Crisis management and letting dead assets go

30 03 2011

What do the accidents of Fukushima and Gulf of Mexico teach us? That crisis management, at least as exercised to large accidents, has its flaws. What is common between the handling of the two situations, is that, at least to me, the ones in charge did not consider the consequences of their actions to save the asset. Because they were both focused on saving the asset. At some point the asset is dead. You have to let it go and your actions should concentrate on damage control.

Instead, people are trying to save the asset, going past that point where there is no way back – at least none with reasonable cost, incurred in money, lives and well into the future. So why do they do it? I am not sure, I can only guess. I can depict those rooms where people are sitting down trying to put together the crisis management plan. I am pretty sure, the target is to save the asset by all means and no “what if” questions are asked. The plan is laid down and the “ideal” path is carved towards the target. Any possible deviations along the way are treated to return to the predetermined path. No uncertainty is considered. The probability of failure is not assessed from the beginning to allow for measures to be taken before departing on the trip with no return.

I am sure, if the robustness of the situation was properly assessed in the beginning, if the possible alternative paths were considered from day 1, if the overall cost of each solution was calculated, those responsible would seal the well in the Gulf of Mexico before killing all the wildlife, local economy and even BP. Similarly, those in Fukushima would put the factory in a sarcophagus and mitigate the effects on the environment and the Japanese economy. Some things are so obviously out of control that only reducing the damage makes sense.

I hate to say this: but what will the Fukushima people do (and Japan as a whole indeed) if another earthquake and tsunami strikes now?

Just let the dead assets die…

ensure_distance(“Value check”,fpvto->getValues()->at(0),0.9998829,1.e-4);


30 03 2011

Wade Allison and the BBC are attempting a take on the public concern with regard to nuclear energy. Apparently the best way is to ridicule fear and smear countries and individuals as nonsensical. It is propaganda against propaganda, so I see little reason to believe either. What Mr Wade did not say is that all his points are based on theories he is unable to prove. Because radiation and its consequences on health cannot be proven so far. We cannot control nuclear reactions properly and we cannot predict the effects on health.

Mr Wade’s analysis is based on empirical evidence. As is often the case, many other problems and links are overlooked. He only states the 43 fatalities directly related to the accident, as reported by the UN. He ignores other reports, critcising the UN that state numbers that reach up to almost a million. The bottom line is, who’s right or wrong? Surely not Mr Wade, that tries to tip the balance to one side. Being a scientist is quite different to being an evangelist, and it bears a hell of a lot of responsibility especially when it relates to peoples’ lives.

Rumor has it that the increase in thyroid cancers in Greece during recent years among the 40+ year olds are due to Chernobyl. Will Mr Wade compensate those people for their health problems and pay the treatments to their health insurances, should such a theory proved right? I doubt it.

Maybe the critics are not right too. Maybe people are over reacting. But that’s normal: we cannot control the thing. The bottom line is: who’s  right when it comes to critical questions regarding science and ethics? The scientists? The contra-scientists? No. The people, and the people alone. So, in the case of nuclear energy (and GM crops, and…) which part of “We Do Not Want It” don’t you get? So get back to your lab, make it stable and try again.

Mr Wade concludes “Some might ask whether I would accept it if it were buried 100 metres under my own house? My answer would be: “Yes, why not?”” This reminds me precisely the attitude of the communists in Greece during the Chernobyl accident: although radiation in the soil was high (we measured it with my father’s Geiger: bushes and grass had high concentration) they ignored the warnings and were eating strawberries – they were even feeding the kids.

Edit: I am not the last one to think this way, it seems…