Projects: Projects for Investigator
Reference Number ES/N009444/2
Title Nuclear Futures - a seminar series to re-make sociotechnical research agendas
Status Completed
Energy Categories Nuclear Fission and Fusion(Nuclear Fission, Nuclear supporting technologies) 100%;
Research Types Basic and strategic applied research 100%
Science and Technology Fields SOCIAL SCIENCES (Politics and International Studies) 50%;
SOCIAL SCIENCES (Sociology) 50%;
UKERC Cross Cutting Characterisation Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Environmental dimensions) 20%;
Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Policy and regulation) 30%;
Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Consumer attitudes and behaviour) 30%;
Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Technology acceptance) 20%;
Principal Investigator Dr S Molyneux-Hodgson
No email address given
Sociological Studies
University of Sheffield
Award Type Standard
Funding Source ESRC
Start Date 04 October 2016
End Date 19 October 2018
Duration 24 months
Total Grant Value £22,266
Industrial Sectors
Region Yorkshire & Humberside
Programme Grants
Investigators Principal Investigator Dr S Molyneux-Hodgson , Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield (99.998%)
  Other Investigator Mr P Simmons , Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia (0.001%)
Dr p Johnstone , School of Business Management &Economics, University of Sussex (0.001%)
  Industrial Collaborator Project Contact , Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) (0.000%)
Project Contact , National Nuclear Laboratory (0.000%)
Project Contact , British Geological Survey (BGS) - NERC (0.000%)
Web Site
Objectives The overarching goal of Nuclear Futures is to provide a forum in which social science, engineering, governmental and industrial participants can learn, discuss, appreciate and act on, key thinking around the management and disposal of UK radioactive waste. Social science has much to offer debates around these wastes yet can often be detached from the technical communities or reduced to handling public perception concerns.The topic of radioactive waste has attracted debate in earlier decades, often from entrenched oppositional viewpoints, but the UK Government's White Paper 'Implementing Geological Disposal' (DECC, July 2014) provides an opportunity to re-evaluate existing knowledge and generate new thinking, especially as the proposed Seminar Series will run concurrently with initial policy actions. Both existing nuclear wastes and those yet to be produced (through decommissioning, new build projects, or future spent fuel reprocessing) will be considered. While the White Paper (IGD2014) provides a starting point for our discussions, multiple issues for debate will spin out from this on far broader science and society concerns.A comparative, European lens is included to provide insight on other national movements towards implementation of geological disposal and their associated waste debates.There is a particular focus in the Series on the use - and further development - of theory and methods from Science and Technology Studies (STS) to both facilitate interactions between participant groups and to question some taken-for-granted assumptions around the issue of radioactive waste.Specific objectives are:-- To share current understandings of radioactive waste from a range of social science disciplines- To (re)build capacity in the UK in the form of a research community of STS and others scholars around nuclear concerns- To network this emerging group to expertise on the social dimensions of radioactive waste elsewhere in the world- To progress theory and methods in STS and broader social science, towards comprehension of long-lived and risky technological processes and projects- To provide advanced training opportunities to social science and engineering doctoral researchers- To engage government, industry and technical communities in meaningful dialogue with the social science community- To inform debates on initial policy actions in the Implementing Geological Disposal White Paper- To work towards a co-produced research agenda on the sociotechnical problem of nuclear futures- To disseminate ongoing discussions to a wide range of interested parties, including local communities seeking to engage with later stages of policy implementation.
Abstract Geological disposal (GD) of radioactive waste, in deep underground repositories, was first proposed in the US in the '50s yet rarely has final disposal of waste been at the forefront of government and industry concerns. Much waste has been in 'interim storage' for decades. Meanwhile, more is produced through ongoing energy production. The GD approach to civil waste has crept up national policy agendas following an EU Directive in 2011 and the EU's Technology Platform determination that first disposal operations should begin somewhere in Europe by 2025. At various speeds, EU Member States are conducting further scientific research, progressing decisions on where to site GD and undertaking various forms of public engagement. Many countries have made limited headway or have deferred implementation decisions, while Finland has made 'most' progress against the Directive targets and now holds permission to start construction of disposal facilities. The publication of the UK Government White Paper 'Implementing Geological Disposal' in July 2014 (IGD2014) sets out a process to decide on the siting and building of a UK facility. Learning from earlier policy breakdowns the new policy promises to "provide a permanent solution" for the UK's existing and planned higher activity radioactive waste.The implementation of geological disposal - like many topics on nuclear matters - prompts numerous questions of social, technical, political and ethical character. The Series' primary focus is on nuclear waste, its management and proposed final disposal. However, radioactive waste is interwoven with multiple other concerns including: government policy on building new nuclear plants as part of an energy mix and a low carbon future; and ongoing and future decommissioning projects. For some, these discussions cannot be separated from military affairs, further entangling issues up for debate.Social science academics have written on nuclear topics in the past and under different policy conditions. However, it is timely to question these earlier works and to enlarge the arena of debate, expanding the social perspectives and including the technical. The goal is to transform thinking to address radioactive waste as a sociotechnical matter and to vitalise our research capacity.The proposed Series will build on an ESRC initiative in multi-disciplinary research training funded in 2013. That scheme enabled an experimental collaboration between social scientists associated with the White Rose DTC and engineers from the EPSRC-funded Nuclear First CDT. We now seek to expand this research potential beyond training provision and expand to include policy implementation concerns.In 7 meetings, over two and half years, the Series will bring social scientists from different disciplines together, alongside academic engineering communities, policy and industry bodies.Each meeting will involve talks from academic and non-academic partners, small group discussions, plenary sessions and activities. The seminars will provide opportunities for social science academics to connect directly to technical research communities and to non-academic bodies involved in GD policy. Policy bodies and engineering researchers will experience the process of social science debate and be exposed to critical thinking on their technical concerns. The meetings will thus enable knowledge exchange between groups that do not regularly interact, including social science researchers with technical policy implementation bodies. Meetings will be concurrent with specific aspects of the IGD2014 policy process: the possibility to inform ongoing implementation work makes the Series particularly timely.The significance and importance of the Series is evidenced by letters of support from key non-academic bodies and the substantial co-funding of the proposal. Output will include academic talks and papers; policy briefings; reports and designs for engagement activitie
Publications (none)
Final Report (none)
Added to Database 02/01/18