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Nuclear Technology

The Nexus of Nuclear Energy and Social Science | Workshop 12th-13th December, 2019 | Paris, France

Nuclear energy’s challenges are frequently described as having a significant ‘social’ dimension. These challenges include failures to site nuclear power plants and used nuclear fuel repositories, or, more broadly, secure support and approval for sustaining or expanding the use of nuclear energy. A negative perception of nuclear energy is frequently cited by nuclear engineers as the source of these challenges. Still other problems are believed to be the result of institutional failures and managerial difficulties. These include delays in construction projects and escalation of plant costs, the slow pace of development and commercialization of new nuclear energy technologies and failures of regulatory institutions.

In spite of, or perhaps because of these challenges, organizations in the nuclear industry have proved to be rich research sites for scholars in the humanities and social sciences. In a significant and growing base of scholarship, researchers – political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists and Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholars – have used a diverse and rich set of theoretical and methodological approaches to examine the work of practitioners in nuclear organizations.3 Some concepts developed by social scientists have proved to be pivotal for the work of practitioners. For example, the idea of an organization that is capable of rapid and continuous learning (operationalized by INPO and WANO for the nuclear industry) comes from a long line of sociological and management research on “High Reliability Organizations”. Further, the idea that culture can play an important role in ensuring safety also finds its basis in a long tradition of sociological and anthropological research on culture. However, these concepts are often not used as the social scientists intended and undergo modification in their translation from research to practice.4 Additionally, the uptake and use of such concepts by practitioners has largely been serendipitous. Further, social science scholars have produced a growing and likely relevant literature that has not been widely read neither in the academic nor in practitioner nuclear engineering communities.

Submission guidelines

Guidelines for abstract submission
Authors are requested to submit abstracts of up to 500 words, along with a title and three keywords by email to Aditi Verma at Aditi.VERMA@oecd-nea.org

Guidelines for preparation of papers

Selected papers from the workshop will be published in Nuclear Technology, a nuclear engineering journal published by the American Nuclear Society. Authors are advised to prepare conference papers based on journal guidelines, which can be found here.

Organizing Committee

Aditi Verma, NEA
Sama Bilbao y León, NEA
Markku Lehtonen, NEA and Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona

We invite papers on three broad themes:

1. Current research on nuclear energy and society: research findings and recommendations for practice
A number of researchers have recently been leading or have completed research projects with a particular focus on the work of practitioners in the nuclear industry.5 Authors of this set of papers are invited to describe their motivations for embarking on these research projects, describe their research questions, their findings as well as recommendations (if any) for practitioners arising from these findings. Authors are further asked to reflect on and describe their methodologies or approaches for transforming their research findings into lessons and recommendations for practitioners. Papers on this theme are broadly expected to focus on reactor design and development, regulation and nuclear energy policy.

2. The practitioner-social science nexus: challenges and opportunities for transforming the work of nuclear organizations
In select organizations, social science researchers have been working alongside practitioners. In these settings, insights derived from the work of these researchers have had an impact on the work of practitioners. Authors of these papers are asked to describe how the decisions to embed social science researchers within their respective organizations were made, the work done by these researchers within their respective organizations, how the insights from these researchers have been transformed into recommendations for practitioners, challenges encountered in implementing these insights as well as further opportunities for transforming practice that have not yet been exploited. Authors of these papers may choose to draw on theoretical and methodological resources that examine the intellectual and practical considerations of translating research into lessons and recommendations for practice.

3. Opportunities for institutional innovation: current research on innovation and regulation
Practitioners in the nuclear industry around the world are searching for opportunities for innovation in both the technical and the social elements of nuclear reactor systems and their supporting infrastructures. Some examples of the hoped for non-technological innovations include new mechanisms for funding the development of nuclear energy technologies, novel mechanisms for financing construction projects and redesign of institutions for encouraging nuclear innovation and regulating nuclear energy technologies. Through these papers we will review and explore current research on regulation and innovation. Wherever possible, authors are encouraged to identify those aspects of their research findings that are generalizable and that might suggest opportunities for institutional innovation in the nuclear energy sector.

Nuclear Technology

Nuclear Technology aims to be the leading international publication reporting new information in the practical applications of nuclear science and technology. We publish technical papers, technical notes, critical reviews, rapid communications, book reviews, and letters to the editor on all phases of applications of fundamental research to nuclear technology.

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Key dates 
Submission of abstracts:July 30, 2019
Notification of acceptance for conference:August 15, 2019
Submission of full papers for conference:November 1, 2019
Notification of acceptance for Special Issue:January 15, 2020
Submission of revised papers for journal publicationMarch 15, 2020
Submission of final paper and copyright agreementsJuly 15, 2020