IRGC International Conference 2011: Learning from Large-Scale Industrial Accidents

IRGC International Conference 2011: Learning from Large-Scale Industrial Accidents

November 3, 2011

EPFL, Rolex Learning Center, Lausanne, Switzerland —


IRGC  held a public conference co-organised with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

It appears from the March 2011 Fukushima Dai-Ichi accident in Japan and based on the many indirect and often far reaching consequences in other countries that:
-Capabilities for adaptive risk assessment to deal with large scale industrial accidents (for example those involving large releases of nuclear materials) need to be improved
-Decision-makers should be better able to understand and manage public risk perception
-Risk communication in situations of high uncertainty and emergency should be improved

The main topic of this conference was: lessons learned from past accidents. For example, following the core meltdown at one of the reactors at the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear power station and the industrial accidents that occurred at chemical and pesticide plants in Seveso and Bhopal, risk managers made major progress in improving safety and risk governance. The TMI accident resulted in the creation of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) which has dramatically improved US nuclear power operations and safety. Bhopal and Seveso led to a wide range of changes and improvements in the chemical industry including the creation of the ICCA Responsible Care Initiative.

Following some key note presentations, a panel of experts and practitioners from Europe, the US and Asia were invited to discuss on how we have learned from and built better risk governance institutions and processes in the wake of past disasters, with a view to elaborate recommendations for improving safety, communication and overall risk governance of highly risky industrial activities.

The conference was chaired and moderated by Prof. Granger Morgan, Head, Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University.

Speakers and their presentations included:

Welcome remarks:
-Dr Charles Kleiber, Chairman of the Board, IRGC
-Prof. Patrick Aebischer, President, EPFL

-Prof. Granger Morgan, Carnegie Mellon University: “Improving future safety and risk governance by: Learning from Large Accidents”
-Dr Takashi Sawada, Science Council of Japan; Atomic Energy Society of Japan; Mitsubishi Heavy Industries: “Lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident”
-Mr Jean-Pierre Sursock, EPRI: “US Industry Response to the Fukushima Accident”
-Dr Hans Wanner, ENSI, Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate: “Fukushima – Lessons for Switzerland”
-Mr Richard Gowland, European Process Safety Center: “Lessons learned after disasters in the chemical industry”
-Prof. V.S. Arunachalam, CSTEP, Bangalore: “Learning from failures: A Morality Tale in the Offing”

Panel with speakers and members of the IRGC Scientific and Technical Council:
-Prof. Dr Wolfgang Kröger, ETH Risk Center; IRGC Founding Rector; former head of research in nuclear energy and safety at the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI)
-Prof. Xue Lan, Tsinghua University, Beijing, Professor and Dean, School of Public Policy and Management
-Prof. Dr Ortwin Renn, Stuttgart University, Professor of environmental sociology
-Dr Timothy Walker, former UK Governor of IAEA and Chairman of the EBRD Nuclear Safety Account

Concluding remarks:
-Prof. Granger Morgan, IRGC
-Prof. Hans Björn Püttgen, Energy Center , EPFL


Roundtable 1 – How can we improve the anticipation of and early response to emerging risks?

One of IRGC’s missions is to help organisations in the public or private sectors to improve their anticipation of emerging risks. In a context of globalisation and systemic risks, this proves to be a challenge to many. IRGC’s assumption is that new or emerging risks are not the same for all organisations. The context and the culture in which an organisation operates will determine to a large extent the risks that may affect it.

IRGC is conducting a project on emerging risks that takes place in two phases. Phase 1 focused on how and why risks emerge. It was concluded with the publication of a report on “Contributing Factors to Risk Emergence”. Phase 2 is starting now. Its purpose is to develop practical guidelines for practitioners in business and the public sector, helping them improve their own capabilities to understand, anticipate and respond to emerging risks.

The roundtable was a dialogue between scientists and practitioners on some of the issues raised in this project.

It was facilitated by Prof. Ortwin Renn, Stuttgart University, with Michel Maila, a member of the IRGC Board.

Some comments from participants

“…both the content and the presentations from various delegates were insightful and thought provoking”

“A good range and variety of speakers and participants, very good for making contact with actors from different organisational/business backgrounds.”

“Some issues that were discussed are issues under debate in (my organisation). Insights from the annual event provide useful input into those discussions.”

“Very transdisciplinary setting, with people involved who were interested to exchange their experience and ideas. The design was well set as it included IRGC work and additional work from other fields.”

