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Scientific co-operation to support nuclear arms control and disarmament

16 March 2010

The scientific community has a vital diplomatic role in supporting nuclear arms control and disarmament, a new briefing published jointly by the Royal Society and the AAAS states.  The document is being launched at a cross-party panel discussion chaired by Royal Society President, Lord Martin Rees, with former defence secretary, Des Browne MP, Special Advisor on Nuclear Proliferation to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Baroness Williams of Crosby, and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, David Lidington MP.

Published ahead of the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) taking place in May, this document sets out various ways in which scientists can help ensure a positive Review Conference.  Despite the many political challenges, progress can still be made on the scientific aspects of nuclear disarmament. Investing in this research has huge diplomatic benefits by providing concrete evidence of nuclear weapon states taking seriously their obligations to pursue disarmament under the NPT.

Martin Rees said:

“Given the growing political momentum for nuclear arms control and disarmament, science diplomacy is as important as ever. Policymakers require independent advice about the research to support these efforts and the international cooperation needed to carry it out.”
This research could address not just the verification challenges facing nuclear multilateral disarmament, but also ensure that new instabilities are not introduced that could undermine it. For example, since the civilian nuclear fuel cycle poses potential proliferation and security risks it needs to be carefully managed and so the Royal Society has recently embarked on a new project to investigate many of the technical issues involved.

Martin Rees added:

“In the lead up to May’s Review Conference it is crucial we take stock of what the international scientific community can contribute to nuclear disarmament efforts. The scientific community often works beyond national boundaries on problems of common interest and so its well-established international networks can improve co-operation between countries.  This makes it ideally placed to facilitate the widening of discussions beyond the US and Russia to prepare the ground for future multilateral negotiations, which will include China, France and the UK.”

The full briefing can be downloaded here.