Michiel Bron

The engagement of oil firms in the development of nuclear energy during the long age of scarcity, 1951-1985

History department, Maastricht University, m.bron@maastrichtuniversity.nl

Supervisors: Prof. Cyrus Mody, dr. Vincent Lagendijk


I obtained a master in history and philosophy of science at Utrecht University and did an internship at the National Museum Boerhaave in Leiden. My thesis dealt with the history of nuclear fusion research in the Netherlands. Before I obtained a bachelor in History and a bachelor in Philosophy at the Utrecht University.

Summary PhD project

This research involves the involvement of oil companies in the development of various business activities in the nuclear energy sector during a period in which the future scarcity of oil regularly came up for discussion. This research focuses on the question to what extent the various oil companies can be held responsible for the ultimate failure of the nuclear energy project. Timothy Mitchell describes in his famous book Carbon Democracy how oil companies in the 1970s tried to force nuclear energy out of the market, among other things by cartel formation in the uranium market. Although several oil companies in this period were indeed condemned for these practices, it remains to be seen to what extent oil companies really wanted to sabotage nuclear power. At the same time, large investments were made by various oil companies in experimental, new, nuclear energy projects. By means of various case studies, this research therefore tries to clarify how these different activities related to each other and whether there was an all-encompassing strategy at the joint oil companies.