Seminar series “Energy: Past & Present”. Online. Starting 28 Sept 18 h. (CET)

José Ramón Bertomeu-Sánchez's picture

Dear friends and colleagues, 


We would like to share the four sessions of the seminar series “Energy: Past & Present” organized by the Catalan Society for the History of Science (SCHCT) and the Interuniversity Institute López Piñero (IILP) of the Universitat de València (Spain). The four seminars will be in English, and all the online sessions are programmed the last Wednesday of the next four months at 18:00 (local time).

-¿Is nuclear energy green and equitable? Radioactive waste policies and controversies in historical perspective by Tatiana Kasperski (September 28). 

- Desiring Energy: Toxic Fantasies of Fuel, Freedom, and Work by Cara Dagget (October 26). 

Power from wastes as a solution to the oil and garbage crises. Techno-politics of energy in a urban context (Montréal, 1980′-1990′), by  Annaël Marrec (November 30).

The political economy of energy extraction: uncontested past, controversial present by Roberto Cantoni (December 21). 


All the best (and apologies for cross-posting)


Ignacio Suay-Matallana (IILP-UV) & José Ramón Bertomeu (IILP-UV)

Col·loquis SCHCT-IILP (2022-2023)  


“Energy: Past & Present”

“Is nuclear energy green and equitable? 

Radioactive waste policies and controversies in historical perspective”


Tatiana Kasperski

(Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona)

Wednesday 28 Sept 2022, 18h. (CET)


Conference Room: IILP-UV, Plaça Cisneros, 4, València) 

Online: (link)

In this time of climate emergency, nuclear energy has been increasingly touted as a clean and green technology able to produce ever more needed amounts of electricity. At the same, toxic residues from that nuclear industry that have accumulated since the dawn of the nuclear age remain a serious, controversial and largely unsolved problem.

To understand this contradiction, I will give an overview of the history, politics and technical controversies surrounding radioactive waste (RW), its production, disposition, and the challenges in managing it safely based on the examples from major nuclear powers.

First, I will analyze the shift in the treatment of RW from a technical one that could be addressed at some future point to public controversies that arose over it; efforts to determine how and where to site it in the 1970s and 1980s; to the end of the Cold War in the 1990s that led to openness about its extent; and ongoing efforts to manage RW. I will then explore the ways in which technical definitions and classifications of waste – and the national and international institutions that helped to develop them – have evolved, enabling the producers of RW to keep the largest quantities and most dangerous waste away from public discussions about environmental and health risks of the nuclear technology. For example, nuclear institutions in some countries do not considered spent nuclear fuel, or leftovers from uranium mining and reprocessing, as RW. They have framed nuclear accidents as problems of reactor safety and not a large source of RW, and suggested forcefully that peaceful and civilian waste can be and must be treated separately. This has left significant part of the world’s RW without proper disposal and storage. In the last part of my talk I will focus on one of the examples of such inadequately managed waste, the so-called “legacy waste” produced in the world’s weapons establishment, and that either remains in temporary storage, or was simply dumped without adequate safety and environmental measures. 



The series "Energy: Past & Present" is jointly organised by the Catalan Society for the History of Science and Technology (SCHCT) and the López Piñero Interuniversity Institute. It is coordinated by José Ramón Bertomeu Sánchez ( and Ignacio Suay Matallana ( The seminars will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday during the Fall 2022 in either online or hybrid format. The Zoom link  will be communicated each week at All seminars are free and people interested in the topics are welcome to contact the organisers for further information or to suggest related activities or readings.

Futher details:

Seminar series : “Energy: Past & Present” (SCHCT-IILP)

"Desiring Energy: Toxic Fantasies of Fuel, Freedom, and Work."
Cara Dagget (Assistant Professor of Political Science, Virginia Tech.)


Wednesday 26 Oc 2022, 18 h.


Energy, work, and power are intertwined, both in the scientific definition of energy (the ability to do work), and in the political manifestation of human-fuel practices. The energy-work-power connection continues to haunt attempts to divest from fossil fuels. Fossil fuel advocates rely upon the threat of job loss and energy dependency to mobilize affection for oil, coal or gas, but many renewable energy advocates also adopt this framework in calls for a just energy transition. Doing so helps keep modern energy cultures yoked to extractivism. In this talk, I will trace the historical emergence of the relationship between energy and work, focusing upon how work came to be understood and valued as a site of energy transformation. The energy-work ethos informed the emergent fossil fuel culture, wherein technical categories of work and waste intersect with racialized, and gendered, judgments of productivity and sloth. Thinking about energy historically suggests that shifting our fuel cultures will require a corresponding shift in (post)-industrial cultures of work and Western understandings of freedom.

