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Uncertainty in Risk Assessment: The Representation and Treatment of Uncertainties by Probabilistic and Non-Probabilistic Methods by Piero Baraldi, Roger Flage, Terje Aven, Enrico Zio

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1

Introduction

Risk assessment is a methodological framework for determining the nature and extent of the risk associated with an activity. It comprises the following three main steps:

  • Identification of relevant sources of risk (threats, hazards, opportunities)
  • Cause and consequence analysis, including assessments of exposures and vulnerabilities
  • Risk description.

Risk assessment is now widely used in the context of various types of activities as a tool to support decision making in the selection of appropriate protective and mitigating arrangements and measures, as well as in ensuring compliance with requirements set by, for example, regulatory agencies. The basis of risk assessment is the systematic use of analytical methods whose quantification is largely probability based. Common methods used to systematically analyze the causes and consequences of failure configurations and accident scenarios are fault trees and event trees, Markov models, and Bayesian belief networks; statistical methods are used to process the numerical data and make inferences. These modeling methods have been developed to gain knowledge about cause–effect relationships, express the strength of these relationships, characterize the remaining uncertainties, and describe, in quantitative or qualitative form, other properties relevant for risk management (IAEA, 1995; IEC, 1993). In short, risk assessments specify what is at stake, assess the uncertainties of relevant quantities, and produce a risk description ...

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