Nuclear Technologies in History, Politics, and Society SPS5063

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This PGT course immerses students in the historical, sociological, and political dimensions of nuclear technologies with an eye on policies concerning uranium mining, electricity generation, weapons development, and waste management. It draws the students towards the entire nuclear fuel cycle to ensure a holistic understanding of the "technopolitics of nuclear things." Students will be taught to recognize the significance of nuclear technologies from the ground-up by identifying the role of labour, land, and debt in addition to that of geopolitics and climate change. The course will be constructed through a series of case studies covering specific dimensions such as mining, weapons testing, energy, and waste, spread geographically from Africa to Oceania to North and South America to Asia, and the Middle East. Students will understand the present through the past, applying history as a tool, to understand and craft policy. Students will write a policy memo in two parts and two policy op-eds applying their knowledge of the past to the present, and where possible, the future.


Two-hour meeting (one hour lecture; one hour seminar) once per week for ten weeks

Requirements of Entry

Mandatory Entry Requirements

Entry to MSc in Global Security requires a 2.1 Honours degree or equivalent

Entry to IM Global Markets Local Creativities requires a 2.1 Honours degree or equivalent

Entry to IM Security, Intelligence, and Strategic Studies requires a 2.1 Honours degree or equivalent

Entry to MSc International Relations requires a 2.1 Honours degree or equivalent

Entry to MSc in Sociology requires a 2.1 Honours degree or equivalent

Entry to Entry to MSc in Global Economy requires 2.1 Honours degree or equivalent


50% - One policy memo divided into two parts (Formative + 50%)

■ Formative draft policy memo of 1,200 words +/- 10%

■ 50%: final policy memo of 2,500 words +/- 10%

50% - One policy op-ed of 1,500 words each +/- 10%

Course Aims

1. To gain familiarity with historical, sociological, and political aspects of nuclear technologies

2. To understand the entire nuclear fuel cycle [mining, energy, weapons, waste] to interpret their significance for global security, economy, and politics.

3. To encourage critical skills of historical analysis with an eye on contemporary policies through writing policy memos.

4. To develop skills of written communication and lucidly making evidence-driven arguments through writing policy op-eds.

To apply the concepts and ideas about nuclear weapons, energy, and mining in wider academic, intellectual, and social realms.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

1. Recognize elements of the nuclear fuel cycle from mining, milling, electricity generation, and weapons development to waste storage and management.

2. Plan, design, and write policy op-eds and policy memos adopting a problem-solving analytical approach;

3. Critically understand historical, sociological, and political significance of "nuclear things"

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.