'Beyond Imagination': Government Blind Spots Regarding Catastrophic Risks
19 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2013
Date Written: July 18, 2013
In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, decision makers described the reactor failures and the tsunami that triggered them as beyond imagination. Yet, the possibility of such a tsunami was understood by experts and the implications for reactor safety were clear. This was not an isolated phenomenon in natural or human catastrophes. This paper considers why the possibility of catastrophic event is often excluded from consideration and methods for incorporating low-probability catastrophes into risk assessment. In part, this phenomenon can be explained by the goals of decision makers and avoidance of cognitive dissonance. Moreover, professional cultures may blind even experts to risks that do not fit established paradigms. The paper considers some possible mechanisms for ameliorating the problem.
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