Decision Making in Fukushima and the Performance of the Operating Company

Hausarbeit, 2013

29 Seiten, Note: 1,7


Table of Contents

Executive Summary

List of Abbreviations

List of Figures

1 Introduction
1.1 Objective
1.2 Methodology

2 Disasters
2.1 Definition of Disasters
2.2 Crisis Characteristics
2.3 Correlation between Disasters and Crisis
2.4 Crisis caused by Natural Disasters
2.5 Human Reactions to Disasters

3 Decision Making
3.1 Definition
3.2 Rational Choice Theory
3.3 The Psychology of Decisions and the Human Factor

4 Disaster in Fukushima Daiichi
4.1 Course of Disaster
4.2 Performance of the Operator TEPCO
4.3 Failures
4.4 Human Failure - “Manmade Disaster”

5 Conclusion


Integrated Total Management Checklist: 360-degrees analysis

List of Abbreviations

Executive Summary

Decision-making is defined as: “The thought process of selecting a logical choice from the available options.”1 In today´s rapidly changing environment, management personal, whether in companies, in non-profit organizations or within governmental departments, are constantly confronted with decision problems with far-reaching consequences. Survival and long-term success will often depend on finding the right solution.2 The “Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami” was the 5th most powerful recorded earthquake in the world since 1900 and the biggest ever measured in the history of Japan.3 Even more devastating than the earthquake itself was the resulting tsunami and the subsequent accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Tokyo electric power company (TEPCO), the power plant operator was aware of the possibility that the plant could be hit by a tsunami wave far higher than the 5.7m which the plant was designed to withstand. So why did this tragedy happen? Many wrong decision where made and led to a long list of failures which became public after the disaster occurred. This disaster was structurally caused by symbiotic relations between the government and TEPCO, which put their interest before the safety of people. So it could be defined as a “manmade” disaster. According to this it is important in dealing with accidents and disasters beyond our assumptions, one should assume an independent attitude to confront the situation, and think flexibly and proactively. Therefore it is vital to be conscious of the importance of seeing with your own eyes, thinking with your own head, making decisions and taking action, and vital to cultivate such abilities.4

List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

List of Figures

Figure 2: Cross section of the plant showing the inundation level

Figure 3: Concept diagram of measures against tsunami events

1 Introduction

The nuclear disaster in Fukushima Daiichi, Japan may be one of the worst natural disasters in Japans history ever and after Hiroshima in 1945 and Chernobyl in 1986 the third worst nuclear disaster in human history. What is called “3/11” is comprised of three temporally sequenced and causally linked but analytically separable disasters. On 11th March 2011 a Richter scale 9 earthquake occurred, with its epicentre 100km off the northeast coast of Japan. It was followed by a giant tsunami. The quake and tsunami caused a massive amount of damage and resulted in considerable loss of life. It also destroyed the reactor cooling system of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant complex, which led to massive explosions and the release of radioactive materials into the environment.

1.1 Objective

In today´s rapidly changing environment, management personnel, whether in companies, in non-profit organizations or within governmental departments, are constantly confronted with decision problems with far-reaching consequences. This assignment will explain the terms of the decision-making process as well as characteristics of disasters by transferring it on the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011.

1.2 Methodology

Besides the introduction and the objectives, the structure of this assignment bases on the explanation and definition of disasters, crisis and their correlation in chapter 2. Chapter 3 explains the rational choice theory as well as the psychology of decisions. The course of the disaster as well as the failures in Fukushima is described in chapter 4. The assignment closes with a conclusion in chapter 5.

2 Disasters

2.1 Definition of Disasters

The term “disaster” is derived from the Latin roots dis- and astro, meaning “away from the starts” or, in other words, an event to be blamed on an unfortunate astrological configuration. Disasters occur when a hazard risk is realized.5 In the literature disasters are defined or classified according to the disaster´s origin or cause.6 For example, one disaster can be classified as natural in origins (such as a tornado). Another disaster might be technological in its origin (a commercial airliner crashing into a residential neighbourhood). While these classifications are helpful, the problem with thinking about disasters strictly along these lines is that it fails to account for mixed origins. If an earthquake causes a dam to break, is the ensuing flood a naturally or technologically inspired calamity? Of course, it would be both. Disasters also can be defined according to their characteristics. The characteristics of disasters may include length of forewarning, Magnitude of impact, scope of impact, duration of impact or predictability of the associated hazard.7 Sociologist Thomas Drabek identified six characteristics that differentiate disasters from other emergencies:

