Undermining disaster: engineering and epistemological bias in the Fukushima nuclear crisis

TitleUndermining disaster: engineering and epistemological bias in the Fukushima nuclear crisis
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsAmir, S, Juraku, K
JournalEngineering Studies
Date Published2014/09/02
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number1937-8629
AbstractThe world had a sense of deja vu when a massive earthquake and a 15 m tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station on 11 March 2011. As the world followed how the Fukushima nuclear crisis unfolded, nuclear engineers in Japan were trying their best to overcome the situation. Believing that their technical knowledge was adequate to understand what went wrong and to mitigate the crisis, Japanese nuclear engineers sought to assure the public that the condition of the crippled nuclear power plants in Fukushima was not as severe as what it appeared. In reality, as discussed in this article, the subsequent problems emerging in the Fukushima nuclear crisis went beyond the expectations of the engineers. Focusing on the emergency period of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, this article critically examines epistemological bias that prompted how Japanese top-level nuclear engineers made inaccurate assessments resulting in the prolonged crisis. The article specifically probes the concept of robust engineering and the way it is used to overstate the ability of nuclear power system to withstand external shocks.