The early years of nuclear power were suffused with righteous purpose, as befits a new energy source. Yet I’ve been surprised by how little overt championing of nuclear electricity occurred. I mean, it did occur, and regularly, but the degree of fervor feels less than one sees in 2024 among nuclear power proponents. Perhaps the difference is one of context. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, the intrinsic morality of nuclear power (contrasted with the hideous overhang of nuclear weapons) was taken for granted, something that is not the case these days.

I was interested to read historian Dick van Lente’s press example from the Netherlands:

The other article was a report about the exhibition Het Atoom, organized by the city of Amsterdam and the local Chamber of Commerce at Schipol airport in the summer of 1957. … Echoing president Lilienthal of the American Atomic Energy Commission ten years earlier, the author said that nuclear power was as frightening as fire and electricity had appeared when they were just invented. Still we would not want to miss them now, and so it would go with nuclear power. “The atom is no longer the awful bomb … it is a power for peace, useful in your daily life and everyone else’s. The atom is the world’s fear, while it should be its pride.”

van Lente, Dick, ed. 2012. The Nuclear Age in Popular Media: A Transnational History, 1945-1965. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp. 161-162.
Dick van Lente cover