IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

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Theses in progress

Socio-historical analysis of controversial choices made regarding safety measures in French basic nuclear installations

Host laboratory: ​Human and Social Sciences Laboratory (LSHS)

Beginning of the thesis: October 2015

Student name:Maël GOUMRI

Subject description

The principles underlying nuclear safety have been largely undermined as a result of nuclear accidents, demonstrating that accidents entailing core melt are plausible. The aim of this thesis is to trace the emergence of a specific subject, corium, in the scientific processes of knowledge-building and expert assessment, from the formal identification of the scientific problem to the technical solutions put forward. Corium is formed during serious nuclear accidents entailing core melt. It is magma produced when fuel melts and oxidizes, and combines with any components with which it comes into contact (control rods, reactor vessel internals, vessel steel, basemat concrete, etc.). The evolution of corium is unpredictable and surrounded in uncertainty, raising many questions in "Science studies" regarding the uncertainty, unpredictability and exactitude of scientific activity.

The thesis is structured according to two main approaches:
  • first, to examine the development of a corpus of knowledge on this subject, highlighting the debates and questions which still exist, including on the subject of modeling; 
  • second, to focus on how this knowledge base and the remaining uncertainties are integrated in the practice of expert assessment and the practical decision-making process, particularly during "technical dialogue".


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