Robynne Mellor, a PhD candidate at Georgetown University, has spent several months doing dissertation research in the Niels Bohr Library & Archives, and she presented a talk on her findings here and elsewhere on December 18. Her research examines the history of uranium mining and milling in North America and the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1985, using and building upon approaches from environmental history, diplomatic history, and international comparative history. To do this, she will use four case studies from Canada, the United States, and the Soviet Union. These case studies include Elliot Lake, Ontario; Grants Mineral Belt, New Mexico; the Pyatigorsk region, Stavropol Territory; and Krasnokamensk, Zabaikal Territory. The examination of these case studies will illuminate the complex connections among science, technology, government, economic policy, culture, and the environment. The main hypothesis of her dissertation is that indirect and direct connections intricately interwove the history of uranium procurement in North America and the Soviet Union. Ideological opposition and the arms race directly linked the programs, and the similar radioactive legacy that all government programs created indirectly linked the programs.
Her research connects nuclear technology to its origins in nature in order to bring to light the history of oft-ignored historical actors, such as uranium miners and populations who lived around the mines. It also illuminates how nuclear technology development programs affected the environment. Her dissertation will be based on archival research in Canada, the United States, and Russia, providing a new analysis of Cold War history through the examination of the war’s direct effects on people and landscapes connected with uranium mining.
Robynne is spending this year conducting archival research in various cities in the United States, Canada, and Russia