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  • by Trevor Loveday

Risk register provides odds calculations

The range of likelihood for a loss of water infrastructure in the UK could overlap that for a nuclear attack due to a “miscalculation” according to government figures released last week.


According to the government’s 2023 edition of its National Risk Register for the UK, the odds that another nuclear power might make a “nuclear miscalculation not involving the UK” – meaning, misconstrue another state’s intentions and fire an atomic warhead in our direction, are between 1% and more than 25%. likely with “catastrophic” impact. The likelihood for a loss of water infrastructure are between 0.2% and 5%


The register categorises likelihoods into five grades (see table) with their impacts listed under five descriptors from “minor” to “catastrophic”. Other risks that carry direct or knock-on risks for water supplies and services included:

  • drought – likelihood 2, with “minor to catastrophic” impact;

  • low temperatures and snow – 4, with “significant” impact;

  • high temperatures and heatwaves – 2 to 3, with “moderate to catastrophic” impact;

  • surface water flooding – 3, with “significant” impact;

  • reservoir / dam collapse – 1 to 3 with “moderate to catastrophic” impact; and

  • failure of the national electricity grid – 2 to 4, with “significant to catastrophic” impact

Risks beyond those directly affecting water infrastructure or courses that carry threats to water supplies include: attacks using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents; major maritime pollution; and deliberate disruption of UK space systems and space-based services.

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