Cara Daggett is author of "The Birth of Energy: Fossil Fuels, Thermodynamics, and the Politics of Work". Duke University Press, 2019.

30 NOVEMBER 18 h. (CET) .

"Power from wastes as a solution to the oil and garbage crises. Techno-politics of energy in an urban context (Montréal, 1980s-1990s)"
Anaël Marrec. Postdoctoral researcher, Centre d’histoire sociale des mondes contemporains (Université Paris 1), Labex DynamiTe

IILP-UV, Plaça Cisneros, 4, València


30/11/2022. 18 h. (UTC +1)

The Gazmont landfill gas power plant in Montreal is a model of urban renewable energy production facilities. This infrastructure commissioned in 1996 recovers the biogas generated by the putrescible waste stored in one of the biggest urban landfills of North America. It turns into energy a product that is otherwise toxic and a source of greenhouse gases. A flagship element of the Saint-Michel Environmental Complex, it contributes to its positionning as an urban showcase for green technologies. However, despite the ecological rhetoric of its promoters, the Gazmont project, which began in 1986, was contested by associations and groups of citizens from the Saint-Michel neighbourhood and the city. These stakeholders pointed out the environmental risks and the lack of economic and social benefits for the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. This one had a long history of economic and social marginalization, from the industrial period of the Miron carrier to its gradual transformation into a huge landfill in the late 1960’s. Based on a survey conducted in early 2022 in Montréal, this communication will examine the history of Gazmont from its emergence, at the crossroads of the double ‘crisis’ of waste and energy and the deindustrialisation of an urban neighbourhood. It will show how the intersection of the history of technology and environmental history approaches makes it possible to study the territorial inscription of energy projects. More precisely, the techno-political approach will focus on the power relations between the project’s actors and the way they shape the energy infrastructures. The enviro-technical approach will focus on the materiality of the power plant site and its role in the future of the project. The case study will also address the environmental justice issues raised by urban infrastructure projects. Finally, it will show an example of fieldwork in contemporary history using a variety of sources: archives (municipal, national and company), oral investigations.


21 DECEMBER 2022, 18h. (CET)

SEMINARS “Energy: Past & Present”

“The political economy of energy extraction: uncontested past, controversial present”

Roberto Cantoni (ICTA-Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

Sessió online:

One of the main features of the 20th century, from the point of view of energy history, has been the enormous increase in the extraction of fossil energy sources: not only oil and gas in advanced capitalist countries, but also coal. This increase was made possible by several factors: firstly, the perpetuation and territorial extension of colonial exploitation logics that began well before the 20th century, in the name of the concepts of national energy security and economic growth; secondly, the development of new extraction, transport and distribution technologies, but above all exploration and processing technologies for oil and gas (think of the emergence of petrochemicals) thirdly, as shown by historians such as Timothy Mitchell, by the intrinsic qualities of oil and its transportation, which depleted the capacity of oil workers to unionise and block the transportation of this raw material; and lastly, the rise and political, economic and technological consolidation of national and international oil companies. It was a trajectory that, for more than half a century, had virtually no opponents. The situation began to change towards the end of the 1960s, with the development of the first environmental movements in the Americas and Europe. The demands of these movements gradually expanded to a global scale and a range of demands that were no longer merely localised, but systemic, global. Contemporary environmental movements no longer protest only against the construction of oil pipelines in the US Appalachians or in the Italian Puglie Mountains, dams in India’s Arunchal Pradesh or Chile’s Aysén, nuclear power plants in Germany, or the damage caused by massive oil extraction in the Niger Delta, but also for universal ideals, such as a stop to the climate crisis, the distribution of the benefits of extractive activities to the populations where these activities take place, or the demand for participation in decision-making in the energy sector: in short, demonstrating for climate and energy justice. While the first part of the seminar will be devoted to a historical overview of fossil energy extraction, the concept of energy justice, which emerged in the social sciences a decade ago, will be the focus of the second part of this seminar.