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American Academy of Arts and Sciences Conference Examines Dual-Use Technologies

Applying threat-reduction lessons from cyber technology, biological science, and biotechnology to nuclear technology

1/28/2013

Press Release

STANFORD, Calif. – The American Academy of Arts and Sciences will convene experts to discuss how to minimize threats to nuclear safety and security posed by so-called dual-use technologies. Participants will explore regulatory frameworks that reduce proliferation risks without inhibiting innovation and that balance academic freedom with national security, among other topics.

The conference, Dual-Use Technologies: Theory and Practice, is part of the American Academy’s Global Nuclear Future (GNF) Initiative and will take place January 28–29 at Stanford University. The meeting is being chaired by Robert Rosner (University of Chicago), research advisor to the GNF project.

Concerns about technologies that can be used for both peaceful and military aims are not new. For example, the launch technology that enabled the Apollo manned space program was also at the heart of the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile defense system. The Global Positioning System (GPS) that is ubiquitous in modern society was initially developed for military applications. The challenge for policymakers is to protect against malicious misuse of dual-use technologies without depriving society of the commercial and public benefits of technological advances.

The American Academy meeting is unique in that it will explore analogs from other disciplines – computational science, bioscience, and biotechnology – that might hold lessons for dual-use nuclear technology. In cryptography, for example, encryption products that are important for commercial or government purposes can also have military applications. In the life sciences, important research often utilizes biological pathogens or chemical processes that can lead to weaponized agents. Research and development in each of these fields is increasingly global and is sponsored by both government and industry – trends that make traditional approaches to regulating dual-use technologies more challenging.

Meeting participants include current and former officials from the Department of Homeland Security, National Security Agency, National Academy of Sciences, and the national laboratories, as well as experts in the field from industry and academia.

NOTE: Journalists and members of Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, which is hosting the meeting, are invited to attend a plenary talk by Penrose “Parney” C. Albright, director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, on Monday, January 28 from noon to 1:30 p.m. Dr. Albright will speak about “Contending with Dual Use Science.” The remainder of the meeting is off-the-record and by invitation only.

About the American Academy of Arts & Sciences: Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (www.amacad.org) is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Current Academy research focuses on the humanities, arts, and higher education; science and technology policy; global security and energy; and American institutions and the public good. With headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Academy’s work is advanced by its 4,600 elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs from around the world.

About the Global Nuclear Future Initiative: The Academy’s project on the Global Nuclear Future includes expert study groups to explore practical approaches for improving the physical protection of nuclear facilities and materials; to improve the prospects for safer nuclear facilities that would be acceptable to the major nuclear plant suppliers, operators, and the public; to promote a more secure nuclear fuel cycle framework that would include pragmatic, regional nuclear fuel arrangements; and to explore ways to advance constructive dialog among the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty member states. The project is co-directed by Scott D. Sagan (Stanford University) and Steven E. Miller (Harvard University) with Robert Rosner (University of Chicago), research advisor.

About the Center for International Security and Cooperation: CISAC is Stanford University’s hub for researchers tackling some of the world's most pressing security and international cooperation problems. Founded more than 25 years ago, CISAC in its early years brought together scholars focused on U.S.-Soviet-China relations, arms control and nonproliferation, and the scientific and technical aspects of international security issues. Today CISAC is building on its historic strengths to seek solutions to emerging challenges associated with an increasingly complex world, including war and civil conflict, migration and transnational flows, issues in public health and the environment, cyber and biosecurity, international norms and ethics, insurgency and homeland security, and nuclear proliferation. CISAC’s multi-disciplinary community brings together social scientists, historians, lawyers, physical and biological scientists, engineers, leaders from the private sector and policymakers.

 

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