Understanding uncertainty: thinking through in relation to high-risk technologies

Authored by: Kenneth Pettersen

Routledge Handbook of Risk Studies

Print publication date:  April  2016
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138022867
eBook ISBN: 9781315776835
Adobe ISBN: 9781317691662

10.4324/9781315776835.ch3

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Abstract

The Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania, US, in 1979 became a landmark event for risk research. It revealed the limitations of risk analysis and demonstrated that scientific experts and risk managers can seriously misjudge uncertainty in high-risk technologies, misunderstanding and sometimes even having little idea of what goes on behind the scenes. Due to the benefits and critical importance of high-risk technologies such as nuclear energy, civil aviation and chemical industry in modern societies, technological accidents have also contributed to making uncertainty a key issue of our times. Today, uncertainty cannot be overlooked as a key topic associated with the assessment and management of accident risks. In this way, high-risk technologies are an excellent focus for thinking through issues of uncertainty and addressing implications for risk research.

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