From Inside Technology
The Radiance of France
Nuclear Power and National Identity after World War II
The Radiance of France asks how it happened that technological prowess and national glory (or "radiance," which also means "radiation" in French) became synonymous in France as nowhere else.
In the aftermath of World War II, as France sought a distinctive role for itself in the modern, postcolonial world, the nation and its leaders enthusiastically embraced large technological projects in general and nuclear power in particular. The Radiance of France asks how it happened that technological prowess and national glory (or "radiance," which also means "radiation" in French) became synonymous in France as nowhere else.To answer this question, Gabrielle Hecht has forged an innovative combination of technology studies and cultural and political history. Focusing on the early history of French nuclear power, Hecht explores the design and development of the reactors, the culture and organization of work at reactor sites, and the ways in which local communities responded to nuclear power and state-directed technological development. She also describes the eventual abandonment of the French (gas-graphite) system in favor of the American (light-water) system and shows how the American system was then "made French." A central argument of her book is that engineers and workers shaped artifacts and practices in a deliberate effort to implement specific political and cultural programs. Combining research in a wealth of previously untapped archival sources with extensive oral interviews, Hecht effectively demonstrates the relationship between history and memory in technological France.