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Deadline: 1 October 2019

Special Issue Call for Papers

The Atomic Business: Structures and Strategies

From 1955 to 1980 thirty countries began building and operating commercial nuclear reactors. One hundred were built within the United States by five North American Multinationals. Yet the global sales of nuclear reactors constituted a tight market and a great business opportunity for industrial economies such as the UK, West Germany and France. But the construction and operation of nuclear power plants was a complex and hazardous technological challenge, within the reach of only a few countries. Prior to the sale of a nuclear power plant, one had to evaluate the importing country’s capacity for receiving this almost unknown technology (technological absorption capacity) in terms of the country’s macroeconomic expectations (economic and financial capacity), the electricity production and consumption system (electrical grid), and the level of industrial development (Drogan, 2016).

And yet, in the narratives of the great milestones of atomic history, the economic aspects seem marginal. There are good accounts of nuclear programs in capitalist democracies [the United States (Balogh, 1991), West Germany (Radkau and Lothar, 2013), France (Hecht, 1998), and Britain (Hall, 1986)] and in the communist world [the U.S.S.R., East Germany (Müller, 2001, Schmid, 2015)], and under long dictatorships such as Argentina, Brazil or Spain [Maella et al. (2015), Rubio-Varas et al (2017)].  Yet, it is possible to say that a history that includes the companies, the strategies and structures chosen to develop this form of energy with the tools of the economic historians has scarcely begun.

This absence of business history is surprising because from the beginning of the nuclear age there was a concern about the financing of atomic projects, national and international institutions considered the economic aspects as strategic, business consortia emerged and international transfer of knowhow became crucial (OEEC, 1959; Maxwell et al, 1959; Federal Power Commission, 1971). Neither is there a business history that explains the nuclear ecosystem (Scurlock, 2007), the industrial infrastructures, the markets, the attitudes of the entrepreneurs and the institutional influence. By their part, the business histories of the electricity utilities and regulation tend to treat in only passing (if at all) the nuclear endeavours (Chick, 2007; Hausman et al, 2007; Hausman and Neufeld, 2011; Madureira, 2017), with only few exceptions (Pope, 2011). All in all, the business history of nuclear applications remains on its infancy despite the sheer amount of research devoted to the history of nuclear programs across the globe.

With this Special Issue we want to connect to the international business and strategy literature. A business history approach has great potential to explain the economic and business history of nuclear energy. International business scholars have pointed to the potentially effects of multinationals on host countries transferring technological knowledge and organizational capabilities (Smith, 1998; Jones & Khanna, 2006; Buckley, 2009). As a theoretical concept in business history ‘learning by doing’ is defined as one of the processes by which firms, markets, and countries address uncertainty and imperfect and asymmetric information (Lamoreaux et al, 1999). Most recently research enriches the debate by focusing on staffing strategies and knowledge transfer from advanced to developing economies including other variables (stock of human capital, corporate decisions, the ability of local partners to internalize the new knowledge) (Meyer at al., 2011; Verbeke & Kano, 2015; Álvaro, 2014; De la Torre & Rubio-Varas, 2018; Álvaro & Puig, 2018).

By supplying an international historical perspective on the development of civil nuclear uses from its origins in to the present with particular emphasis on the business strategies and structures adopted this Special Issue aims at filling these gaps in the literature.

Contributions to the Special Issue should engage with any of the following broad topics:

  • The creation of the industrial and financial frameworks required for the development of civil nuclear programs.
  • The business history of the companies involved with nuclear programs or the development of individual nuclear projects.
  • Other peaceful uses of the atom that had an industrial application (specially on agriculture and food industry).
  • Business histories dealing with the nuclear impact in the armament industry.

Over the past four years, the editors have coordinated of several successful sessions in international venues. In particular, the two atomic business sessions at the World Economic History Congresses in Kyoto 2015 and Boston 2018, plus a session at the First World Congress of Business History / 20th Congress of the European Business History Association in Bergen (Norway) 2016. Reviewing those sessions can provide and idea of the geographical scope and the breath of topics of interest for this Special Issue.

Submission Guidelines

All articles should be submitted via ScholarOne, clearly indicating that they are for the Special Issue on The atomic business: structures and strategies.

Submissions for this Special Issue will be open until 1st October 2019. All submitted manuscripts will then follow the usual procedure of anonymous reviewing of Business History. Authors should ensure that their manuscripts fully comply with the formatting regulations of Business History

Guest Editors: 

  • Prof. Rubio-Varas is Associate Professor of Economic History at the Economics Department of Universidad Publica de Navarra (UPNA) and researcher at the Institute for Advanced Research of Business and Economics (INARBE). She has an extended and prolific career focused on the long-term relationships between natural resources, energy and, economic growth developed after obtaining her PhD from the London School of Economics and a year at UC Berkeley (as Fulbright funded scholar).  She has taken part in research consortiums funded by the EU (Horizon2020/Euratom and 6th Framework Program) and the European Science Foundation, among others. Her more recent publications include articles in the Journal of Contemporary History, Business History Review, Ecological Economics, Energy Journal, Energy Policy, Economic History Review and European Review of Economic History. She is also the co-editor of the book Economic History of Nuclear Energy in Spain’ (Palgrave, 2017).

