Another Weapon in the Battle against
WITH so much focus recently on homeland security and counterterrorism,
its easy to overlook the continuing importance of arms control
treaties and the role played by Livermores technologies and
analytical capabilities in supporting them. Indeed, the strength
of test ban treaties and arms reduction agreements rests, in large
part, on the technical capabilities available for monitoring compliance.
Lawrence Livermore has a
more than 40-year history of research and development in support
of nuclear test ban treaties. The Laboratory played a major role
during the original Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) discussions
in the 1960s, the trilateral CTBT talks in the 1970s, the renegotiation
of the Protocol to the Threshold Test Ban Treaty in the 1980s, and
the more recent CTBT negotiations of the 1990s. Today, the Laboratory
is a key participant in the national program to provide the U.S.
government with the technical capabilities needed for worldwide
nuclear explosion monitoring.
The Laboratory has also been
involved in developing technologies to monitor nuclear arms reduction
treaties and material disposition agreements. The sticking point
in all of these negotiations is the need to measure attributes of
classified objects while preventing the disclosure of sensitive
weapons design information. To overcome this obstacle, Livermore
has developed and demonstrated novel radiation detection instrumentation,
data interpretation algorithms, information barriers, and monitoring
procedures suitable for use by inspection personnel from the U.S.,
Russia, and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Now, as described in Chemical
Weapons Cant Invade This Lab, Livermores Forensic
Science Center has been certified to support the Chemical Weapons
Convention (CWC). Unlike the nuclear treaties, which limit testing
and the number and types of permitted weapons, the CWC bans an entire
class of mass-destruction weapons. It outlaws the development, production,
acquisition, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. Parties to
the CWC must destroy any and all chemical weapons stockpiles and
production facilities. Also banned is the transfer of chemical-weapon-related
technologies to other countries or groups. The CWC is the first
arms control treaty to widely affect the private sector. Because
many of the chemicals of concern have legitimate civilian uses,
industrial facilities, not just government sites, are subject to
The Organisation for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), headquartered in The Hague,
Netherlands, is responsible for implementing the CWC. More than
a dozen OPCW-designated laboratories have been set up around the
world, including two in the U.S.: one at the U.S. Armys Edgewood
Chemical and Biological Forensic Analytical Center in Maryland and
the other at Lawrence Livermore. OPCW requires that samples from
sites under challenge by chemical weapons inspections be analyzed
by two OPCW-certified laboratories, and U.S. legislation requires
that all samples collected in the U.S. be analyzed within the country.
Thus, two OPCW-certified laboratories in the U.S. are needed.
Endorsed by the departments
of Energy, State, and Defense and the National Security Council,
Livermore was selected to be the second U.S. OPCW-designated laboratory
because of its unique capabilities in chemical analysis and forensic
characterization of unknown samples. The work required for OPCW
is technically challenginganalyzing samples for traces of
any of thousands of possible compounds (chemical warfare agents,
precursor chemicals, decomposition products), often in the presence
of other compounds that complicate or confound the analysis; synthesizing
the identified chemicals to verify the analysis; and reporting resultsall
in the space of 15 days. Clearly, this isnt your usual chem
As current events in Iraq
highlight, the threat posed by the acquisition and likely use of
chemical weapons by rogue states or terrorists is all too real.
Lawrence Livermore is working the entire spectrum of problems caused
by weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation and terrorism.
Technical capabilities for detecting and characterizing activities
indicative of WMD production are critical to national and global
security. Certification by OPCW to support challenges during chemical
weapons inspections is one more way the Laboratory is fighting against
WMD proliferation and terrorism.