Managing the Fukushima Challenge

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The Fukushima Daiichi accident raises a fundamental question: Can science and technology prevent the inevitability of serious accidents, especially those with low probabilities and high consequences? This question reminds us of a longstanding challenge with the trans-sciences, originally addressed by Alvin Weinberg well before the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents. This article, revisiting Weinberg's issue, aims at gaining insights from the accident with a special emphasis on the sociotechnical or human behavioral aspects lying behind the accident's causes. In particular, an innovative method for managing the challenge is explored referring to behavioral science approaches to a decision-making process on risk management; such as managing human behavioral risks with information asymmetry, seeking a rational consensus with communicative action, and pursuing procedural rationality through interactions with the outer environment. In short, this article describes the emerging need for Japan to transform its national safety management institutions so that these might be based on interactive communication with parties inside and outside Japan.

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