ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

(New) Big Science in Belgium: Exploring the Transformation of SCK•CEN, 1988ꟷ1993

European Union
Institutions
Public Policy
USA
Knowledge
International
Decision Making
National
Hein Brookhuis
University of Leuven
Hein Brookhuis
University of Leuven
Robert van Leeuwen
University of Leuven

Abstract

The major historical picture for the postwar nuclear landscape in Europe is the thesis of American ‘co-produced hegemony’. According to this picture, the US government used its access to nuclear knowledge in order to both help postwar Europe rebuild its scientific infrastructure as well as securing US hegemony. In this process, many European countries established nuclear research centers following the US Big Science model. In Belgium, the creation of the Nuclear Research Center SCK•CEN (established in 1952) fits into this picture. As a Big Science research facility, it survived the squeeze of the 1980's, by adapting its institutional structure and developing new initiatives. This transformation of a Big Science institute raises several questions. Research has shown that despite a change of purpose and political context, most of the US National Laboratories have managed to remain active and relevant. Within the context of Europe, recent studies have focused on new initiatives i.e. the ESS and MAX IV (Lund, Sweden), and on the transformation of DESY (Hamburg, Germany). In our paper, we will focus on the institutional transformation process of the SCK•CEN that took place between 1988 and 1993, and how it relates to international historiography. Several historical developments surfaced around the same time. Governmental austerity policy, the increasing complexity of managing Big Science projects, a highly mediatized case of mismanagement, and the changing public perception of nuclear risk all contributed to the establishment of a major 'clean-up' of the Research Center and to the formulation of a new mission. What were the future plans for the research center, and how were these decisions made? Due to the explicit and well documented manner in which this transformation was carried out, we hope to provide a clearer view of some of the challenges that Big Science institutes faced towards the end of the 20th century.