Key Themes

  • Leadership
  • Learning from history
  • Disaster planning
  • Culture and challenge
  • Process safety

Target Audience

Leaders and Managers. Anyone involved in industries with major accident hazards or risk of business disruption.


On March the 11th 2011, a tsunami struck the East coast of Japan. The Company operating the Fukushima Daiichi plant had been warned of the possibility of such an occurrence, and were content that five metre high sea walls would suffice to protect the plant. A fifteen metre high wave crashed over the nuclear plant, submerging all the diesel back up generators and damaging many buildings. The frantic battle to prevent catastrophic melt-down in the face of incomplete documentation and lack of planned procedures was now in the hands of a small number of extraordinarily brave men and women.


Seismologist: There was a tsunami last year. Magnitude 6.9. Water rose 0.2 metres.

TEPCO Official: That would hardly trouble Fukushima with seafront barriers to a height of 5.5 metres.

Seismologist: Yes, but there have been tsunamis of a completely different scale before. We think that the Jogan event of 869 AD is a more appropriate reference point.

TEPCO Official: Are you a seismologist or a historian?

Seismologist: We have created computer models of the devastation it caused.

TEPCO Official: Devastation? In 869 there would be a handful of villages and basic dwellings, which could be rebuilt in a week. I doubt there was very much damage, let alone devastation.

Seismologist: It destroyed a castle!

TEPCO Official: They are unverifiable legends.

Seismologist: But scientific surveys confirm historical accounts by analysing sediment left by the huge wave.

TEPCO Official: A wave able to overtop 5.5 metre sea defences?

Seismologist: Easily.

TEPCO Official: We do not base design assumptions on folk-tales, we base them on computations by the Japan Society of Civil Engineers.