Science and Technology to Prevent and Respond to CBRN Disasters

Date Published: 
01 Aug 2014

On January 22 and 23, 2014, AAAS and the Asan Institute for Policy Studies hosted an event at AAAS HQ in Washington DC focused on the prevention and remediation of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear disasters that could occur either through accidental (caused by, for example, facility problems, personnel issues, a natural disaster, or some combination of events) or intentional means. The event incorporated involved discussions of various scientific disciplines including the behavioral and environmental sciences.

Sessions included:

  • Science and Technology as a Solution to CBRN Disasters - This session provided a high-level introduction to the workshop. Speakers described the roles that S&T and scientific cooperation play in preventing and remediating disasters caused by chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents.     
  • Preventing CBRN Disasters caused by Harmful Use of Beneficial Science and Technology - This session focused on the different ways in which the S&T communities could prevent the use of beneficial and/or legitimate scientific knowledge to cause harm. Speakers discussed the contributions that behavioural sciences (i.e., in personnel security and/or scientific responsibility) and the broader scientific community (e.g., through technical, physical, or behavioural solutions) could have on preventing harmful use of scientific knowledge and materials.                                                           
  • Preventing CBRN Disasters and UNSCR1540  
  • Remediating CBRN Disasters through Science and Technology - This session focused on the role that S&T and science cooperation could play in responding to and remediating CBRN disasters. Speakers discussed the contributions of the environmental and health communities to mitigating the effects of the release of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents, recognizing that the role of these disciplines varies based on the agent and release method.
  • Understanding the Environmental Effects of the Fukushima Disaster through Science and Technology - This session used the 2011 Fukushima disaster as a case study for how the S&T community could help the public and policymakers understand the environmental effects of the Fukushima disaster. Although specific measures implemented to assess and communicate these effects might be unique to Fukushima, the ways in which the S&T community could assist in evaluation of the environmental effects and its broader impacts on society could be broadly applicable. Speakers discussed the contributions of the marine and environmental sciences communities in assessing and communicating to the public and policymakers the effects of similar disasters in ROK and the United States, where nuclear reactors are at risk from similar natural hazards.

The subsequent report highlights the diverse roles and solutions that science and technology can provide in order to prevent and mitigate disasters involving chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials is introduced. The outcome of this work will be increased awareness of the integral role that the science and technology community plays in addressing local, national, and transnational CBRN incidents; the importance of building on the multi-disciplinary expertise of the scientific community; and the strength of integrating the social and natural sciences together to enhance efforts and policy discussions related to prevention and response to natural or man-made disasters involving CBRN materials.