T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E

Science and Technology and the Nonproliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Help Site Map Text Only

Science and Technology and the
Nonproliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

A White Paper

Prepared for the White House Forum on the Role of Science and Technology
in Promoting National Security and Global Stability

March 29 - 30, 1995

National Academy of Sciences

Statement of the Problem

The proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their means of delivery poses one of the most serious threats to our security and that of our allies and other friendly nations. Our national strategy to combat this threat is multi-faceted -- from denying weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the means to deliver them and the wherewithal to produce them to developing an effective capability to counter these threats and maintaining robust strategic nuclear forces. While counterproliferation and maintaining our strategic forces present challenges for the military application of science and technology, nonproliferation presents challenges for technology applications that span export control, arms control, and technical cooperation to address both the supply of and demand for weapons of mass destruction. In all of these efforts, science and technology play a pivotal role. The ability of our nation to draw on a wide base of scientific and technical resources and to coordinate those resources will be a key element in our ability to meet the multi-dimensional challenges of proliferation.

Our Policy Response

As President Clinton recently noted, there is no single policy -- no silver bullet -- that will prevent or reverse the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The United States has based its approach to nonproliferation on three pillars: controlling the spread of material and technology; detecting proliferant programs anand technology; detecting proliferant programs and monitoring and verifying nonproliferation agreements; and encouraging adherence to nonproliferation norms. Science and technology are essential to each of these pillars -- in determining what technologies to control and how, in developing the means to detect and monitor, in bringing international S&T efforts to bear in addressing proliferation problems and resolving issues that if left unattended could contribute to proliferation pressures. Together the three pillars of U.S. nonproliferation policy constitute a framework that supports the global norm of nonproliferation.

Control of technology

Mechanisms used to control WMD-related technology include:

  • International agreements restraining supply and acquisition of relevant technologies and materials;
  • Multilateral export controls to limit commerce in relevant technologies and materials; and
  • Strengthened national controls on materials and technologies.

International treaties and agreements. International agreements which limit material production, technology development, or technology application are one of the most important tools in nonproliferation. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) is the centerpiece of global efforts to stop nuclear weapons proliferation. The NPT prohibits all member states, except the five acknowledged nuclear powers, from acquiring nuclear weapons and requires them to put their nuclear activities under comprehensive international safeguards. The indefinite extension of the NPT is the highest nonproliferation priority for the United States in 1995. Regional nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZ) like the Latin American and South Pacific Zones and ongoing negotiations on an African NWFZ, form an important complement to the global nonproliferation regime. Two other major nonproliferation treaties are the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). Although not yet ratified, the CWC bans the development, production, possession, and use of chemical weapons and establishes the most comprehensive monitoring and inspection regime yet formulated in an international treaty. The BWC, signed in 1972, bans development, production, and stockpiling of biological agents or toxins for purposes other than "prophylactic, defensive, and other peaceful activities." Unlike the NPT or the CWC, it has no explicit monitoring and inspection provisions. In addition to these existing treaties, the United States is actively pursuing a global Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), currently under negotiation in Geneva, which would strengthen the global nonproliferation regime. The United States is also seeking a global ban on fissile material production for nuclear explosives which would cap the amount of fissile material available worldwide for nuclear weapons.

Multilateral export controls. The nonproliferation regime also relies on multilateral controls on material and technology in the form of export controls. The United States is a member of all the nonproliferation-related multilateral export control regimes: the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR - missiles capable of delivering WMD), the Australia Group (AG - chemical and biological), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG - nuclear), and the NPT Exporters Committee. Each of these regimes coordinates the controls of member states on the export of equipment, material, and technology that have a particular utility in the development of WMD and delivery systems.

The United States also administers its domestic export controls system for products that have direct relevance to WMD development and for dual-use equipment and technology. The Department of State, pursuant to the provisions of the Arms Export Control Act, regulates the export of munition items: weapon systems (including missiles), specially designed components for those systems, and related technology. The Department of Commerce regulates the export of dual-use items (equipment and technology with both civilian and military uses) under the Export Administration Act. Nuclear-related exports are controlled by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), by the Department of Energy (DOE), and by the Department of Commerce pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act.

