There is little doubt that Chemical, Biological and Radiological materials and Nuclear devices have the potential to cause immense, widespread, long-lasting harm. Further, their abhorrent nature and potential for highly asymmetric use have given them a high profile in news articles and fiction. These factors led CBRN terrorism to be perceived as a high threat through the 1990’s and 2000’s.

However, a significant reaction emerged against this high threat perception. This reaction involved reducing the weighting of CBRN’s harm potential, and instead using the history of low frequency, low impact, historic CBRN terrorist events as the basis for future events. Threat estimates based on surface trends are at strong conflict with the perceptions of the 1990’s and 2000’s.   

This presenter believes that this reaction has gone too far, and that the CBRN threat is now generally underestimated. The presentation will offer multiple rationales why historic terrorism data alone is not the best guide for the future CBRN threat. It will highlight relevant factors that historic data doesn’t show, and it will identify logic traps in directly drawing future conclusions based on past events.

The presentation will also include propositions for a better and blended approach to future CBRN threat estimation. 

The Terrorism Risk Assessment, Modelling and Mitigation Seminar Series (TRAMMSS) is a virtual seminar series focused on technical topics related to terrorism risk assessment, and modelling, including blast modelling and response; IEDs; vehicles as weapons; CBRN; big data for risk assessment, security and screening; and associated mitigation measures.


Dr Matthew Healy began his academic career as an ion accelerator and X-ray physicist, but he has been working broadly across defence and security at the Defence Academy of the UK with Cranfield University since 1992.

His main technical fields remain nuclear and radiological weapons, sensing and non-invasive imaging. However, he teaches and researches broadly across CBRN and C-IED which includes threat, planning, requirements capture, response, forensics and policy. Selected courses which Matthew leads/lead include C-CBRN terrorism, UNSCR1540 enforcement, nuclear hardening, nuclear weapons policy, hazardous forensics, WMD proliferation & control, and the technology of resilience. He is often tasked with designing bespoke or multi-disciplinary courses for industry, police, and UK/overseas military. He has supported 17 PhD candidates, around 80 M level projects, and published about 50 papers.

Matthew has supported a wide range of government and private sector and NATO working groups. He also led the SME team that down selected the national CBRN sensing assets, and he has performed extensive consultancy, including numerous CBRN vulnerability assessments for UK & overseas civil and government infrastructure.

Who should attend

This seminar is open to guests from outside Cranfield, who may work in academia, research, or industry. Due to the potentially sensitive nature of this seminar series, guests should be able to show that they are affiliated with an appropriate bona fide organisation.


The event is free of charge, but participants must register for the TRAMMSS mailing list in advance.

How to register

To attend this seminar, you must register for the TRAMMSS mailing list. This can be found via the main TRAMMSS website.