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Nuclear Risks – Exploring the Utility of Models

New insights on the use of models in assessing nuclear terrorism

Numerical models have been widely used within academic and policy communities in an effort to quantify the risk of nuclear terrorism. This is a challenging task, as evidenced by widely varying predictions in this area, which estimate the likelihood of a successful nuclear terrorist act as anywhere from a virtual impossibility to a near certainty.

Drawing on probability theory researchers at CSSS have explored how and for what purpose models should be used in this complex and challenging area of international security. Arguing that existing approaches fail to consider terrorist intelligence and adaptation in response to security measures. Nuclear Terrorism is arguably best conceived as a ‘virtual risk’ for which it is not possible to meaningfully ascribe a quantitative measure. Instead models should be used to structure thinking and identify areas of disagreement as targets for further research. These issues and more are explored in Professor Christopher Hobbs and Dr Robert J. Downes' article, 'Nuclear terrorism and virtual risk: Implications for prediction and the utility of models', published in the European Journal of International Security in 2017. 

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