Article | Harvard Business Review | July–August 2014

How the Other Fukushima Plant Survived

by Ranjay Gulati, Charlotte Krontiris and Charles Casto

Abstract

In March 2011, Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was devastated by three reactor explosions and two core meltdowns in the days following a 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami that produced waves as high as 17 meters. The world is familiar with Daiichi’s fate; less well known is the crisis at its sister plant, Daini, about 10 kilometers to the south. As a result of nature’s onslaught, three of Daini’s four reactors lacked sufficient power to achieve cooldown. To prevent the disaster experienced up north, the site superintendent, Naohiro Masuda, and his team had to connect them to the plant’s surviving power sources. In a volatile environment, Masuda and Daini’s hundreds of employees responded to each unexpected event in turn. Luck played a part, but so did smart leadership and sensemaking. Until the last reactor went into cold shutdown, Masuda’s team took nothing for granted. With each new problem they encountered, it recalibrated, iteratively creating continuity and restoring order. Daini survived the crisis without an explosion or a meltdown.

Citation:

Gulati, Ranjay, Charlotte Krontiris, and Charles Casto. "How the Other Fukushima Plant Survived." Harvard Business Review 92, nos. 7/8 (July–August 2014): 111–115.