Brown Bag Lecture: “Between Flexibility and Control: Managing the Soviet Nuclear Industry”

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Date: March 20, 2012
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free

A talk by Sonja Schmid

This talk highlights the inherent tensions between standardization and improvisation that shaped the Soviet civilian nuclear program from its outset and informed reactor-design choices, personnel training, and the organization of the entire sector. Based on primary sources from Russian archives and interviews with nuclear-industry veterans, I show how the technologies and practices that both formed and grew out of the development of the nuclear industry shaped the ways in which the Soviet state reacted to the Chernobyl catastrophe. With the ongoing nuclear disaster at Fukushima in mind, I will raise a few questions that relate these fundamental tensions to nuclear emergency response in general and in the future.

Sonja Schmid is an assistant professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Virginia Tech. She teaches history and social studies of technology, science and technology policy, as well as qualitative studies of risk. Her publications include articles in Social Studies of Science, Osiris, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; her book manuscript is under contract with MIT Press.

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly, informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.

For more information, please call 215.873.8289, or e-mail

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