HoNESt – History of Nuclear Energy and Society, an Horizon 2020 research project

Published Jun 11, 2015

The Division is a partner in the newly funded Horizon2020 project entitled History of Nuclear Energy and Society (HoNESt) that will launch on 1 September 2015.

Funded by Horizon 2020/Euratom, the collaborative research project HoNESt sets out to explain variety and change in European societies’ relations with nuclear energy on the basis of the historical experience.

HoNESt is the work of an interdisciplinary consortium of researchers in 23 partner institutions across Europe, many leading experts in their fields. It provides the first comprehensive comparative and transnational analysis of nuclear developments and their relations with society, offering novel explanations and arguments. The scope of the research is unprecedentedly broad in both time and space, covering the experience of 20 countries and international organizations over the past 70 years.

HoNESt sets out to develop an innovative interdisciplinary framework, combining insights from the history of technology, science and technology studies, environmental history, economic and business history, social movement research, and the study of societal engagement. Moving beyond disciplinary boundaries, the project embraces the complexity of political, technological, economic and environmental dimensions, issues of safety, risk perception and communication, societal acceptance and engagement and media framing.

Societal perceptions of and political responses to nuclear power differ widely between European countries. Public debates about nuclear issues have been characterised by mutual miscomprehensions. Against this backdrop, HoNESt takes seriously the roles and often contradictory perspectives of the actors involved – industry, policy makers, experts, civil society actors and the media –, as well as the rapidly changing societal, economic, political and technological contexts.

The project combines three parts that are intricately interlinked.

First, it offers a systematic historical analysis of nuclear developments and societal perceptions across 20 country cases – as well as the relevant international organizations and transnational societal actors. HoNESt will provide therefore an unprecedentedly comprehensive empirical resource and support a new narrative of this history that has so far remained at best scattered.

Secondly, this empirical base also allows a comprehensive understanding of the causes and mechanisms underlying the varying social perceptions of, and engagement with nuclear power from a variety of social science perspectives.

Thirdly, the project is not limited to the ivory tower. Instead, HoNESt will systematically engage with stakeholders – from industry, associations, policy makers but also civil society: HoNESt seeks to actively communicate, but also to engage and discuss its findings with stakeholders in the field. Thus HoNESt will itself make an important contribution to the ongoing debates about nuclear energy – as well as issues of new technologies more generally.

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