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Title: Nuclear terrorism and rational choice
Author: Ellingsen, Simen Andreas
ISNI:       0000 0004 2701 0321
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2009
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The prospect of nuclear terrorism, terrorist acts with nuclear fission explosives, is analysed by means of rational choice theory, a methodology borrowed from economics which has hitherto not been systematically applied to nuclear terrorism. The methodology allows the formalisation and modelling of key choices faced by both the aspiring nuclear terrorist and a potential target government in order to work out best strategies under the assumptions that the players are rational and intelligent. Four relevant decision situations are studied: The terrorist's choice of whether to embark on an ambitious and expensive nuclear project or to stay with tried and trusted conventional methods; The choice of fissile material for a terrorist bent on building a nuclear weapon: highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium as fissile material; The government's choice of prioritising between branches of fissile materials safeguards (HEU versus plutonium); and the strategic interplay between terrorist and government in the case where the terrorist has acquired a nuclear weapon and must decide whether to use it to attack, for extortion (blackmail) or to deter an attack upon his own interests. Several key conclusions reached are of direct policy applicability. A simple decision theoretical analysis shows that heavy emphasis on HEU over plutonium in safeguards measures is justified. It is demonstrated that relative deterrence (by denial) of nuclear terrorism in favour of conventional means is possible, and the conditions for which are found. It is found, moreover, that to use an acquired nuclear weapon for blackmail or deterrence purposes is almost never preferable for a terrorist, and the best response of a government to an explicit nuclear terrorist threat is almost always forceful response.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available