Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. History Dept.


Arnout van der Meer

Second Advisor

Bill Sullivan


This paper examines the history of mining and uranium and its importance in South Africa’s nuclear history. It begins with the development of minable mineral deposits in South Africa through geologic processes and ends with the South African signing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The paper explores the intermittent period between creating the Atomic Energy Board and developing South Africa’s energy program through assistance from the United States and France. As the apartheid government brought sanctions to South Africa, the government began considering nuclear weapons through a different lens to project power. South Africa slid towards isolation under sanctions from the West. The study draws on the personal archive of E.S Reddy, government memos from the United States and South Africa, anti-apartheid publications, and more to understand the implications of South Africa’s “geologic luck” and how the early mining history in South Africa has longer-term consequences for the development of a South African nuclear program.


Uranium, Apartheid, Cold War, Geology, Nuclear Weapons, Neocolonialism