nixon announced that the United States would pursue energy independence through increased reliance on nuclear energy, which would account for roughly 40 percent of electricity production by...

    • CHAPTER 8 Party Politics in Sweden
      (pp. 129-147)

      Nuclear became a major public issue in Sweden at the same time that it did in the United States, in 1973 and 1974, but more because of the antinuclear movement than the oil crisis. The main opposition party, the Center Party, became antinuclear in 1973 and caused a mild rethinking of Sweden’s nuclear construction. The oil crisis at the end of that year intensified the reappraisal. It also brought the delay-oriented, cost-benefit perspective to the fore, since that fit well with the political strategies of the Social Democrats. Thus the Swedish reaction to the oil crisis was similar to that...

    • CHAPTER 9 Technological Enthusiasm at the Top in France
      (pp. 148-177)

      As in Sweden and the United States, a growing antinuclear movement in France combined with the oil crisis to put nuclear energy at the top of the political agenda. In spite of the enthusiasm of Electricité de France (EDF) and the PEON Commission, France had a modest nuclear program before 1973. The antinuclear movement was also limited. France’s reaction to the oil crisis was placid in the short run, but the long-term solution was to unleash EDF’s nuclear ambitions. The standoff between the technological enthusiasts and the cost-benefiters was resolved in early 1974 when the prime minister and president took...

    • CHAPTER 10 Elite Discretion in Three Countries
      (pp. 178-184)

      From 1973 to 1976, the United States, Sweden, and France still had more similarities than differences in their nuclear energy debates and policies. The antinuclear movement and the oil crisis brought these policies out from behind closed doors. The structure, tactics, and social base of the movement; the ways in which the nuclear establishment dismissed it; and the lack of direct effects on nuclear policy characterize all three. So do the economic damage of the oil crisis, the short-term rhetoric, and the long-term development of rational energy comparisons and planning. The debates about whether to build or conserve that the...

  9. Part Four: The Structures Tighten:: Policy Divergence and the Loss of Flexibility, 1976–1989
    • CHAPTER 11 High Costs and Decentralization of Control in the United States
      (pp. 187-217)

      American, Swedish, and French nuclear energy policies, which had begun to diverge in the two years after the oil crisis, grew further apart in the late 1970s. What is more, they became rigid and relatively irreversible, especially in France and the United States. International events like the Three Mile Island (March 1979) and Chernobyl (April 1986) accidents merely reinforced the distinct policy trajectories, with each country interpreting them to fit its own policies. Elections and changes of government in all three countries in 1981 and 1982 brought no changes in nuclear energy policies, even though the new governments often had...

    • CHAPTER 12 Political Paralysis and Antinuclear “Compromise” in Sweden
      (pp. 218-236)

      If the economic of nuclear energy became decisive in the United States in the late 1970s, Swedish nuclear development continued to be dominated by partisan conflict. For several years nuclear energy was the most prominent symbol of differences between political parties, so its other meanings faded. The reason was the 1976 election of Thorbjörn Fälldin as prime minister, the only antinuclear moralist put at the head of a country during the period of public debate over nuclear energy. Although reluctant to compromise on the nuclear question, he was overwhelmed by the political system and the technical bureaucracy and forced to...

    • CHAPTER 13 Political Repression and Low Costs in France
      (pp. 237-255)

      After some hesitations, internal debates, and toleration of the antinuclear movement in the three years after the oil crisis, the French state moved decisively in 1976 and 1977 to silence criticism and eliminate alternatives to the nuclear program. Critics outside the state could do little except organize for elections, and they helped the Socialists come to power in 1981. When the Socialists retained most of the nuclear plans of their predecessors, the antinuclear movement finally disappeared. The Socialists did more to support internal critics of nuclear policy, finally taking conservation more seriously and curtailing the nuclear program as it became...

    • CHAPTER 14 Structures and Flexibility in Three Countries
      (pp. 256-264)

      The three distinct paths of nuclear policy adopted by the United States, Sweden, and France in the two years after the oil crisis were confirmed and strengthened in the late 1970s, and by the 1980s each path had taken on an aura of inevitability. Flexible responses to the oil crisis grew into inflexible structures that few politicians could question or change. No one could revive nuclear construction in the United States, while no one could question it in France. The regulation and economics of nuclear energy were transformed in both countries to reinforce each trajectory. Swedish policy was more flexible,...

  10. Part Five: Conclusions
    • CHAPTER 15 What Have We Learned?
      (pp. 267-277)

      After recapping the reasons that nuclear policies in the United States, Sweden, and France diverged, I want to draw two types of conclusions from this study. The first concerns how political systems work and how we should study them. The second group concerns practical political arrangements for promoting sound technological choices. How generalizable are these conclusions? The theoretical conclusions deal with how three political systems typically make policies, rather than nuclear policy specifically, and most of them are applicable to political systems in general. Many point to the limits of purely structural theories of the state and provide counterexamples to...

  11. List of Informants
    (pp. 278-282)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 283-310)
  13. Index
    (pp. 311-327)