Risk Analysis, Vol. 24, page(s): 935-946
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, many scholars, journalists, and public officials expressed fear about the security of nuclear facilities in the United States.
The reaction to this new terrorist threat has been strong and predictable. Emergency efforts began immediately to deploy more security forces to protect U.S. nuclear facilities after the September 11 attacks. Experts testifying to Congress have strongly advocated adding more security guards and patrols at nuclear facilities to prevent nuclear terrorism. The increased threat of nuclear terrorism, it is argued, must be met with a countervailing increase in nuclear security personnel.
There are understandable incentives for organizational leaders to want to devote more resources and more personnel to address dangerous problems when they are seen to develop. From a political perspective, action must be taken after a major disaster, at a minimum, to let insiders and outsiders see that top officials are doing something to prevent a reoccurrence. If the causes of the problem are uncertain, however, the appropriate reaction is unclear. This article analyzes how we should think about nuclear security and the emerging terrorist threats. It presents a warning about the most simple, and most tempting, solution to our new nuclear terrorism problem: to add more security forces to protect power plants, weapons facilities, and nuclear storage sites. The article uncovers the dark side of redundancy by focusing on how efforts to improve nuclear security can inadvertently backfire, increasing the risks they are designed to reduce.