Italy in 1952: Far behind

In December 1952, the recently established trade journal Nucleonics surveyed the world’s nuclear power prospects as best it could. I guess it figured its American readers desired to know how quickly other countries were progressing towards nuclear-generated electricity, and I’m sure the magazine hit a sweet spot that month.

But 1952 was before the Americans, followed by the British, opened up their textbooks and released the clutches of “top secret” secrecy. So in reading this most interesting survey, I’ve needed to remember that most countries knew little and had almost no chance to get any useful nuclear materials.

Nuclear power history

Italy is a case in point. Before the war, Italy contained a center of excellence in atomic science, so after World War II, the nation certainly had some knowledge. But the knowledge of its scientists was theoretical. Because the country was going through political turmoil, the United States offered it no assistance in nuclear matters, at least not in 1952. So what had happened in the seven years after the war? Almost nothing. A government panel was given paltry funding. A research laboratory founded by the private sector was also starved of funds. Everyone bickered with everyone else. As Nucleonics says:

After a decade of slow, interrupted, but sure progress, Italy in 1952 seems to possess the fundamental scientific and technical prerequisites for the construction on an experimental nuclear reactor. Barring the withdrawal of anticipated grants, it is possible that a low-power reactor can be started and completed within four years… For the present, however, these are only wishes, as the general attitude of the country in relation to the technical importance of atomic energy is one of indifference. In the opinion of the man in the street (and not of him only), atomic energy is something with which others are concerned: the Americans, the English, etc. Such matters are never discussed, for instance, in Parliament.


Nucleonics. 1952. “Italy.”  Nucleonics, Vol. 10, Dec., pp. 18-19.