Aix-Marseille Université

PhD Position “Taking into account uncertainty and the unexpected in projects for the decommissioning of nuclear facilities”

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RESEARCH FIELD(S): Sociology of work, sociology of organizations, anthropology of risk


TYPE OF JOB: Aix-Marseille Université 3-year PhD contract

ABSTRACT: The decommissioning of nuclear facilities is a major challenge for the nuclear industry in the forthcoming years. This thesis work objective will be to understand how decommissioning activities face to unexpected.

This means, firstly, to characterize unexpected situations, regarding decommissioning activities, work security and safety of the installations. Secondly, the way to cope facing the unexpected will be analyzed through the different levels of the organization (worksite, installation, site, company) and the movements of its borders following the mobilization of external actors (public expert, safety authority, general public).

The notion of subsidiarity applied in responsibility and the notion of organizational context will be used throughout the thesis. The organization of work will be analyzed through an ethnographic sociological approach, considering the technical, economic, social, regulatory, temporality and uncertainty context. In this context the relationships of dependence between a main contractor and subcontractor, between controllers and controlled could be affected (cross-dependency relationship) or even reversed.

Given the timeframe of the thesis, a decommissioning program cannot be followed from the beginning to the end. Based on an ethnographic approach, several sites and/or facilities undergoing decommissioning will be studied at different stages, focusing on work activities, cooperative or even conflicting relationships and the use of technical devices for measuring radiological risks according to the different groups of actors. Different situations will be analyzed:

  • past cases marked by the irruption of an unexpected element and its management within the decommissioning program.
  • present cases that will be examined in terms of the forms of anticipation of unexpected elements that are deployed by the actors, even without occurrence. These anticipations will be examined in particular for their perception as factors of burden by certain actors
  • unforeseen events occurring on cases studied in the present. They will make it possible to study the propagation of the effect of the unexpected at three "levels" of organization: organization of a worksite, organization of the project, and organization of the regulatory system for safety and radiation protection in decommissioning.


  • Master degree in Sociology or in Anthropology, fieldwork experience

APPLICATION DEADLINE: 31th December 2021


  • Bachelor and Master grades
  • Cover letter & Curriculum Vitae
  • One or two recommendation letters
  • If available, the internship report at the end of the Master degree will be appreciated.


  • Please send any information request at the following addresses:

isfin-direction@univ-amu.fr; pierre.fournier@univ-amu.fr; elsa.gisquet@irsn.fr

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PhD Position “Taking into account uncertainty and the unexpected in projects for the decommissioning of nuclear facilities”
Jardin du Pharo 58, bd Charles Livon, France
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