CISSM Forum | October 17, 2013

"Responding to Nuclear Disasters: In Pursuit of 'High Flexibility Organizations'?"

by Sonja D. Schmid, Assistant Professor, Department of Science and Technology in Society (STS), Virginia Tech

The nuclear disaster at Fukushima has led to calls for better emergency preparedness in the commercial nuclear sector. Based on organizational theories of disaster, this talk explores possibilities and challenges for a more effective nuclear emergency response, both on the national and the international level.  By comparing and contrasting organizational responses to Fukushima in the United States and the European Union nuclear industries, an increasing tension becomes apparent between approaches that emphasize standardization, regulation, and routine on the one hand, and transparency, reflexivity, and improvisation  on the other.

About the speaker

Sonja D. Schmid is an assistant professor in the Department of Science and Technology in Society (STS) at Virginia Tech’s satellite campus in Falls Church. Her expertise is in the social history of technology, science and technology policy, and qualitative studies of risk. Her research examines the ways national energy policies, technological choices, and security concerns shape each other. Her work has focused on the history and organization of nuclear industries in the Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, nuclear technology transfer and the technical and regulatory “fixes” that have been proposed to address proliferation concerns, as well as the history and prospects of small power reactor designs.