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Is Screening Cargo Containers for Smuggled Nuclear Threats Worthwhile?

Jason R. W. Merrick () and Laura A. McLay ()
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Jason R. W. Merrick: Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia 23284
Laura A. McLay: Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia 23284

Decision Analysis, 2010, vol. 7, issue 2, 155-171

Abstract: In recent years, Customs and Border Protection has installed radiation sensors to screen cargo containers entering the United States. They are concerned that terrorists could use containers to smuggle radiological material into the country and carry out attacks with dirty bombs or a nuclear device. Recent studies have questioned the value of improving this screening system with new sensor technology. The cost of delays caused by frequent false alarms outweighs any reduction in the probability of an attack in an expected-cost analysis. We extend existing methodology in three ways to demonstrate how additional factors affect the value of screening investments. We examine the effect that screening has in discouraging terrorists. We model multiple levels of screening. Finally, we consider additional objectives beyond cost. We find that the conclusion about screening depends on key inputs to the probability model (reflecting uncertainties) and to the value function (reflecting the stakeholders' fundamental objectives).

Keywords: applications; terrorism; multiple-objective decision analysis; probability; applications (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:inm:ordeca:v:7:y:2010:i:2:p:155-171