- Degree of uncertainty
- Urgency
- Development of an emergency consensus
- Expansion of the citizenship role
- De-emphasis on contractual and personal relationships
- Sudden convergence of people and material at a scene8

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers the following as a comprehensive, workable definition of a disaster: “A disaster is a non-routine event that exceeds the capacity of the affected area to respond to it in such a way as to save lives; to preserve property; and to maintain the social, ecological, economic, and political stability of the affected region.”9 Another definition of a disaster is given by the U.N.: “A serious disruption of the functioning of society, causing widespread human, material, or environmental losses which exceed the ability of affected society to cope using only its own resources.”10

2.2 Crisis Characteristics

The crisis is characterised by the event itself, its level of threat or danger, and by the relationship between the individual to the crisis events. The closer an individual is to the crisis event, the more serious the consequences are. While most people can return to their homes after upsetting events, people in nuclear determined areas have nowhere to go and thereby no chance to start a healing process in order to recover from the experienced crisis. Often factor like family determine if an experienced crisis turns into a personal trauma, or into recovery. While most traumas begin with a crisis not all crises develop into traumas.11

2.3 Correlation between Disasters and Crisis

A crisis is a part of a sequence of events, from which all-future events, regardless of whether good or bad are influenced. Usually this situation is associated with a turning point and dramatic change.12 Part of a crisis is usually an unstable or a danger in an e.g. social, economic, political and international context.13 A crisis can also occur on a personal level, as an emotionally stressful or traumatic event in the life of an individual. Crises can happen anytime and anywhere and have no boundaries. Because of today’s global connection a national disaster can quickly turn into an international crisis.14

2.4 Crisis caused by Natural Disasters

A crisis caused by a natural disaster lets people automatically tent to view the situation as a serious problem. Their request for governmental help becomes imminent. The reason for this behaviour is the human perception that the government has the responsibility to restore public safety.15 Most of the people expect from the government to actively support recovery efforts. Whilst political and social policies often take a long time to be approved in politics, disaster measures are most of the time quickly passed through this normally long taking and difficult policy approval process.16 That of course gives the government the opportunity to give fast assistance for people in need.

2.5 Human Reactions to Disasters

The acceptance term is almost exclusively used in the context of technological disasters but is not addressed in conjunction with natural disasters. Thus, acceptance problems arise only in those places where human action is involved.17 Natural disasters usually don’t offer all involved persons the possibility to ascribe other actors the responsibility for the disaster and its consequences. However, during technological disasters it is always possible to blame other persons for the damage.18 This is proved by an American study that examined the response of the population on radioactive radiation.19 Respondents rated the potential disaster that can be attributed to human activity as more alarming and dangerous as a natural hazard.20 In addition many features on the consequences of disasters are given in the literature. Kinston and Rosser used a classification scheme where the different phases of disasters were classified as follows:

- Threat
- Warning
- Impact
- Recoil
- Post-impact21

They also noted that survivors of disasters are exposed to severe psychological pressure. The relationship between experienced events and subsequent mental illness was investigated by using data from the work by Brown et al. (1973). They assumed, that the occurrence of depression will triple and the increase of neuroses will multiply tenfold.22

However, nobody knows what would cause a global nuclear disaster. The effects of radiation will strongly restrict the people’s willingness to leave their shelter and to help other people. Therefore the listed estimates for a mental disorder after a nuclear disaster are considered as a cautious conjecture.

3 Decision Making

3.1 Definition

In today´s rapidly changing environment, management personnel, whether in companies, in non-profit organizations or within governmental departments, are constantly confronted with decision problems with far-reaching consequences. Survival and long-term success will often depend on finding the right solution.23 Decision-making is defined as: “The thought process of selecting a logical choice from the available options. When trying to make a good decision, a person must weight the positives and negatives of each option, and consider all the alternatives.24 For effective decision-making, a person must be able to forecast the outcome of each option as well, and based on all these items, determine which option is the best for that particular situation.25 To take the right decision is typically not a simple matter, as most decision problems are highly complex in nature. This complexity is due to a number of factors:

- The problem may have numerous dimensions, many of which can only be described in qualitative terms.
- Relationship between the different dimensions may be unclear so that the structure of the problem is obscured.
- The problem may involve more than one division of department of the company or organization.
- The problem may have a large number of possible alternative solutions.
- Future developments in the relevant environment may be uncertain.26

A decision problem is present when the discrepancy between the current situation and the target situation can be reduced and/or overcome through different courses of action. There are numbers of very different ways in which we can determine which course of action should be taken. The decision can be approached:

