Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade by Gabrielle Hecht - review by Geordie Kidston

Geordie Kidston

Splitting Atoms

Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade


MIT Press 451pp £20.95

Despite the disasters at Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and latterly Fukushima, we seem to be witnessing a global nuclear revival. The Chinese recently increased estimated new-build reactor capacity targets by a third, implying a concerted worldwide renaissance in uranium demand. As Gabrielle Hecht reveals in her exhaustive Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade, the existence of the new generation of nuclear power plants that are now proliferating, and older ones that are having their operational lives extended, can be traced to the much longer history of the exploitation of African uranium. 

Hecht painstakingly covers the demand patterns and increasing politicisation of the uranium trade after the Second World War, showing how nations vied in post-colonial markets to secure profits and guarantee fuel supplies – and how they deflected responsibility when things went wrong. Political and commercial intricacies are observed with admirable

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