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Wayne Shotts
Associate Director for Nonproliferation, Arms Control,
and International Security and Acting Director for the Homeland Security Organization

Another Weapon in the Battle against Proliferation

WITH so much focus recently on homeland security and counterterrorism, it’s easy to overlook the continuing importance of arms control treaties and the role played by Livermore’s 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 Can’t Invade This Lab, Livermore’s 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 inspections.
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. Army’s 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 challenging—analyzing 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 results—all in the space of 15 days. Clearly, this isn’t your usual chem lab.
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.

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UCRL-52000-03-5 | May 9, 2003