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Half-lives/Afterlives: Labor, Technology, Nature, and the Nuclear Decommissioning Business

Project description

Labour, market and ecological aspects of nuclear decommissioning

Following the permanent closure of the first nuclear power plant (NPP), decommissioning has emerged globally. Germany (2011) and Italy (1991) have phased out their nuclear energy production. Social studies of science and technology have extensively analysed the controversies emerging from high-level waste disposal and the siting of deep geological repositories. However, these ignore other central aspects of decommissioning, like the global market of decommissioning services, workers’ safety and training, costs, expert management, and the NPP's fate after decommissioning. The EU-funded NUCLEARDECOM project will conduct a comparative study of decommissioning projects in Germany and Italy. It will take a science and technology studies perspective to investigate its social, technological, and ecological dimensions.

Objective

Nuclear decommissioning is the final part in the life of nuclear power plants (NPPs) after they permanently cease to operate. Decommissioning strategies, including the management of hazardous materials, largely depend on NPPs reactor technology, operating history, and ecological context and therefore require long-term and site-specific projects, whose complexity far exceeds the commonly debated problem of waste disposal. Treated as a marginal issue until the mid-1970s, nuclear decommissioning became a crucial expert sub-field when first generation NPPs permanently shut down. Since then, it has expanded globally and is destined to grow further as countries like Italy (1991) and Germany (2011) decided to phase out nuclear energy production. While social studies of science and technology have abundantly analyzed the controversies caused by high-level waste disposal and the siting of deep geological repositories, they have substantially ignored other critical aspects of decommissioning, such as the formation of a global market of decommissioning services, workers safety and training, costs, expert knowledge management, and the fate of nuclear sites after decommissioning. Another limit of these studies is that they have examined the social implications of decommissioning disjointly from its technical dimensions, which remain exclusive technical expert territory. To overcome the above limitations, this research tackles the unexplored problems of nuclear decommissioning—beyond waste disposal—through a comparative study of decommissioning projects in Italy and in Germany. It adopts a Science and Technology Studies (STS) perspective to examine the social, technological, and ecological dimensions of nuclear decommissioning in tandem. In the pursuit of this research plan, I am seeking to establish and advance my academic career in Europe and to integrate my professional skills in view of consulting opportunities for regulatory agencies and affected local communities.

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Coordinator

LUDWIG-MAXIMILIANS-UNIVERSITAET MUENCHEN
Net EU contribution
€ 162 806,40
Address
Geschwister scholl platz 1
80539 Muenchen
Germany

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Region
Bayern Oberbayern München, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Other funding
€ 0,00