- purely intuitively without careful reflection about the problem.
- through routine recourse to procedures used in the past.
- by adopting unquestioningly solutions suggested by experts.
- by choosing at random.
- on basis of systematic rational thought supported by relevant information.27

3.2 Rational Choice Theory

The rational choice theory is a normative theory. It tells us what we ought to do in order to achieve our aims as well as possible. It does not tell us what our aims ought to be. Unlike moral theory, rational-choice theory offers conditional imperatives, pertaining to means rather than to ends.28 It also says something about the most appropriate course of action, but nothing about the rationality of the goals, which means that she says how I best decide or to achieve specific goals but not whether the targets are even rational.29 According to this theory, man (home oeconomics) is in his decisions and actions economically as possible by doing a thorough cost-benefit analysis and in doing so being guided by the principle of profit maximization. In other words, he is trying to achieve with a minimum of effort maximum success, benefit or pleasure.30 For this, the home economics uses appropriate calculations, a so-called benefit calculus which shows him how he best proceeds in achieving its objectives.31 Individual decision-making forms are the basis for nearly all of microeconomic analysis. These notes outline the standard economic model of rational choice in decision-making. In the standard view, rational choice is defined to mean the process of determining what options are available and then choosing the most preferred one according to some consistent criterion. In a certain sense, this rational choice model is already an optimization-based approach.32 The idea that we make decisions in order to improve human welfare is hardly unique to economics, but it is of particular importance to researchers in the related fields of decision theory and social choice. From work on decision-making and rational choice there is considerable evidence that people do not always behave in a manner consistent with expected utility - and these “violations” have undoubtedly influenced the development of new representation theories as well as more conceptual work on the proper characterization of rationality.33 On closer inspections, however, it can be observed that this rational choice approach has a number of disadvantages and does not match with the real life. Human beings cannot calculate everything precisely, because the traditional mathematical methods allow for complex decisions no exact calculations but only probability statements. And even if an ideal mathematics were available and exact calculations of complex decision problems were possible, calculating would take too long, or it would be to expensive.34


1 Cf. Business Dictionary (2013).

2 Cf. Grünig, R., Kühn, R. (2005), p. 1.

3 Cf. Eisler, R. (2013), p.8.

4 Cf. CAS (2012).

5 Cf. Coppla, D.P. (2011), p. 29.

6 Cf. Bumgarner, J.B., (2008), p. 11.

7 Cf. Bumgarner, J.B., (2008), p. 11.

8 Cf. Bumgarner, J.B. (2008), p. 12.

9 Cf. Bumgarner, J.B. (2008), p. 12.

10 Cf. FEMA (2002).

11 Cf. Thompson, J. (1986), p. 36.

12 Cf. Klann, G. (2003), p. 4.

13 Cf. Dictionary (2013).

14 Cf. Klann, G. (2003), p.5.

15 Cf. Schneider, S.K. (2011), p. 9.

16 Cf. Schneider, S.K. (2011), p. 9.

17 Cf. Ruhrmann, G. and Kohring, M. (1996), p. 26.

18 Cf. Ruhrmann, G. and Kohring, M. (1996), p. 27.

19 Cf. Belford, S. & Gibbs, M. (1987).

20 Cf. Ruhrmann, G. and Kohring, M. (1996), p. 27.

21 Cf. Thompson, J. (1986), p. 37.

22 Cf. Thompson, J. (1986), p. 71.

23 Cf. Grünig, R., Kühn, R. (2005), p. 1.

24 Cf. Jungmann et al. (2005), p. 3.

25 Cf. Business Dictionary (2013).

26 Cf. Grünig, R., Kühn, R. (2005), p. 1.

27 Cf. Grünig, R., Kühn, R. (2005), p. 8.

28 Cf. Elster, J. (1986), p. 2.

29 Cf. Roth, G. (2007), p. 111.

30 Cf. Roth, G. (2007), p. 112.

31 Cf. Roth, G. (2007), p. 113.

32 Cf. Levin, J. (2004), p. 1.

33 Cf. Anand, P. (2009), p. 1.

34 Cf. Roth, G. (2007), p. 115.

Ende der Leseprobe aus 29 Seiten


Decision Making in Fukushima and the Performance of the Operating Company
FOM Hochschule für Oekonomie & Management gemeinnützige GmbH, Köln
Soft Skills & Leadership Qualities
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
654 KB
decision, making, fukushima, performance, operating, company
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Henning Wenzel (Autor:in), 2013, Decision Making in Fukushima and the Performance of the Operating Company, München, GRIN Verlag,


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