Research Platform Nuclear Condition(s)
Politics & History, Technology, Philosophy
The research platform Nuclear Condition(s) examines the interplay of technology, politics, and society in nuclear safety and security cultures.
- Research questions focus less on geopolitical strategies, but rather on aspects of technological management of nuclear technology.
- This includes security concerns. Nuclear materials management imposes major responsibilities on engineers and engineering activities.
- Other than in times of the Cold War, current research is characterized by modified concepts of peace, safety, and security.
- The possession of nuclear materials for civil use and the technical expertise steadily gain importance. That becomes apparent in disarmament and non-proliferation discourse: In the era of ‘weaponless deterrence’, state in possession of material and knowledge rank as so called latent nuclear power states. Thus they are “positive/part of the solution” as well as “negative/part of the problem”.
- With respect to the nuclear phase-out that applies for Germany, too: not less but more engineering expertise is required by responsible-minded physicists and engineers.
- Research is conducted on the interface of history, political science (safety/security and peace, STS), physics, engineering and the philosophy of technology. The research program thus continues the longstanding tradition of IANUS’ interdisciplinary peace research program.
In engineering and natural sciences IANUS affiliated scientists have contributed valuable solutions for the research field outlined above. E.g. Moritz Kütt developed an open-source software for more transparency in verification processes of nuclear materials in disarmament control. Friederike Friess’ thesis is on transmutation processes in Accelerator-Driven-Systems. Matthias Englert is working together with Wolfgang Liebert and Giorgio Franceschini on proliferation-resistant fusion reactors. A closer cooperation has also developed in an interdisciplinary setting between Matthias Englert (physics, Öko-Institut, Darmstadt), Anne Harrington (politics & international relations, Cardiff, UK), and John Downer (STS, Bristolk, UK) who set up the nuclear philosophy-blog.
A core group of scientists from STS (Downer, Nordmann, Schmid), political sciences and philosophy (Dupuy, Harrington, Howard) as well as natural scientific peace research (Englert, Franceschini, Friess, Kütt, Liebert) have worked out a programmatic paper for Nuclear Condition(s). Essential partial-projects of this long-termed research project are conducted in Darmstadt, which is why IANUS remains competence center for responsible research.
Research Objectives and Scope
Two major aims are pursued by the Nuclear Condition(s) network: One is the elaboration of natural scientific solutions to urgent nuclear problems in terms of responsible research and innovation such as the danger of proliferation, possibilities of detecting nuclear materials, but also the nuclear waste problem. The second aim, which is related to the first one, is the exploration of nuclear safety and security cultures. These cultures are subject to change, and interfaces between technology, politics, and society have shifted. The culture-term refers to collectively shared norms and values, discourse, practices, and the production of knowledge. As safety and security issues are discussed in the realm of possible incidents and catastrophes, the constructiveness of knowledge production is of special interest. Risk calculations, simulations, scenarios, but also the societal perception of safety, security, and insecurity play decisive roles in exploring safety and security cultures. Thus, results do not only serve to critically reflect safety and security regulations and politics. Moreover, they contribute to answering the question of how nuclear things gain power, how they are made either safe or unsafe, secure or insecure, technical or political, banal or exceptional things and how disarmament processes may be supported. Hence, the Nuclear Condition(s) research program is and remains dependent on interdisciplinary cooperation.
For almost 30 years, IANUS members and affiliates have contributed valuable research to the field outlined above in engineering and natural sciences . Moritz Kütt developed an open-source software for more transparency in verification processes of nuclear materials in disarmament control. ). In her thesis, Friederike Frieß’ examines transmutation processes in Accelerator-Driven-Systems(ADS). Matthias Englert has conducted research together with Wolfgang Liebert and Giorgio Franceschini on proliferation-resistant fusion reactors. More recent work of his is on nuclear safety in crisis areas (presently the Ukraine). Matthias Englert (physics, Öko-Institut, Darmstadt), Anne Harrington (politics and international relations, Cardiff, UK), and John Downer (STS, Bristol, UK) have established a close cooperation on nuclear issues. They have also set up the nuclear philosophy-blog.
Research in political science and history aims at analyzing nuclear safety and security conceptions, especially with respect to the relationship between politics, technology, and power. Anne Harrington’s most recent article refers to the connection of nuclear weapons, power, and violence in the theoretical works of Kenneth Waltz. Annette Ripper examines representations of the nuclear in discourses of memory, politics, philosophy, and literature.
Theory and Philosophy of Technology serve as means of reflection. Theoretical concepts of technology the group refers to, stem from Technology Assessment and STS. With respect to the philosophy of technology, works often analyzed or referred to as independent (historical) sources include those of Hannah Arendt (Harrington), Günther Anders (Ripper), Karl Jaspers, and Lewis Mumford.