Strengthened national controls. Part of our nonproliferation effort is assisting other countries in developing rigorous domestic export controls and internal controls on the essential ingredients for WMD. The U.S. has conducted seminars on export control, provided equipment, and helped set up legal infrastructures. There is a wide range of U.S. programs designed to ensure that stocks of fissile materials worldwide are held under the highest standards of safety, security, and international accountability, and, over time, to eliminate excess stocks of these materials. Some of the initiatives the United States has undertaken include taking back U.S.-origin highly-enriched uranium spent fuel and international cooperation to prevent nuclear smuggling.

Detection, Monitoring, and Verification

The second pillar of U.S. nonproliferation policy consists of detecting proliferation, monitoring adherence to nonproliferation norms, and verifying compliance with nonproliferation agreements and treaties. At least twenty countries have now or are seeking to develop the capability to produce WMD and their delivery systems. The mechanisms for detecting, monitoring, and verifying fall roughly into two categories: National Technical Means (NTM) and international monitoring and inspection. In contrast to our experience with bilateral arms control agreements, multilateral nonproliferation agreements pose two particular challenges: a wide disparity in the technological sophistication of the participants, which places added emphasis on shared or cooperative technologies and increases the importance of institutional monitoring (e.g., IAEA safeguards); and the varied strategic concerns of the parties to the agreements.

National Technical Means. For the United States, National Technical Means of intelligence gathering are key to all of our national detection, monitoring, and verification programs. National Technical Means also provide a vital underpinning for international monitoring and cooperative measures, offering critical clues to focus inspection efforts. The United States has a broad range of programs in place to obtain essential information concerning threatening activities, and these programs rely heavily on advanced science and technology.

International monitoring and inspection. International organizations have a key role in monitoring nonproliferation commitments. The nuclear safeguards inspections performed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are a vital element of the regime that implements the NPT. The CWC will establish an Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) with extensive inspection rights and responsibilities. The CWC will pose particular challenges as a regime with wide coverage (over 25,000 facilities in at least 120 countries), industry involvement, and unprecedented intrusiveness. Although the BWC relies on National Technical Means, the Administration is seeking new measures to deter violations of and enhance compliance with it. Negotiators continue to grapple with the monitoring challenges of the CTBT, including seismic monitoring and on-site inspections. Although negotiations have not yet begun on a fissile material production cutoff, monitoring older enrichment and reprocessing facilities will present a particular technological challenge.

Encouraging adherence to nonproliferation norms

Controlling technology -- the "supply side" of proliferation -- is not sufficient in itself but must be linked to reducing the "demand" for WMD. Encouraging adherence to nonproliferation norms forms a third long-standing pillar of the U.S. approach to nonproliferation. Here, international science and technology cooperation plays an important role -- providing incentives for cooperative nonproliferation policies, offering new civilian challenges for weapons experts, fostering reform-minded science and technology communities, supporting efforts to resolve conflicts and build confidence, and bringing international science and technology efforts to bear in addressing security problems.

The Role of Science and Technology

Since preventing the application of technology and scientific know-how to WMD development, deployment, or use is the overall objective of nonproliferation, it may be argued that science and technology are the crux of the proliferation problem. However, even in controlling technology, S&T plays a vital role. First, S&T knowledge is essential to the identification of technologies, both specific to WMD and dual-use, that need to be controlled.

Second, S&T is critical to improving U.S. technical capabilities to detect proliferation. Much of the R&D in this area focuses on applications and is conducted at federally funded laboratories including those of the Department of Energy and Department of Defense, and by commercial firms under contract to the U.S. Government. Technology efforts in this area focus on improving collection, detection, monitoring, and analysis capabilities. The ability of these laboratories to respond to specific requirements that emerge, often with little lead time, is critically dependent on a continuing broad-based program of basic science in fields as diverse as biology, chemistry, optics, and solid state physics.

U.S. programs also support international inspections. Since 1967 the United States has funded a program to research, develop, test, and deploy new technologies for IAEA safeguards, including methods and equipment for sealing and for providing long-term surveillance of material and equipment; new methods and equipment for measuring nuclear materials and monitoring the operation of nuclear processes, such as reprocessing spent fuel and separating plutonium; and new information management methods and technologies. This program is conducted through the Department of Energy's national laboratories as well as commercial firms. The IAEA considers this program -- the first and largest of several such national programs -- essential to the IAEA's ability to keep up with evolving technologies and national capabilities. A similar mechanism is now being established for the OPCW.

