With calls for the renewal of the nuclear energy industry in the United States and elsewhere, the international political economy of this troubled industry assumes increased importance. Though technical difficulties have plagued the industry for many decades, it is the equally problematic task of establishing public trust on which the article focuses. Arguably, with the advent of widespread concern over global warming, nuclear power offers a low-emission alternative. Yet safety, security, and political concerns color this highly centralized energy source, as well as its export-based political economy. The article traces the history of global nuclear commerce, as well as recent attempts to revive the industry. I suggest that efforts to re-legitimize the state-industry-power complex by way of nuclear commerce and associated discourse may have some success, but this will be tempered by sustained opposition to the centralizing tendencies of nuclear power and continued safety concerns.
Special thanks to Matthew Paterson and three anonymous reviewers. I would also like to thank Dwayne Pretli, MA, for research assistance; and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada for funding.