IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

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Enhancing Nuclear Safety


Research programs

COSEA project

​Last update on October 2016

​The humanities research project COSEA(Joint activity and safely in practice) is aimed at analysing, as closely as possible, specific worksite situations in which teams with different core businesses find themselves working at the same time (i.e., in joint activity situations), and in very restricted environments (underground, etc.) and with security issues. Launched by the IRSN in December 2015 for a duration of three-years, the COSEA project should enable points for discussion to be proposed on the risks associated with joint activity and the tools that could be implemented to prevent them. In conjunction with the SciencesPo Sociology Centre for Organizations (CSO), the Institute is observing and monitoring the construction of the extension of metro line 14 of the RATP. A three-way partnership has been signed. The results of this research will in particular be leveraged for the IRSN’s expert assessments concerning joint activity within the Cigeo project (Industrial Geological Storage Centre) and at nuclear facility decommissioning worksites.

Context and objectives

The CIGEO project concerns the storage of radioactive waste in deep geological layers. It is designed to accommodate radioactive waste with high activity and long life produced by all French nuclear facilities. Apart from the conventional subjects concerning the safety of nuclear facilities (fire, explosion, contamination, radiation, earthquake, construction resistance, criticality, etc.), there are additional specific safety issues in the case of CIGEO, related to the fact that the storage operation will start in parallel with its construction. The teams dedicated to the operation of the nuclear facility and those responsible for the digging and for equipping new galleries in underground spaces will be working together. The risks associated with this joint activity should therefore be studied and precautionary provisions should be set in place by the operator.

To some extent, nuclear facility decommissioning situations also present risks related to joint activity. In these situations, actors providing support functions (ventilation, fluids, radiation protection, etc.) that are necessary to operate coexist with others who are present to decommission and remove the system equipment and structures that allowed its operation.

In this context, the COSEA project is aimed at better understanding joint activity issues in environments comparable to these two situations. The objectives of the IRSN in this context are:

  • To observe how joint activity is created and organised in work areas;
  • To study the specificity of "closed and independent" areas as a means of prevention of joint activity between the worksite area and the operation area;
  • To analyse risks and safety control in such fragmented and shifting spaces as worksites are.

Progress of the project

The construction of the extension of Line 14 of the RATP monitored by the IRSN in collaboration with the CSO, will be carried out from September 2015 to mid-2019 and gathers a large number of heterogeneous players (study/exploitation, operation /maintenance, etc.) who must coordinate and cooperate with each other. The Institute seeks to understand the motivations and difficulties of this coordination, the nature of the problems to be solved and the way in which the players are coping individually and collectively. The choice of this worksite is based on two main criteria:

  • The frequency with which joint activity situations involving civil engineering teams and operation teams arise,
  • The worksite progress in highly restricted environments (underground).

The approach is basically ethnographic and brings together two different sociological approaches: risk sociology, which deals with the social and individual perceptions of risk, and work sociology, which deals with the governance modes, management style, technical and organisational choices, etc.

Interviews with various worksite players (production managers, maintenance managers, site foremen, TBM drivers, and companions) will be made on a voluntary basis. In parallel, the progress of a number of operations will be observed and documented photographically (visual trace of the change).

The approach takes into account:

  • the design and organisation of these work situations,
  • cooperation modes between colleagues from a same company and from different companies, and between different hierarchical levels,
  • the characteristics of the underground environment (confined space, ventilation and accessibility constraints, etc.),
  • the "worksite" configuration in which the activities are distributed and dispersed in time and space.

Expected results and objectives

The COSEA project should enable the Institute to build a model for assessing the risks associated with joint activity. It should be able to be used to assess all safety issues in situations bringing together a large number of "heterogeneous" players who may have different objectives and interests. This model should in particular address the following issues: 

  • What are the risks associated with the "worksite" area that may affect the safety of the operating area, and what are the conditions of their possible "spread" to the operating area?
  • What requirements can be made with regard to components separating construction and operation areas and to prevent the risk of joint activity?
  • What are the organisational provisions that must be set forth to ensure that the "closed and independent" construction principle is maintained?

For the RATP, it is to have an outside look at the construction practices, aimed at understanding:

  • on the one hand, any possible discrepancies between what is prescribed and actual situations,
  • and on the other hand, the forms of regulations implement by people locally to respond to hazards and the various problems that they have to solve in the field every day.

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​Dates: 2015-2018

Funding: Sociology Centre for Organisations (Sciences-Po, CNRS), IRSN

Partners: Sociology Centre for Organisations (Sciences-Po, CNRS), RATP

Involved IRSN laboratory



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