In May 1939 Frédéric Joliot, advised by his friends in the Ministry of War and by André Laugier, the director of the recently established CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France’s National Center for Scientific Research), entered into a very subtle legal agreement with a Belgian company, the Union Minière du HautKatanga. Thanks to the discovery of radium by Pierre and Marie Curie and the discovery of uranium deposits in the Congo, this company had become the most important supplier to all the laboratories in the world that were feeling their way toward the production of the first artificial nuclear chain reaction. Joliot, like his mother-in-law Marie Curie before him, had found a way of getting the company involved. In fact, the Union Minière used its radioactive ores only as a source of radium, which it sold to doctors; immense heaps of uranium oxide were left lying about at its waste sites. Joliet planned to build an atomic reactor, for which he would need a huge quantity of uranium; this made what had been a mere waste product of the production of radium into something valuable. The company promised Joliot five tons of uranium oxide, technical assistance, and a million francs. In return, all the French scientists’ discoveries would be patented by a syndicate which would distribute the profits fifty-fifty between the Union Minière and the CNRS. (Latour 1999:81)
LATOUR, Bruno. 1999. Pandora’s Hope: essays on the reality of science studies. London: Harvard University Press.