Nuclear Research and Social Sciences in Europe

Last september, we were asked by an Euratom team to give a viewpoint on civil nuclear research in Europe after Fukushima. A survey was launched by Euratom to gather multiple standpoints from stakeholders and researchers, with a window open for social scientists. Even if, in our professional practices, we use to keep the question of acceptability at a distance, after a short deliberation, three of us have accepted to give the following answers, but not before reformulating the set of questions. Until we discover the true career of this contribution in their final report, we put it on this research blog … Enjoy this exercice of free sociological expression …

Decision Making, Risk Management and Euratom Research. Questions to social scientists

 A viewpoint from Francis Chateauraynaud (GSPR, EHESS, Paris, France), Soraya Boudia (Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, France) and Markku Lehtonen (Sussex Energy Group, Brighton, UK)

Euratom : Who are the end-users of EU energy research (especially in the nuclear domain) ? should this research be driven principally by public concerns or by industrial needs ? who are then the best representatives (e.g. environmental organisations or technological platforms, resp.)

The question of end-users should certainly be addressed differently. The design of « end-users » reflects a certain conception of the process of research and innovation activities that draws a line between production and use. However, many studies in science, technology and innovation studies show that there is often a co-production between different actors, for exemple industrial sector or NGO may be at the origin of the question addressed in nuclear research. In this perspective, the question concerning who should design the research agenda, public concerns or industrialists, or who are the best representatives has no easy answer. In fact, many actors co-produce the energy research and each of them can have a different agenda and should be represented. In France for exemple, due to the political history of the nuclear industry, four major categories of users can be distinguished: large research institutions, mainly CEA, but also IRSN which became independent in the late 1990s, and ANDRA which has a separate status and in an intermediary position between research and industry; nuclear firms like EDF and AREVA; public authorities (Ministry of Industry, Ministry of environment, etc) including the different agencies and institutes around, and Parliament (especially OPECST : Parlementiary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Options); and last but not least, NGOs involved in the energy sector – as WISE or Global Chance. Lire la suite