The concept of probability in safety assessments of technological systems

Science  07 Dec 1990:
Vol. 250, Issue 4986, pp. 1359-1364
DOI: 10.1126/science.2255906


Safety assessments of technological systems, such as nuclear power plants, chemical process facilities, and hazardous waste repositories, require the investigation of the occurrence and consequences of rare events. The subjectivistic (Bayesian) theory of probability is the appropriate framework within which expert opinions, which are essential to the quantification process, can be combined with experimental results and statistical observations to produce quantitative measures of the risks from these systems. A distinction is made between uncertainties in physical models and state-of-knowledge uncertainties about the parameters and assumptions of these models. The proper role of past and future relative frequencies and several issues associated with elicitation and use of expert opinions are discussed.