Austin R. Cooper is a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow in the MIT Security Studies Program. His research examines the place of radiation exposure in assessments of nuclear risk and efforts to mitigate it. His work is forthcoming in Cold War History and has appeared in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and Inkstick Media.
His book project, Saharan Fallout: French Explosions in Algeria and the Politics of Nuclear Risk during African Decolonization (1960–66), presents French nuclear weapons development in the Algerian Sahara as an important case study. Drawing on recently declassified documents from France, its Atlantic allies, and international organizations, the book shows how radioactive fallout from the desert blasts catalyzed new challenges to the Cold War arms race. Algerian leaders and neighboring African officials empowered by decolonization struggles seized fallout risks to stake their claims in nuclear weapons governance. Victim compensation and environmental remediation animate policy debates today.
Austin was a visiting researcher, supported by the Fulbright-Hays Program, in the Nuclear Knowledges Program at SciencesPo Paris, and a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. His work has received support from the Wilson Center’s Nuclear Proliferation International History Project, the LBJ Foundation, and the Eisenhower Foundation. He holds a PhD in History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania.