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History of nuclear energy and society

The Science Museum was a partner in a major collaborative research project known as HoNESt—an acronym for History of Nuclear Energy and Society—that launched on 1 September 2015.


HoNESt set out to explain variety and change in European societies’ relations with nuclear energy on the basis of historical experience. It was the work of an interdisciplinary consortium of researchers in 23 partner institutions across Europe, many of whom are leading experts in their fields.

It aimed to provide the first comprehensive comparative and transnational analysis of nuclear developments and their relationships with society, offering novel explanations and arguments.

The scope of the research was unprecedentedly broad in both time and space, covering the experience of 20 countries and international organisations over the past 70 years.

HoNESt set out to develop an innovative interdisciplinary framework, combining insights from the history of technology, science and technology studies, environmental history, economic and business history, social movement research, and the study of societal engagement.

Moving beyond disciplinary boundaries, the project embraced the complexity of political, technological, economic and environmental dimensions, issues of safety, risk perception and communication, societal acceptance and engagement and media framing.


Dr Bud, Research Keeper at the Science Museum, was a member of the core management team of the project.

Funding also enabled the museum to recruit a full time research fellow for two years. The Science Museum led the project’s work on British nuclear history in an international context.


The project was led by the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.

The project was funded by Horizon 2020/Euratom, (EURATOM FISSION (NFRP-2014-2015) NFRP-12-2015) ‘Nuclear developments and interaction with society’.

Image credit: TOSCA nuclear fusion device; vacuum vessel and coils. Manufactured 1974. (TOkamak Shaping and Compression Assembly. © Science Museum Group Collection