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Follow up to: “accidents’ consequences can lead to diverging societal impacts: where lies the difference?” and “Metaphoric description of risks and their perception”

Follow up to: “accidents’ consequences can lead to diverging societal impacts: where lies the difference?” and “Metaphoric description of risks and their perception”

Nov 20th, 2014

accidents' consequences can lead to diverging societal impacts

Windscale fire was the worst nuclear accident in Great Britain’s history

This blogpost is in follow up of Identical single accidents’ consequences can lead to diverging societal impacts and similarly, the Metaphoric description of risks and their perception.

Nuclear Reactors:

Let’s look at some accidents types, i,.e. c1, c2, c3.

c1: Class 5+ accidents (Fukushima, Tschernobyl, Kyshtym disaster, Windscale fire, Three Mile Island accident, First Chalk River accident,  and Lucens partial core meltdown) were likely to be interpreted as Sword of Damocles metaphor, but would likely be Medusa now.

c2: Nuclear Waste storage can be easily considered to belong to the Pandora interpretation, evolving into Cassandra (presently), then later it may evolve into Cyclops. Finally,

c3: Post accidental exposure is Cassandra but for people onsite it is a Sword of Damocles.

Tailings Failures:

Based on the above we can imagine that Tailings Dams failures can be societally and personally interpreted as one major, catastrophic accident. Actually,  a vivid one with “unthinkable” consequences (for example Lac Megantic) or Class 5+ accident (such as Fukushima).

In fact, we can now set-up a table with the various accidents examples. In addition, we include their related metaphoric descriptors at personal/local or societal/general level, including public perception and likely reactions.

accidents’ consequences can lead to diverging societal impacts

Accident and related risks

Personal/local metaphora

Societal/general metaphora

Public perception

a1 farmer roll-over

Sword of Damocles

Medusa

Intolerable, in fact leads to crisis if awareness raises, sense of betrayal

a2 highway worker roll-over

Sword of Damocles

Cyclop

It is possible to decide for Mitigative measures

b1 hydrocarbon train “standard” derailments (before Lac Megantic and others)

Cyclop

Only if frequency increases significantly Medusa

It is possible to propose Mitigative measures. However, not necessarily implemented until the Medusa stage is reached, then there will be a crisis.

b2 hydrocarbon trains after catastrophic accidents

Sword of Damocles

Medusa

Intolerable, leads to crisis if awareness raises, sense of betrayal

c1 Class 5+ nuclear

Sword of Damocles

Medusa

Intolerable, leads to crisis if awareness raises, sense of betrayal

c2 Nuclear storage

Pandora to Cassandra

Cyclops evolving to Medusa

Mitigative measures will be proposed. However not necessarily implemented until the Medusa stage is reached. In fact, there will be a crisis.

c3 Post accident exposure

Sword of Damocles

Cassandra evolving to Medusa

Mitigative measures will be proposed, not necessarily implemented until the Medusa stage is reached. In fact, then there will be a crisis.

What we see in the table

It is obvious that when personal/local risks belonging to the Cyclops, Sword of Damocles metaphors have societal/general potential for Medusa perception, then we should consider them as “societally intolerable”. Indeed, they soon trigger mitigation, moratoriums, protests, etc.

Furthermore we notice that he development of a societal Medusa interpretation varies from case to case:

a1,b2,c1 quickly turn into full blown Medusa
b1, c2,c3 are slow Medusa, which can abort. Finally,

a2 is intrinsically “contained”, so it will most likely never evolve into a Medusa interpretation.

In fact, we can use the German metaphors for discussing image and societal perception of risk scenario.

If we consider any scenario to have a high Medusa perception we can also considered it to be at the limit of societal tolerance. Indeed that is true whatever the factual consequences may be, even if they are relatively small.

If we consider Medusa as fast developing than the ensuing crisis will probably lead to a major crisis, with potential catastrophic corporate consequences.

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Category: Consequences, Hazard, Tolerance/Acceptability

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