iKNOW ERA Toolkit

Applications of Wild Cards and Weak Signals to the Grand Challenges & Thematic Priorities of the European Research Area

Funded by Directorate-General for Research and Innovation Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities 

Nuclear research

Display Wild Cards & Weak Signals

For a variety of reasons, while nuclear research here is related very much to energy concerns (nuclear power currently accounts for one third of the electricity generated in the EU) this theme is handled separately and through the framework of EURATOM.   Thus the key issues of the Euratom programme are operational reactor safety and management of long-lived waste. All thematic domains to be addressed here are characterised by an overriding concern to ensure high levels of safety. The Joint Research Centre (JRC) supports these objectives of the European strategy for energy supply, particularly in helping to match the Kyoto objectives. The objective of the JRC research programmes is to develop and assemble knowledge in order to provide input to the debate on all important nuclear energy issues. 

The overall research programme consists of two key activities:

1. Nuclear fusion – a potential new energy source

2. Nuclear fission and radiation protection

These are supported with “Direct” Nuclear research conducted by the Joint Research Centre (JRC).

The objectives of the research into fusion energy include work on the joint implementation of ITER (as an international research infrastructure). Research into nuclear fission includes the management of radioactive waste, the continued safe operation of existing reactor systems, radiation protection, access to research infrastructures and the development of knowledge and competence in the nuclear field. The nuclear activities of the JRCs should provide customer- driven scientific and technical support of the EU policy will focus on the management of nuclear waste and its environmental impact and on nuclear safety.

Emerging themes and issues

The nuclear field is as amenable to wild card/weak signals analysis as any other.  We will not provide a detailed account of the relevant iKnow work here, however, because the issues have been covered in the previous themes.  We could if required pull out particular instances, and of course the approach could be applied to the particular projects here – what is fusion power was the subject of major breakthroughs, or in contrast what if it suffered catastrophic accidents or was undermined by disruptive innovation from other  sources?  What is it were to be to origin of scientific advances with high applicability to other areas? 

Click on the Display Wild Cards / Weak Signals button above to see selected issues associated to this theme.