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Riskope was present at the MineWaste2013 Conference in Banff (Nov. 3-6, 2013). Riskope presented a paper (Factual and Foreseeable Reliability of Tailings Dams and Nuclear Reactors -a Societal Acceptability Perspective).
The paper compares “historic” rate of failure (major accidents only) of tailings dams and nuclear reactors world-wide to well known, previously published technical and societal acceptability criteria. We quantitatively compared the risks (focusing on casualties consequences because of space limitations) of these two very different industries (nuclear vs. mining). To accomplish this we used major (catastrophic) failures only. The results were rather unexpected.
The paper also shows that the mining industry as a whole has considerably progressed in reducing the rate of catastrophic dam failures from the 70’s to date. We also suggested a simplified model for long-term risk evolution of tailings dams with particular emphasis on post-production – closure – long-term dam life.
We showed how a generic modern “excellent quality” dam probability of failure can be estimated, as well as how the initial probability of failure will evolve during the dam life as care and monitoring are released (in view of closure), and during the closure phase until, for example, the first Maximum Design Earthquake occurs. The paper uses non-scientific language to broaden the audience beyond the engineering community.
Of all the presented papers Riskope’s one was the only one to take into account social tolerance aspects in risk assessments, to propose scientific quantitative approaches to risk and was extremely well received.
For years Riskope have fostered “good and rational” approaches which include for example:
We were shocked to hear again prominent and well known industrial groups leaders and their engineering consultants continuing to propose sectoral, misleading and flawed common practice approaches. Indeed these will ultimately lead them to large liabilities, generate large environmental and health and safety exposure, etc.
NASA, FAA, ISO and many authors including Riskope have raised alarm for the continued use of these methodologies. One could at best use them for preliminary discussions, but certainly not as Risk Based Decision Making tools.
Furthermore, using “binned” probabilities defined like:
tricks the public into believing that events “will happen in n years”. In reality those events could well happen “tomorrow, and again after tomorrow” (Fukushima).
In an earlier conference we published a paper digging more into those details. The title is Can We Stop Misrepresenting Reality to the Public).
Also, the attribution of a single numerical value to a verbally defined class is a fault. It tricks even the “experienced” user of the scale to go “up or down” by one class. That leads to unpredictable risk assessments results and depending on the “mood” of the assessor large overexposures may arise.
Performing risk assessments that exclude some particular type of consequences is bad. In addition saying then the assessment is useful to make decisions is another blatant case of biasing and censoring. In some cases we heard of methodologies that exclude environmental consequences from the analyses!
Finally, defining arbitrarily what risks are tolerable vs. intolerable is a critical fault. The existance of published Societal tolerance thresholds will expose negligent users to endless liabilities and litigations in the future.
It is time that we delete simplistic shortcuts like the ones quoted above from the Risk Assessment/Risk Management world. Please note that there are actually many more, but we have decided to limit ourselves at this time. It is time that Risk Assessments cease being misrepresentations of reality which will ultimately damage the industry and the public.
A way out exists (Riskope 20 rules for good Risk Assessments) which requires a drastic overhaul of risk assessments common practice (What You Need to Know About Risk Management Methods), but will ultimately win-back public trust, ensure social license to operate and ensure long term benefits and industrial sustainability for the corporations that embrace it.
Tagged with: Banff, Factual and Foreseeable Reliability, Maximum Design Earthquake, MineWaste2013, Nuclear Reactors, risk assessments, risk based decision making, Societal Acceptability, Tailings Dams, tolerable vs. Intolerable, tolerance