PAST PROJECTS AND STUDIES
REVIEW AND UPDATE: TECHNICAL ISSUES RELATED TO THE COMPREHENSIVE NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY (CTBT)
Please see our Current Projects Website for details about this study.
MONITORING NUCLEAR WEAPONS
CISAC released the long-awaited study Monitoring Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear-Explosive Materials: An Assessment of Methods and Capabilities on April 18 2005. The committee believes that increasing the categories of nuclear weapons, components, and materials subject to transparency and monitoring would be valuable -- and may ultimately be essential -- as the United States and the world attempt to address the urgent and interrelated goals of reducing the dangers from existing nuclear arsenals, minimizing the spread of nuclear weaponry to additional states, and preventing the acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorists. The study addresses the technical and institutional approaches and capabilities in transparency and monitoring that could be applied to any or all of these goals. It does not analyze or make recommendations about the choices in U.S. nuclear-weapon and nonproliferation policies and priorities that will continue to shape the context within which such approaches and capabilities might be applied.
A committee formed under the auspices of CISAC and led by CISAC chair John P. Holdren released a study in July 2002 on Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The study had been requested by the State Department following the Senate’s refusal to provide advice and consent to ratification of the treaty. The study addressed three major technical issues that had been central in the Senate’s debate: the ability of the United States to maintain the safety and security of its nuclear stockpile in the absence of nuclear testing; U.S. capacity to detect attempts at clandestine testing by other countries; and what current and would-be nuclear powers might be able to achieve without testing or by testing below the threshold of detection.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS POLICY
In 1991, the Committee on International Security and Arms Control (CISAC) released a report recommending policies for The Future of the U.S.-Soviet Nuclear Relationship, which emphasized the potential for new, cooperative security relations and greatly reduced levels of nuclear weaponry. In June 1997 CISAC released a sequel to the 1991 study, The Future of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy, which recommended both further reductions in forces beyond the levels agreed to in START II and changes in postures, doctrine, and operational practice that should accompany those reductions to increase the safety of the remaining forces.
EXCESS WEAPONS PLUTONIUM
At the request of then National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, CISAC undertook a comprehensive examination of the technical and policy options for the management and disposition of the plutonium that will become excess under U.S. and Soviet arms reductions. Released in January 1994, Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium became the baseline for the Clinton Administration's policy on fissile materials, and had substantial impact on international policy as well. A second volume of supporting technical and economic analysis was released in July 1995.
In response to the international impact of this effort, the German Foreign Ministry asked the German-American Academic Council (GAAC) to sponsor a joint study to assess technical options for German-American collaboration to assist the denuclearization of Russia. (The GAAC was created in 1993 by Chancellor Kohl and President Clinton "to foster a transatlantic dialogue on fundamental issues confronting modern industrial societies.") A bilateral steering committee, composed of CISAC members and senior German scientists released a report in July 1995.
In 1998 the U.S. Department of Energy asked the National Academy of Sciences to examine the disposition alternatives for excess weapons plutoniumbeing developed at the time to see if they met the “spent fuel standard” proposed in CISAC’s earlier plutonium studies.
BIOLOGICAL THREATS PANEL
The Biological Threats Panel brings together CISAC and non-CISAC experts to address the scientific and technical dimensions of biological weapons, bioterrorism, issues related to successful implementation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, biosecurity, and other contemporary challenges related to rapid growth in biotechnology. The Panel coordinates across the Academies with ongoing efforts and develops its activities in partnership programs inside and outside the Academies. The Biological Threats Panel continues work started in 1986 by CISAC's Biological Weapons Working Group (BWWG), whose initial focus was on continuing concerns about Soviet compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention. In the mid-1990s the BWWG played a leading role in fostering U.S. government support for cooperative research programs between American scientists and scientists from former Soviet biological weapons (BW) research institutes. In 2002 the Working Group began a new activity exploring how the scientific community can contribute to preventing destructive applications of research in biotechnology, undertaking a series of international consultations to examine the range of existing national and international arrangements and the possibilities for expanding these toward more comprehensive international approaches. These consultations served to inform and complement the 2003 NRC study, Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism. This topic continues to be addressed through several efforts in the Academies, including through the Biological Threats Panel.