Thesis ID: CBB898540521

Irradiating Eden: The El Verde Experiment and the Atomic Energy Commission's nuclear prospecting in Latin America, 1954-1970 (2016)


With this thesis, I connect the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s large-scale ecological research in the El Verde rainforest in Puerto Rico during the 1960s to an experimental nuclear weapons program known as Project Plowshare. I show how the AEC masked a bureaucratic investigation at El Verde as a strictly academic pursuit. I argue that the AEC and its contracted scientists at the Puerto Rico Nuclear Center, led by the pioneering systems ecologist, Howard T. Odum, conducted perverse experiments using highly radioactive sources and isotopes to damage and monitor tropical biota, and predict how radioactive elements would percolate through waterways and into food webs in rainforests following nuclear detonations. I contend that El Verde was a continuation of research linked to the Plowshare program—a program contested in the United States—which American nuclear prospectors expanded into Puerto Rico and Latin America as they planned a nuclear-blasted transoceanic canal in Panama.

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Authors & Contributors
Bruno, Laura A.
McKinney, Gordon B.
Kirsch, Scott
Schmid, Sonja D.
Hamblin, Jacob Darwin
Masco, Joseph
Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences
North Carolina Historical Review
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Science, Technology and Human Values
Cultural Anthropology
Journal of Asian Studies
Rutgers University Press
Permanent Black
Palgrave Macmillan
Montana State University
Washington University in St. Louis
Oregon State University
Nuclear and radioactive waste
Pollution, radioactive
Nuclear testing
Nuclear weapons; atomic weapons
Atomic energy; nuclear power
Knapp, Harold
Time Periods
20th century, late
20th century
21st century
United States
Soviet Union
Nevada (U.S.)
North Carolina (U.S.)
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; Partial Test Ban Treaty; Limited Test Ban Treaty (1963)
United States. Atomic Energy Commission
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

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