The efficacy of the U.S. program of technical support to IAEA safeguards depends on a solid foundation of both basic and applied research at the DOE national laboratories. While some of the technologies relevant to safeguards, such as information management, have wide commercial applications, many, such as nondestructive assay of nuclear materials, do not. U.S.

Arms Control and Nonproliferation R&D Coordination

In August 1994, following a comprehensive interagency working group review, the President established the Nonproliferation and Arms Control Technology Working Group (NPAC TWG), designating the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense as co-chairs, with ACDA also serving as Executive Secretary. The NPAC TWG was established as the mechanism to facilitate coordination of arms control and nonproliferation R&D as well as helping to guard against redundant arms control and nonproliferation related R&D and technology programs within and among departments and agencies.

The NPAC TWG reports equally to relevant National Security Council policy interagency working groups and to the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) through the Committee for National Security. The NPAC TWG: exchanges information and coordinates arms control and nonproliferation R&D; advises agencies on nonproliferation and arms control R&D priorities; facilitates the conduct of cooperative interagency programs; reviews nonproliferation and arms control R&D programs; identifies overlaps and gaps; frames interagency issues and differences for decisions by adjudicating bodies; advises policy interagency working groups on R&D capabilities and limitations; and makes recommendations to the NSTC on coordination of all nonproliferation and arms control related R&D programs in the President's budget submission to Congress.

Central to its coordination efforts, the NPAC TWG charters focus groups to develop in-depth analyses of R&D issues in specific areas of interest. Currently, focus groups are actively addressing chemical and biological warfare detection technologies, fieldable nuclear detectors, proliferation modeling, multispectral and active electro-optical sensing, underground detection techniques, R&D data base consolidation, data fusion, unattended remote sensors, treaty-specific monitoring and verification technologies, and advanced conventional weapons.

Through the NPAC TWG, the Executive Branch will be able to coordinate arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament-related R&D more effectively and to refine the focus of department and agency R&D programs, thereby helping to achieve the maximum return on R&D investments.

capability to support international monitoring requirements depends heavily on R&D for domestic safeguards at DOE facilities.

Third, science and technology cooperation can play an important role in encouraging adherence to nonproliferation norms. In particular, international S&T cooperation can:

  • bring international teams to bear on developing technical options for reducing proliferation risks;
  • provide incentives for adherence to nonproliferation policies;
  • encourage reform and reform-minded S&T communities;
  • provide new missions for weapons experts who might otherwise contribute to proliferation;
  • help address legitimate security needs, thereby reducing incentives for developing WMD; and
  • increase mutual understanding, openness, and confidence.

The S&T Role in Detection, Monitoring, and Verification

For the United States, maintenance of independent detection, monitoring, and verification capabilities has been, and continues to be, of paramount importance. During the Cold War, technology efforts in these fields were focused against a Soviet threat. That threat is gone, but in its place remain troubling uncertainties and clear threats, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

As more emphasis is placed on regional and multilateral efforts to elicit adherence to nonproliferation norms and promote global stability, technological advances that support unilateral U.S. actions will remain important, but shareable, and cooperative, technological efforts that support detection, monitoring, confidence-building, and openness will assume added significance. U.S. laboratories and commercial firms under contract to the U.S. Government are pursuing a variety of technology initiatives to facilitate detection, monitor adherence to international norms, and support verification of compliance with obligations in agreements and treaties. Some of these initiatives include: land-based, airborne, and space-based remote sensing; near-infrared reflectance; ground-based radiation and optical detectors and imagers; electronic identification and seals; fiber optics; miniaturization and packaging; and data integration, packaging, analysis, and communication.

Collaborative efforts to reduce proliferation risks range from improving protection, accounting, and control of nuclear materials, elaborating procedures for chemical inspections, integrating a global seismic network, and finding new approaches to strengthen the BWC to jointly exploring plutonium disposition options as scientists in the United States and Russia are now doing. Specific areas of S&T cooperation have been fissile material protection, control and accounting, reduced enrichment levels of reactor fuel to reduce proliferation risks. In regional contexts, collaborative efforts in arms control monitoring can serve as technical confidence-building measures. To this end, we have encouraged foreign government officials and scientists to participate in workshops at the Cooperative Monitoring Center at Sandia National Laboratory.

