Too Cheap to Meter, Too Tempting to Ignore: Civilian Nuclear Power in American History

Professor and author Martin V. Melosi

Professor and author Martin V. Melosi will deliver a public lecture on the history of nuclear energy in the United States on Wednesday, April 11 at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

Melosi’s lecture, entitled Too Cheap to Meter, Too Tempting to Ignore: Civilian Nuclear Power in American History, will delve into the intriguing and expansive history of nuclear-generated power that emerged in the 1950s and continued to develop over the next six, tumultuous, energy-driven decades.

Although nuclear-generated electricity did not become viable until the 1960’s, its origins can be traced back to the period immediately following World War II, when the United States and its allies were searching for peaceful uses of atomic energy.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech, delivered to the United Nations in 1953, launched a U.S. led program to promote nuclear power.

According to Melosi, civilian nuclear power emerged as one of the most promising aspects of “Atoms for Peace” as it gained momentum in the 1960’s.

However, its upward trajectory did not last long. The decades to follow would be a rollercoaster ride for the emerging technology as forces against it such as economic woes, environmental challenges, and an energy crisis, continually derailed its momentum.

Serious incidents such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima also served to restrain and threaten the development of the emerging energy source. Melosi’s lecture will trace this dramatic, six decade history of nuclear energy, while shedding contemporary perspective on its place and relevance in the 21st century world.

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Melosi, a Professor of Environmental History at the University of Houston in Texas, will be visiting the Morris campus from April 10 – 13 as Morris’ 2012 Environmental Studies Scholar in Residence.

“[Melosi] is one of the most prominent scholars of environmental history in the U.S. right now,” said Ed Brands, assistant professor of environmental studies at Morris. “Nuclear energy has been discussed nationally as a potential carbon-free source of energy. It’s important to understand its history and the implications of its use.”

“We have experiments with alternative energy forms going on here on campus, and this helps round out our discussions about our energy future,” said Brands.

Melosi’s lecture will be held at 7 p.m. on April 11 in room 109 of Imholte Hall on the Morris campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Through personal and academic discovery, the University of Minnesota, Morris provides opportunities for students to grow intellectually, engage in community, experience environmental stewardship and celebrate diversity. A renewable and sustainable educational experience, Morris prepares graduates for careers, for advanced degrees, for lifelong learning, for work world flexibility in the future, and for global citizenship. Learn more about Morris at or call 888-866-3382.

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