What Have We Learned?

Abstract:The effect of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 on the Fukushima Daiichi reactor presents a lesson for quality professionals. A failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA) conducted based on information brought to light in 2008 might have given early indication of the dangers faced. A properly conducted FMEA would have addressed even unlikely possibilities such as the 9.0 earthquake, larger than any Japan had ever experienced. Risk management, supply chain management and communication could all have reduced the negative impact of the reactor failure on the surrounding area. While quality professionals can help in the case of disasters such as the Fukushima Daiichi failure, providing tools and methods for risk quantification and mitigation, the ultimate responsibility for managing quality and risk lies with top …

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A useful summary and outlook. Thank you. Just one nit to pick:


... potentially conflicting information was released: "A U.N. graphic forecasting the possible trajectory of the radioactive cloud shared with the Associated Press ... shows a moving plume reaching Southern California on Friday after racing across the Pacific and swiping the Aleutian Islands."16

On the same day, however, "the Obama administration said ... that radiation leaking from the crippled Japanese nuclear complex does not present a danger to the western United States or its Pacific territories at this time."17

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Both can be true. Potential plume trajectories were used to warn of "radiation reaching the West Coast," yet upon close inspection the units showed radiation levels near the detection limit that are highly unlikely to noticeably add to health hazards. Between different and independent organizations, it is not easy to apply ISO 31000, "Ensuring appropriate levels of recognition.20"
--Bernd Nurnberger, 06-07-2011

What we have learned from the disaster in Japan is the resiliency of the Japanese people. Even though an earthquake and tsunami hit their homeland with an unprecedented magnitude, which would take many years to recover from for any other country, roads, infrastructure and airports are being repaired ASAP. People sacrificed themselves to pump seawater into the malfunctioning nuclear power plant to cool the reactor down. No mass panic, no Japanese media accusing or complaining about the government reaction. A lot of lessons need to be learned from the Japanese people, who are coping well due to their tenacity that molded these great people over many centuries. I hope it will be the last disaster for these great people because all countries, especially Arab countries, depend on their products.

--Shadi Shaaban, 06-04-2011

I would be the first to say that everything did not go as expected and that there is a lot to learn from Fukushima; however, this article seems to lend credence to some ridiculous ideas, such as an unnamed reporter talking about making an area thousands of miles from the site uninhabitable forever. Really? The nuclear industry uses, and has used, FMEA. It was a similar process that determined the level of protection needed for the site, based on an expert estimate of the maximum credible stress. Risk management has at least three types of events related to any process: (1) design against; (2) mitigate (i.e., accept certain losses, emergency plans); and (3) insure against. Risk management does not eliminate risks because no risk can be reduced absolutely to zero. Risk management manages risk.
--David White, 05-20-2011

Info considered for my next presentation on the Nuclear Situation in Quebec (Canada).
--Gerard Blin, 05-14-2011

The article is precise and to the point.
--Bernard D'Silva, 05-14-2011

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