  • Prof. De la Torre is Professor of Economic History at the Department of economics at Public University of Navarre, Spain. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. He has been Visiting Scholar at La Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris and at the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies of New York University. He has taken part in a research team for the study of the economic and financial history of nuclear energy in Spain, and in the European consortium that investigates the “History of Nuclear Energy and Society” (HONESt), an EU Horizon 2020/Euratom funded Project. His most recent journal articles include pieces in the Journal of Contemporary History, Business History Review and Revista de Historia Industrial. He is also the co-editor of the book Economic History of Nuclear Energy in Spain’ (Palgrave, 2017).

  • Prof. Connors is Assistant Professor at Durham University Business School and is a Fellow of the Durham Energy Institute. He obtained his PhD in Economic History at the University of Glasgow and has worked in research and lecturing positions at the University of Cambridge, Coventry University and the University of Buckingham. His current research involves the development of nuclear power after 1945 and research into the relationship between commodities, energy consumption and monetary economics, with a co-authored book entitled ‘A History of Money’ published in 2016.

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Álvaro, A. The Globalization of Knowldge-Based Services: Engineering Consulting in Spain, 1953-1975, Business History Review, 88 (Winter 2014): 681-707.

Balogh, B. Chain Reaction: Expert Debate and Public Participation in American Commercial Nuclear Power, 1945–1975 (New York, 1991);

Buckley, P.J.  Business History and International Business, Business History, 51, 3 (2009): 307-333.

Chick, M. (2007) Electricity and Energy Policy in Britain, France and the United States since 1945 (Edward Elgar: London)

De la Torre, J. and Rubio-Varas, M.  Learning by Doing: The First Spanish Nuclear Plant, Business History Review, 92 (2018, 1), pp. 29-55.

Drogan, D. “The Nuclear Imperative: Atoms for Peace and the Development of U.S. Policy on Exporting Nuclear Power, 1953-1955”, Diplomatic History 40, no. 5, (2016): 948-974.

Federal Power Commission, The 1970 National Power Survey (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1971)

Hall, T. Nuclear Politics: The History of Nuclear Power in Britain (London, 1986);

Hausman W., Wilkins, M and Hertner, P. (2008) Global Electrification: Multinational Enterprise and International Finance in the History of Light and power, 1878-2007  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) 

Hausman, W. and  Neufeld, J.L. (2011) How politics, economics, and institutions shaped electric utility regulation in the United States: 1879–2009, Business History, 53:5, 723-746, DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2011.599589

Hecht, G. The Radiance of France: Nuclear Power and National Identity after World War II (Cambridge, Mass., 1998);

Jones, G.  and Khanna,T. Bringing History (Back) into International Business, Journal of International Business Studies, 37, 4, (2006): 453-468.

Lamoreaux, N., Raff, D.M.G and Temin, P. (eds) Learning by Doing in markets, firms and countries. University of Chicago Press, (1999), Chicago.

Mallea, Rodrigo; Spektor, Matias and Wheeler, Nicholas J. (Eds), (2015) The Origins of Nuclear Cooperation: a Critical Oral History of Argentina and Brazil, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Washington)

Madureira, N.L. (2017) The confident forecaster. Lessons from the upscaling of the electricity industry in England and Wales, Business History, 59:3, 408-430, DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2016.1201074

Maxwell, I.R.,  P.W. Mummery, and P. Sporn, Progress in Nuclear Energy, The Economics of Nuclear Power (New York: Pergamon Press, 1959);

Müller, W.D. Geschichte der Kernenergie in der DDR: Kernforschung und Kerntechnik im Schatten des Sozialismus (Stuttgart, 2001)

Meyer, K Ram Mudambi, and Rajneesh Narula, “Multinational Enterprises and Local Contexts: The Opportunities and Challenges of Multiple Embeddedness,” Journal of Management Studies 48, no. 2 (2011): 235–52.

OEEC, “European Nuclear Energy Agency, The Industrial Challenge of Nuclear Energy. Stresa Conference, Vol. III Survey of European Programmes. Economics of Nuclear Power and Financing Programmes” (New York: OEEC, 1959);

Pope, D. (2011), Nuclear Implosions: the rise and fall of the Washington Public Power Supply System (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge MA)

Puig, N. and Alvaro,  A., The Long-Term Effects of Foreign Investment on Local Human Capital: Four American Companies in Spain, 1920s–1970s, Business History Review, 92 (Autumn 2018), pp. 425-452.

Radkau J. and Lothar Hahn, Aufstieg Und Fall der Deutschen Atomwirtschaft (Berlin, 2013);

Smith, J. “Patents, Public Policy and Petrochemical Processes in the Post-World War II Era, Business and Economic History, 27, 2 (1998): 413-419.

Rubio-Varas, M.d.M. and De la Torre, J. (2017) , The Economic History of Nuclear Energy in Spain: Governance, Business and Finance (Palgrave: London).

Schmid,S.D.  Producing Power: The Pre-Chernobyls History of the Soviet Nuclear Industry (Cambridge, Mass., 2015).

Scurlock, J. “A Concise History of the Nuclear Industry Worldwide,” in Nuclear or Not?: Does Nuclear Power Have a Place in a Sustainable Energy Future?, ed. David Elliott (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 24–33.

Verbeke A. and Liena Kano, “The New Internalization Theory and Multinational Enterprises from Emerging Economies: A Business History Perspective,” Business History Review 89, no. 3 (2015): 415–45.

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