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How the Other Fukushima Plant Survived 30-11-16 13'58 CRISIS MANAGEMENT How the Other Fukushima Plant Survived by Ranjay Gulati, Charles Casto, and Charlotte Krontiris FROM THE JULY–AUGUST 2014 ISSUE W hen we hear the words “Fukushima disaster,” most of us think of Fukushima Daiichi, the nuclear power plant wracked by three core meltdowns and three
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  ! #$$#$% $!'()*+, -./ 0-./1 23435.678 9:8;- <31=6=/>9?@6;8 $ >/ $$.--A5BCC.D1E+1@CF $GC HC.+,#-./#+-./1#I3435.678#A:8;-#531=6=/> CRISIS MANAGEMENT How the Other FukushimaPlant Survived by Ranjay Gulati, Charles Casto, and Charlotte Krontiris FROM THE JULY–AUGUST 2014 ISSUE W hen we hear the words “Fukushima disaster,” most of us think of FukushimaDaiichi, the nuclear power plant wracked by three core meltdowns and threereactor building explosions following the March 2011 earthquake andtsunami in Japan. Without electricity to run the plant’s cooling systems, managers andworkers couldn’t avert catastrophe: People around the world watched grainy footage of theexplosions, gray plumes of smoke and steam blotting the skyline. Since the tsunami, Daiichihas been consumed by the challenge of containing and reducing the radioactive water anddebris left behind.Less well known is the crisis at Fukushima Daini, a sister plant about 10 kilometers to thesouth, which also suffered severe damage but escaped Daiichi’s fate. To shed light on howleadership shaped the outcome, we’ve reconstructed that story here—from several firsthandinterviews; detailed reports by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the utility thatowns both plants; the Nuclear Energy Institute; and a number of public sources. In sovolatile an environment, none of the usual rules for decision making and organizational behavior applied. But the site superintendent, Naohiro Masuda, and the rest of Daini’s 400employees charted their way through the chaos, and the plant survived without a meltdownor an explosion.At a magnitude of 9.0, the earthquake was the largest in Japan’s recorded history, and thewaves it generated were three times as high as what Daini had been built to withstand. Itwas left with just one diesel generator and one power line intact. That single power linesupplied electricity to the control rooms, where plant operators could monitor the water  ! #$$#$% $!'()*+, -./ 0-./1 23435.678 9:8;- <31=6=/>9?@6;8 F >/ $$.--A5BCC.D1E+1@CF $GC HC.+,#-./#+-./1#I3435.678#A:8;-#531=6=/> level, temperature, pressure, and other vital metrics for each reactor and containmentvessel. But three of the four reactors lacked sufficient power to run a critical component of their cooling systems.  In two minutes, the tsunami overwhelms Daini.Slide to see before and after. To achieve cooldown and prevent the kind of devastation that was unfolding at Daiichi,Masuda and his team had to connect those reactors to Daini’s surviving power sources. Butthe team was still reeling from a natural disaster of almost supernatural dimensions. Whathad happened here? How could the workers move forward and take action when all theirexpectations had been so violently shattered? Hanging over these questions was an evenscarier one: Was the worst really over? Natural disasters aren’t discrete events. Theearthquake had been days in the making and would generate aftershocks for more than ayear. The tsunami wasn’t a single dreadful wave but a series of them.  ! #$$#$% $!'()*+, -./ 0-./1 23435.678 9:8;- <31=6=/>9?@6;8 ! >/ $$.--A5BCC.D1E+1@CF $GC HC.+,#-./#+-./1#I3435.678#A:8;-#531=6=/> FUKUSHIMADAINIFUKUSHIMADAIICHI   COUNTDOWNTOCOOLDOWN Just 10 kilometersfrom the FukushimaDaiichi nuclearpower plant, whichsuffered three coremeltdowns andthree explosionsfollowing the March2011 earthquakeand tsunami inJapan, sits the other   Fukushimaplant—DainiDaini, which survivedwithout a meltdownor an explosion.Here’s how eventsunfolded in thosevolatile days afterthe disaster, asworkers madesense of the chaosand managed thecrisis, one action at  To assess the damage and begin the dangerous work of restoring power to the reactors,Masuda didn’t simply make decisions and issue orders. He knew he had to persuade peopleto act—against their survival instincts. His technical competence, knowledge of the plant,and diligence helped him earn their trust. But more important, Masuda acknowledged theevolving reality in which they were operating. He shared the burden of uncertainty anddoubt, engaging in what the organizational theorist Karl Weick and others have described asthe “sensemaking” process: He arrived at a common understanding with his team members by revising and communicating what they “knew” so that they could together adapt to eachtwist and turn.  ! #$$#$% $!'()*+, -./ 0-./1 23435.678 9:8;- <31=6=/>9?@6;8 G >/ $$.--A5BCC.D1E+1@CF $GC HC.+,#-./#+-./1#I3435.678#A:8;-#531=6=/> As a result, workers at Daini didn’t lose focus or hope. While they acted, some things became more certain (“What’s broken in the plant, and how can we fix it?”); some becameless so (“Am I in danger from radiation?”); and some remained as unpredictable as ever(“Will these aftershocks lead to more flooding?”). Until the last reactor went into coldshutdown, Masuda and his team took nothing for granted. With each problem theyencountered, they recalibrated, iteratively creating continuity and restoring order. As wedescribe below, they acted their way into a better understanding of the challenges theyfaced. A Closer Look at Sensemaking Sensemaking is adaptive behavior in which understanding and experience shape each other.We humans are attached to our expectations—we cling to the familiar. But a crisis disruptsthe familiar. When past experience doesn’t explain the current condition, we must reviseour interpretation of events and our response to them. Bit by bit, we clarify an uncertainreality through action and subsequent reflection. Weick called this phenomenon“enactment.”Enactment isn’t a linear process, however. In a crisis, people often need to venture downsome wrong paths before finding their way. But the more publicly a leader commits to thosepaths, the more difficult it will be to seek out a new, better understanding. How to engage insensemaking without becoming trapped by a flawed interpretation of events has been thesubject of much research (such as Weick’s analysis of the famous 1949 Mann Gulch wildfirein Montana). Masuda navigated that fine line as he pursued cold shutdown for the plant’sfour reactors. Acting Decisively—Until Overtaken by Events The earthquake hit on March 11 at 2:46 PM.It was the largest fault slip seismologists hadever seen: 50 meters of tectonic movement in two and a half terrifying minutes. ThoughMasuda had experienced countless earthquakes, this was the only one in his 29-year careerthat drove him under a table. When the violent rolling and shaking abated, he scrambled outfrom cover and grabbed a hard hat. He told all the workers to evacuate the administration building and gather in the plant’s Emergency Response Center (ERC). On the upper story of that building, in a large room filled with evacuated workers, he located the manager of plantoperations to request an update. The manager reported that all four of Daini’s reactors had
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