Dual-use technology

Dual-use technology

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Dual-use is a term often used in politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

 and diplomacy
Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states...

 to refer to technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

 which can be used for both peace
Peace is a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violent conflict. Commonly understood as the absence of hostility, peace also suggests the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, prosperity in matters of social or economic welfare, the...

ful and military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 aims. It often refers to the proliferation
Nuclear proliferation
Nuclear proliferation is a term now used to describe the spread of nuclear weapons, fissile material, and weapons-applicable nuclear technology and information, to nations which are not recognized as "Nuclear Weapon States" by the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, also known as the...

 of nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

s, but that of bioweapons is a major issue as well. The scientific reviews (e.g. "Science") keep watch of the DURC (dual-use research of concern) which are able to threaten the security.

Many types of nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor
A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. Most commonly they are used for generating electricity and for the propulsion of ships. Usually heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid , which runs through turbines that power either ship's...

s produce fissile
In nuclear engineering, a fissile material is one that is capable of sustaining a chain reaction of nuclear fission. By definition, fissile materials can sustain a chain reaction with neutrons of any energy. The predominant neutron energy may be typified by either slow neutrons or fast neutrons...

 material, such as plutonium
Plutonium is a transuranic radioactive chemical element with the chemical symbol Pu and atomic number 94. It is an actinide metal of silvery-gray appearance that tarnishes when exposed to air, forming a dull coating when oxidized. The element normally exhibits six allotropes and four oxidation...

, as a by-product, which could be used in the development of a nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

. However, nuclear reactors can also be used for peaceful, civilian purposes: providing electricity to a city, for example. As such, a nation which wanted to develop a nuclear weapon could build a reactor, claiming it would be used for civilian purposes, and then use its plutonium to construct a nuclear weapon. Other nuclear power station designs, such as fusion reactors or liquid-salt Thorium reactors do not suffer from this dual-use issue since they do not produce trans-Uranic elements such as plutonium
Plutonium is a transuranic radioactive chemical element with the chemical symbol Pu and atomic number 94. It is an actinide metal of silvery-gray appearance that tarnishes when exposed to air, forming a dull coating when oxidized. The element normally exhibits six allotropes and four oxidation...

 as by-products.

During the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 spent billions of dollars developing rocket technology which could carry humans into space (and even eventually to the moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

). The knowledge gained from this peaceful rocket technology also served in the development of intercontinental ballistic missile
Intercontinental ballistic missile
An intercontinental ballistic missile is a ballistic missile with a long range typically designed for nuclear weapons delivery...


The International Atomic Energy Agency
International Atomic Energy Agency
The International Atomic Energy Agency is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957...

 attempts to monitor dual-use technology in countries who are signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to...

, to make sure that fissile material is not diverted to military functions. In recent events, both Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 and North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

 have been accused of having nuclear weapons programs based on dual-use technology.

Lax biosecurity
Biosecurity is a set of preventive measures designed to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases, quarantined pests, invasive alien species, living modified organisms...

 at laboratories is worrying researchers and regulators that potential select agent
Select agent
In United States law, Select Agents are pathogens or biological toxins which have been declared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to have the "potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety"...

s may have fallen into the hands of malevolent parties. It may have been instrumental to the 2001 anthrax attacks
2001 anthrax attacks
The 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, also known as Amerithrax from its Federal Bureau of Investigation case name, occurred over the course of several weeks beginning on Tuesday, September 18, 2001, one week after the September 11 attacks. Letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Universities sometimes flout regulations, complacent as to the dangers in doing so. Though the majority of breaches are benign, the hybridization of hepatitis C
Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease primarily affecting the liver, caused by the hepatitis C virus . The infection is often asymptomatic, but chronic infection can lead to scarring of the liver and ultimately to cirrhosis, which is generally apparent after many years...

 and dengue-fever viruses at Imperial College London
Imperial College London
Imperial College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom, specialising in science, engineering, business and medicine...

 in 1997 resulted in a fine when health and safety rules were not observed. A research program at Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University is a coeducational public research university located in College Station, Texas . It is the flagship institution of the Texas A&M University System. The sixth-largest university in the United States, A&M's enrollment for Fall 2011 was over 50,000 for the first time in school...

 was shut down when Brucella
Brucella is a genus of Gram-negative bacteria. They are small , non-motile, non-encapsulated coccobacilli, which function as facultative intracellular parasites....

and Coxiella
Coxiella refers to a genus of Gram-negative bacteria in the family Coxiellaceae. It is named after Harold Herald Rea Cox , an American bacteriologist. Coxiella burnetii is the only member of this genus...

infections were not reported. That the July 2007 terrorist attacks in central London
2007 London car bombs
On 29 June 2007, in London, two car bombs were discovered and disabled before they could be detonated. The first device was left near the Tiger Tiger nightclub in Haymarket at around 01:30, and the second was in Cockspur Street, in the same area of the city....

 and at Glasgow airport
2007 Glasgow International Airport attack
The 2007 Glasgow International Airport attack was a terrorist attack which occurred on Saturday 30 June 2007, at 15:11 BST, when a dark green Jeep Cherokee loaded with propane canisters was driven into the glass doors of the Glasgow International Airport terminal and set ablaze...

 may have involved NHS medical professionals was a recent wake-up call that screening people with access to pathogen
A pathogen gignomai "I give birth to") or infectious agent — colloquially, a germ — is a microbe or microorganism such as a virus, bacterium, prion, or fungus that causes disease in its animal or plant host...

s may be necessary. The challenge remains to maintain security without impairing the contributions to progress afforded by research.

