Produced and distributed at subsidized prices by national nuclear establishments, radioisotopes provided the earliest non-military application of nuclear energy. Starting in the late 1940s, thanks to their multiple uses in medicine and research, they were ubiquitous in conceptions for peaceful nuclear programs. In the 1950s, Atoms for Peace initiatives encouraged nuclear establishments to develop industrial applications of radioisotopes, stressing the economic benefits of their use. However, the spread of radioisotopes in industry turned out to be more problematic than envisaged, as it had to confront an increasing awareness of radiation risks. In this sense, the main effect of Atoms for Peace seems to have been the establishment of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as the major actor in dealing with isotopes and their commercial distribution.

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