S&T cooperation can provide incentives for adherence to nonproliferation norms. The NPT and the CWC both include provisions for greater access to relevant technologies (e.g., nuclear safety, agricultural and medical applications of nuclear energy, and space launch services) to states that join these treaties. The MTCR provides for cooperation on space projects which do not contribute to missile proliferation. The U.S. also provides such incentives on a bilateral basis, for example, through peaceful nuclear cooperation agreements.

Cooperation to Control Fissile Materials

Under the Clinton Administration, the United States and Russia, as the world's largest nuclear powers, have undertaken a wide-ranging cooperative effort to control their huge stocks of nuclear materials, covering four key areas: securing nuclear materials, thereby reducing the risk of theft or diversion; building confidence through openness, in which the United States proposes to use data exchanges, reciprocal inspections, and other cooperative measures to confirm the dismantlement of nuclear weapons and the safety and security of nuclear material; halting accumulation of excess stocks, including the 1994 agreement halting production of additional plutonium for weapons; and disposition of excess materials, transforming these materials into forms that no longer pose substantial security threats. In all of these areas, intensive U.S.-Russian cooperation is already underway.

A key example of the mutual benefit of such science and technology cooperation is the new security and accounting system recently installed at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow. In just two months in late 1994, for less than $1 million, Russian and U.S. scientists installed a radically improved system to protect and account for the weapons-usable material used in two critical assemblies at Kurchatov. The system includes a double security fence, nuclear material detectors to detect any attempted theft, motion detectors, alarms, closed-circuit television monitors, and a computerized material accounting system.

International S&T cooperation can also help engage and foster S&T communities that in many cases can be critical voices for reform. From Andrei Sakharov in the former Soviet Union to Jose Goldemberg in Brazil, scientists with an international perspective -- resulting in part from their participation in international S&T cooperation and other international fora -- have played leading roles in national decisions to renounce WMD or take part in international arms control negotiations.

With the end of the Cold War, and the decisions by countries such as South Africa to renounce their WMD programs, scientists with the knowledge to design and build WMD are finding themselves unemployed. International S&T cooperation can provide these scientists with new challenges in civilian research and can remove the need to sell their weapons expertise to potential proliferators. International S&T cooperation can also increase mutual understanding between the scientific communities of participating states of each others' activities and objectives and thereby build confidence. Preeminent examples of such cooperation are the international science and technology centers recently established in Moscow and Kiev, the Energy Department's laboratory-to-laboratory cooperation, and the Industrial Partnering Program. The United States and Russia have developed extensive lab-to-lab contacts and such contacts between the United States and China are developing. Lab-to-lab cooperation programs have included

The New Independent States Industrial Partnering Program

The Industrial Partnering Program matches the technological resources of Former Soviet Union (FSU) weapons facilities with commercialization opportunities defined by American industry. The program promotes collaborative projects between FSU institutes, Department of Energy laboratories, and U.S. private sector companies and redirects weapons related research and development to non-military applications of commercial value to the mutual benefit of both the United States and the New Independent States (NIS) of the FSU.

The Industrial Partnering Program has three specific objectives: redirect the activities of NIS nuclear weapons scientists and engineers to non-military scientific and commercial research and development; increase United States industry investment in the NIS by facilitating cost-shared partnerships between industry, DOE laboratories, and NIS institutes; and provide program management and business education assistance to NIS weapons scientists in working non-military projects.

Since its inception in 1994, over 170 projects involving United States industry, DOE laboratories, and NIS institutes in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan have been approved and funded. At present, the Department of Energy has over $22 million on contract. Representative projects include efforts in energy (Low Temperature Oxidization of Hydrocarbon Fuels with the Kazakh State University); materials (Advancing Joining Technology with the Paton Welding Institute in Ukraine); and waste management (Plasma Torch Disintegration of Hazardous Waste with the Russian Institute of Electrophysics); and manufacturing (Explosion Resistant Container Development with Arzamas 16 in Russia).

civilian research in such areas as high-intensity magnetic fields, plasma physics, and computing.

The challenges for S&T in supporting nonproliferation policy span export control, arms control, and technical cooperation. The S&T community can assist the effective implementation of these policies through identifying relevant materials and technology to control; developing new technologies and identifying existing technologies for detection of proliferation and monitoring and verification of nonproliferation agreements; and identifying new avenues for technical cooperation that advance our nonproliferation objectives.

The Role of Science and Technology in Sustainable Development and Preventive Diplomacy
Return to Forum Homepage

President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House
White House for Kids | White House History
White House Tours | Help | Text Only

Privacy Statement