Most industrial countries have export controls on certain types of designated dual-use technologies, and they are required by a number of treaties as well. These controls restrict the export of certain commodities and technologies without the permission of the government. The principal agency for dual use export controls in the United States is the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security
Bureau of Industry and Security
The Bureau of Industry and Security is an agency of the United States Department of Commerce which deals with issues involving national security and high technology. A principal goal for the bureau is helping stop proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, while furthering the growth of United...


There are several international arrangements among countries which seek to harmonize lists of dual-use (and military) technologies to control. These include the Nuclear Suppliers Group
Nuclear Suppliers Group
Nuclear Suppliers Group is a multinational body concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that may be applicable to nuclear weapon development and by improving safeguards and protection on existing materials.- History :It was founded in...

, the Australia Group
Australia Group
The Australia Group is an informal group of countries established in 1985 to help member countries to identify those of their exports which need to be controlled so as not to contribute to the spread of chemical and biological weapons .The group, initially consisting of 15 members, held its first...

, which looks chemical and biological technologies, the Missile Technology Control Regime
Missile Technology Control Regime
The Missile Technology Control Regime is an informal and voluntary partnership between 34 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying a 500 kg payload at least 300 km....

, which covers delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction
Weapons of mass destruction
A weapon of mass destruction is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans and/or cause great damage to man-made structures , natural structures , or the biosphere in general...

, and the Wassenaar Arrangement
Wassenaar Arrangement
The Wassenaar Arrangement is a multilateral export control regime with 40 participating states including many former COMECON countries.It is the successor to the Cold war-era Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls , and was...

, which covers conventional arms and dual-use technologies.

More generally speaking, dual-use can also refer to any technology which can satisfy more than one goal at any given time. Thus, expensive technologies which would otherwise only serve military purposes can also be utilized to benefit civilian commercial interests when not otherwise engaged such as the Global Positioning System
Global Positioning System
The Global Positioning System is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides location and time information in all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites...


Dual-use biology

The advance of the life sciences and biotechnology has the potential to bring great benefits to humankind through responding to societal challenges. However, it is also possible that such advances could be exploited for hostile purposes, something evidenced in a small number of incidents of bioterrorism, but more particularly by the series of large-scale offensive biological warfare programmes carried out by major states in the last century. Dealing with this challenge, which has been labelled the `dual-use` dilemma requires a number of different activities. However, one of the essential ingredients in ensuring that the life sciences continue to generate great benefits and do not become subject to misuse for hostile purposes is a process of engagement between scientists and the security community and the development of strong ethical and normative frameworks to compliment legal and regulatory measures that are being developed by states.

Biology and dual-use education

Reports from the project on building a sustainable culture in dual use bioethics suggest that, as a result of perceived changes in both science and security over the past decade, several states and multilateral bodies have underlined the importance of making life scientists aware of concerns over dual-use and the legal obligations underpinning the prevention of biological weapons. One of the key mechanisms that have been identified to achieve this is through the education of life science students, with the objective of building what has been termed a “culture of responsibility”. Certainly at the 2008 Meeting of States Parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), it was agreed by consensus that: States Parties recognized the importance of ensuring that those working in the biological sciences are aware of their obligations under the Convention and relevant national legislation and guidelines.... States Parties noted that formal requirements for seminars, modules or courses, including possible mandatory components, in relevant scientific and engineering training programmes and continuing professional education could assist in raising awareness and in implementing the Convention.

With several similar stipulations from other states and regional organisations, there is evidence to suggest that the concept of biosecurity education has become increasingly salient in the contemporary security discourse. Unfortunately however, there is an emerging understanding in both the policy and academic literature that life scientists across the globe are frequently uninformed or under-informed on issues such as biosecurity, dual-use, the BTWC and national legislation outlawing biological weapons. Moreover, despite numerous declarations by states and multilateral organisations, the extent to which statements at the international level have trickled down to multifaceted activity at the level of scientists remains limited.

Educational Module Resource

The Bradford Disarmament Research Centre along with the National Defence Medical College in Japan and the Landau Network Centro Volta in Italy have developed an Educational Module Resources (EMR) designed to support life scientists and educators in learning about biosecurity and dual use issues but also in building educational material for teaching of students.
The EMR consists of 21 lectures, accompanying notes for the lecturer and direct links to the references and videos; it is intended to be a resource that can be used by a lecturer in order to develop one or more lectures, seminars, role-plays or other teaching aids suitable for the course he or she is presenting. We would like to emphasise that the educational module resource is not a Teaching Module rather it is a 'Module Resource'.Conscious that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, our educational module resource is designed to be 'modified and tailored in order to fit the requirements of different local educational contexts'.

External links