Roundtable Content

1. Detailed Programme for Roundtable 1 [PDF]

2. Roundtable 1 Summary Report [PDF]

3. Roundtable 1 Presentations

- Introduction: The Emergence of Risks Contributing Factors [PDF] (Michel Maila and Belinda Cleeland)

- OECD Approach to Future Global Shocks [PDF] (Pierre-Alain Schieb)

- Dealing with Complexity: An Organisational Perspective [PDF] (Gökçe Sargut)

- Identifying and Assessing Emerging Risks: A Reinsurance Perspective [PDF] Access for roundtable 1 participants, password required (Martin Weymann)

- Global Systemic Risks and Resilience: Policy-focused Research [PDF] (Natalie Day)

- ER Types and the 5-step Protocol [PDF] Access for roundtable 1 participants, password required (Ortwin Renn and Marie Valentine Florin)

- Emergence and Risk Characterisation [PDF](Michel Maila)


Participants in roundtable 1 included a diverse mix of experts from the private sector (e.g. Syngenta, Nestlé, PwC, MunichRe, SwissRe, Oliver Wyman), public sector (government representatives including from Singapore, the Netherlands, Abu Dhabi and Switzerland), international organisations (e.g., OECD, WEF, UNISDR) and academia (e.g., Oxford University, Stuttgart University, EPFL, ETHZ).


Roundtable 2 – How can we improve the provision of more consistent science and technology advice in support of risk governance and sustainable innovation?
Managing the crucial relationship between technological innovation, risk governance and public acceptability

Today’s risk governance in fields related to or involving science and technology requires:
- Enabling of scientific and technological developments, for the benefits that they can bring to society;
- Regulation, to mitigate the potential attendant risks;
- Social acceptability, implying a good collaboration between science and society;
- Building effective bridges between these three components.

The roundtable was a dialogue between scientists and practitioners on some of the issues that are involved in the provision of science and technology advice for policy, innovation and risk governance. It was facilitated by Prof. Granger Morgan, Carnegie Mellon University.

Expert contributions were organised along two themes:

Theme 1: Institutions for technically-based risk and policy analysis: an overview of the situation in the US, in Europe and in Asia
- In the US: Institutions for technically-based risk and policy analysis: an overview from the US (Granger Morgan, Head of the Department of Engineering Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Chairman of the IRGC Scientific and Technical Council);
- In Europe: Promoting academic networks for better S&T advice: An overview from Europe (Manuel Heitor, Former Secretary of State of Science and Technology, Portugal);
- In India: [An overview of the situation from India] (V.S. Arunachalam, Chairman of the Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy – CSTEP, Bangalore);
- In China: S&T Advice for Risk Governance and Innovation: the Case of China (Xue Lan, Professor and Dean, School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing);
- New approaches to providing credible scientific understanding to policymakers (George Atkinson, former science and technology adviser, US government; Director, Institute on Science for Global Policy).

Theme 2: Public and private regulation and incentives
- [Planned Adaptation and Risk Governance: Pharmaceuticals, Aviation and Biotechnology] (Ken Oye, Associate Professor of Political Science and Engineering Systems, Massachusetts Institute of Technology);
- Inappropriate Governance of Risks in Life Sciences: food security and health issues (Joyce Tait, Scientific Advisor, ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics – INNOGEN, UK);
- EU regulatory context for innovative technologies (Anna Gergely, Director, EHS Regulatory, Steptoe & Johnson LLP);
- Cyber Security and the governance of risks affecting critical infrastructures (João Barros, Associate Professor, University of Porto and Head of the Instituto de Telecomunicações, Portugal).

Other experts and practitioners were invited to contribute.

Some comments from participants

- “[IRGC] play[s] an important role providing a forum for candid discussion on the governance of public risk. As a result, I was able to better benchmark our efforts […] with those elsewhere, compare national philosophies of approach and find some quality ‘thinking time’ to process my thoughts in a very creative environment. Hugely appreciated.”

- “[The roundtable] provided lots of stimulating ideas for me to take away and incorporate into my day-to-day practice.”

- “Good mix of steered discussions and liberty for expression of alternate/additional views.”

- “The discussion [was] of very [high] quality with incisive, quality contributions across the piece. [IRGC] did a very solid job in capturing inputs, not allowing the same voices to dominate and setting out a well-structured and timely agenda of questions for us to tackle.”

- “I learned a lot about how policy and risk analyses are handled in different industrial fields. Lots of good ideas that could – and should – be applied to the nuclear industry. Very interesting participants and highly qualified – Excellent, high level discussion.”

Roundtable Content

- Detailed Programme for Roundtable 2 [PDF]


Participants in roundtable 2 included a diverse mix of experts from the public sector (regulatory agencies or government representatives including from Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom), the private sector (e.g., Swiss Re, Novartis, F. Hoffman-La Roche, Du Pont de Nemours International, National Grid), academia (e.g., MIT, Tsinghua University, EPFL, ETHZ), research institutes and independent organisations.





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