Our research at The University of Manchester experiments with new ways of provoking critical understandings and social awareness of the nuclear industry by pursuing research collaborations across a range of disciplines, including the nuclear and techno-sciences more generally, anthropology, organisation and business studies, law, history, and science and technology studies.
Drawing on inter-disciplinary expertise and a collaborative approach, we explore social and political dynamics in order to understand how nuclear imaginaries are made, embedded, unmade, and re-made. We are interested in dislodging dominant approaches within government, industry, and policy-making circles, where ‘the social’ is often an afterthought to ‘the technological’, with a view to conveying a more rigorous and subtle understanding of the social and the technological as being intimately intertwined.
Grasping current preoccupations and debates in the industry will allow us to develop new insights into controversies surrounding the nuclear, including the development of new technologies, the ongoing production of waste, the provision of geological disposal facilities, and a potential role for new build in addressing current anxieties over energy and climate change.
Questions of interest include:
- How does the nuclear industry present and reposition itself in a changing energy landscape? What kinds of re-framing go on?
- What kinds of friction exist between the primacy of containing nuclear materials and the expectancy of transparency and accountability?
- What public perceptions exist around nuclear power?
- How do people come to their understandings of risks and hazards, and in what historical, cultural, social, or national contexts?
- What are the forgotten futures of the nuclear promise or threat?
- How do utopian hopes and dystopian fears play out in contemporary political and organisational practices associated with the management and operation of the nuclear industry?
- Is a new nuclear age on the horizon? Or is the future one of coming to terms with the legacies of the old (waste, contamination), legacies that keep being made, and that we still do not fully understand, or may not have the expertise to monitor and record?
Ethnography, participant observation, hybrid forums, and public experiment are part of our methodological tool kit in exploring the varied imaginaries that organize, shape, and challenge the industry.