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Engineering project failures and nuclear policy decisions

Daniel Aldrich, professor and director of the MS in Security and Resilience program, has published two impactful articles this summer: one that explores failures of large-scale engineering projects, and another that examines nuclear policy decisions after the Fukushima meltdowns.

In an interdisciplinary approach to the management of resilience, Engineering meets institutions: an interdisciplinary approach to management of resilience looks at major failures of large-scale engineering projects to better understand what went wrong.

The meltdowns at the Fukushima dai-ichi nuclear power plants in Tohoku, Japan is one of the projects explored by Aldrich and his co-authors. According to the authors, the project designers and engineers made multiple mistakes in thinking through the actual risks and hazards the plant would encounter.

“Because there was no real attempt from the Tokyo Electric Power Company to engage, for example, local indigenous knowledge about tsunami hazards or nearby first responder organizations for joint drills, the plant was unable to use existing resources to stop a major disaster from developing,” Aldrich said.

Therefore, the authors use a new framework which suggests that engineers should engage with institutions, both formal and informal, when designing projects.

In another article, Triggers for policy change: the 3.11 Fukushima meltdowns and nuclear policy continuity, Aldrich and his co-authors analyze how the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown influenced energy decisions worldwide.

While some countries like China and Russia went full steam ahead with nuclear power plants after the accidents, others backed away. The authors used extensive case studies of Japan and Germany alongside a 90-country quantitative analysis.

“Governance matters tremendously in this policy field so that non-democracies pursue atomic energy far more than democracies,” Aldrich said.

Published On: September 12, 2018 |
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