How Useful Is Quantitative Risk Assessment?


*Department of Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Systems Division, Room 24-221 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307, USA;


This article discusses the use of quantitative risk assessment (QRA) in decision making regarding the safety of complex technological systems. The insights gained by QRA are compared with those from traditional safety methods and it is argued that the two approaches complement each other. It is argued that peer review is an essential part of the QRA process. The importance of risk-informed rather than risk-based decision making is emphasized. Engineering insights derived from QRAs are always used in combination with traditional safety requirements and it is in this context that they should be reviewed and critiqued. Examples from applications in nuclear power, space systems, and an incinerator of chemical agents are given to demonstrate the practical benefits of QRA. Finally, several common criticisms raised against QRA are addressed.