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Changing of the Guard: Managing safety and security interactions in a context of nuclear technological innovation

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Safety and security are cornerstones of the development and operation not only of current, but also of emerging nuclear technologies such as Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), transmutation technologies for spent nuclear fuel, or permanent disposal facilities for radioactive waste. The dynamics of nuclear science and technology innovation within today’s changing society bring about the need to re-examine existing safety and security concepts and practices, in order to identify in a timely manner potential challenges arising from these technical and social evolutions. In particular, attention should be directed to safety and security interactions, including the related social, policy and organizational aspects. Previous social science studies have demonstrated that safety and security –although sharing a seemingly common goal of protecting humans and the environment- may interact in practice in contradictory or dissonant manners, resulting in tensions and frictions. Uncovering such potential tensions at the stage of technological innovation has clear advantages in terms of taking anticipatory actions for governing such tensions. It simultaneously proves challenging given the various uncertainties still characterizing many technologies at such early development stages.

This research project in social science will investigate the interactions between safety and security  in nuclear innovation contexts, with a particular focus on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).  For this purpose, the project will mobilise insights and paradigms from the field of Science and Technology Studies, with a particular focus on: co-production (the simultaneous production of social and natural order); material heterogeneity (the entanglement of humans, objects, technologies, and discourses in enacting specific phenomena); and Responsible Research and Innovation (an attentiveness to values, norms and impacts  in research, technology and innovation). A qualitative research methodology will be adopted in which a social science researcher will interact closely with actors working on and related to innovations in nuclear technology -notably SMRs-, allowing for a mid-stream collaboration on the identification and tackling of issues related to the interaction between safety and security. It will contribute to social science studies aiming at increasing our understanding of how safety and security are handled in innovative situations, and how they could be improved. It will also provide insights which can be employed in designing and developing nuclear innovations.

Le niveau de diplôme minimum du candidat

  • Master en sciences

Les connaissances préexistantes nécessaires

  • Social sciences

La durée estimée

4 years

Le groupe d'experts

Etudes de la Science et de la Technologie nucléaire

SCK CEN Mentor

Geysmans Robbe
rgeysman [at]
+32 (0)14 33 88 02

SCK CEN Co-mentor

Turcanu Catrinel
cturcanu [at]
+32 (0)14 33 21 02


Brunet Sébastien
sebastien.brunet [at]