DIGITAL MAGAZINE

July 2021

DIGITAL MAGAZINE

July 2021

UNSCOM bioweapons inspectors at a facility in Iraq, October 1991.
(UN photo; cover by Thomas Gaulkin)

UN weapons inspectors

Introduction: UNSCOM and the future of WMD verification

UNSCOM remains relevant to contemporary efforts to minimize the risks of biological weapons. It faced enormous challenges in fulfilling its mandate—in the form of an Iraq determined to obstruct the international inspections—but its efforts nevertheless showed that internationally verified elimination of weapons of mass destruction is technically possible.
UN weapons inspectors

Introduction: UNSCOM and the future of WMD verification

UNSCOM remains relevant to contemporary efforts to minimize the risks of biological weapons. It faced enormous challenges in fulfilling its mandate—in the form of an Iraq determined to obstruct the international inspections—but its efforts nevertheless showed that internationally verified elimination of weapons of mass destruction is technically possible.

Between two wars

In this article, Rolf Ekéus, Swedish ambassador and UNSCOM executive chair from 1991 to 1997 gives his perspective on the UNSCOM process.
A dual-use chlorine plant.

Puzzling out the Iraqi biological weapons program

In this article, the former biological chief inspector for the UN Special Commission on Iraq from 1993-1995 recounts his efforts during two missions to locate biological weapons and biological weapons facilities in the wake of the First Gulf War.

Monitoring Iraq’s dual-use capabilities: An interview with Gabriele Kraatz-Wadsack

In this interview, a former biological weapons chief inspector for UNSCOM describes the importance of biological monitoring in Iraq, its challenges and successes.
leaking 122mm rockets in Iraq, containing chemical nerve agent

UNSCOM: A successful experiment in disarmament

In this article, a former chemical and biological chief inspector for the UN Special Commission on Iraq from 1996-1998 concludes that the UNSCOM experience was a successful full-scale experiment in disarmament that uncovered and destroyed the infrastructure of the Iraqi bioweapons program. The UNSCOM experience, however, also illustrated the limitations of inspection methods, especially when it comes to small-scale activities in a distrusted country.
chemical-filled Iraqi mortar shells being scanned for leaks

The many lessons to be drawn from the search for Iraqi WMD

After the Gulf War, Terence Taylor served on the UN Special Commission investigating weapons of mass destruction programs in the country. Technical expertise in weapons inspections, an understanding of global trade, and a knack for the element of surprise helped Taylor and other weapons inspectors discover, among other things, the existence of Iraq’s biological weapons program.
Nikita Smidovich at a 2015 Global Conference on Biological Threat Reduction in Paris. Photo by World Organisation for Animal Health.

Perspectives on UNSCOM and UNMOVIC: An interview with Nikita Smidovich

In this interview with Henrietta Wilson, a researcher at SOAS University of London, Nikita Smidovich details the lessons that the UNSCOM experience can teach those who undertake weapons of mass destruction verification efforts today.

Some long-term effects of UNSCOM: People are important, or, therein lies much of the problem

In this article, Charles A. Duelfer, Deputy Executive Chair of UNSCOM, 1993-1998, and Head of the Iraq Survey Group, 2004-2005, finds that UNSCOM demonstrated the value of access to individuals in achieving monitoring goals. A vital aspect of UNSCOM’s inspection authorities (arguably the most important) was the access to interview identified individuals. “Experts talking to experts” produced data and intangible, but critical, confidence in the weapons of mass destruction declarations of Iraq.

How countries can build on UNSCOM’s legacy to solve today’s problems

In this article, the author, who was chief of the WMD Branch at the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, explains how UNSCOM provided a foundational example of multilateral efforts to prevent the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction and why it is incumbent on all countries to work together to follow and build on that example today. 

A perspective on UNSCOM culture

In this article, the author—who served as special adviser to UNSCOM’s executive chair and spokesperson for UNSCOM for nearly four years—focuses on the way in which UNSCOM’s organization and culture evolved to adapt to its mission to destroy, remove, and render harmless Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and its long-range missiles.

UNSCOM’s work to uncover Iraq’s illicit biological weapons program: A primer

In this article, the authors offer a primer of sorts that outlines UNSCOM’s historical context and the logistics of its work—central aspects contributing to Special  Commission’s successes in searching for Iraq’s hidden biological weapons program.

It’s time to reignite US-Russia cooperation in space. Nuclear power may hold the key

As US-Russia tensions in space have increased over the last several years, cooperation in space nuclear research presents itself as one opportunity to both ease bilateral relations and develop the technologies needed for the next generation of crewed space missions.
SMR research in lab

Can small modular reactors help mitigate climate change?

Small modular reactors fail the tests of time and cost, which are of the essence in meeting the challenge of climate change. Even the official schedules indicate that their contributions will be negligible by 2030 and remain small by 2035, when the grid needs to be nearly completely decarbonized.
A test version of the new B61-12 guided nuclear bomb to be deployed in Europe as part of a modernization program. Photo from a video by Air Force Staff Sgt. Cody Griffith.

Do Germany and the Netherlands want to say goodbye to US nuclear weapons?

The United States still deploys about 100 nuclear weapons in Europe under NATO’s nuclear sharing policy. Germany and the Netherlands are now debating the prospective withdrawal of these weapons. This article presents the findings of a recent public opinion poll in the two countries on withdrawal.
North Korea’s military parade on October 10, 2020

Nuclear Notebook: How many nuclear weapons does North Korea have in 2021?

This Nuclear Notebook column examines North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. The authors cautiously estimate that North Korea may have produced enough fissile material to build between 40 and 50 nuclear weapons; however, it may not have actually assembled that many.

Between two wars

In this article, Rolf Ekéus, Swedish ambassador and UNSCOM executive chair from 1991 to 1997 gives his perspective on the UNSCOM process.
A dual-use chlorine plant.

Puzzling out the Iraqi biological weapons program

In this article, the former biological chief inspector for the UN Special Commission on Iraq from 1993-1995 recounts his efforts during two missions to locate biological weapons and biological weapons facilities in the wake of the First Gulf War.

Monitoring Iraq’s dual-use capabilities: An interview with Gabriele Kraatz-Wadsack

In this interview, a former biological weapons chief inspector for UNSCOM describes the importance of biological monitoring in Iraq, its challenges and successes.
leaking 122mm rockets in Iraq, containing chemical nerve agent

UNSCOM: A successful experiment in disarmament

In this article, a former chemical and biological chief inspector for the UN Special Commission on Iraq from 1996-1998 concludes that the UNSCOM experience was a successful full-scale experiment in disarmament that uncovered and destroyed the infrastructure of the Iraqi bioweapons program. The UNSCOM experience, however, also illustrated the limitations of inspection methods, especially when it comes to small-scale activities in a distrusted country.
chemical-filled Iraqi mortar shells being scanned for leaks

The many lessons to be drawn from the search for Iraqi WMD

After the Gulf War, Terence Taylor served on the UN Special Commission investigating weapons of mass destruction programs in the country. Technical expertise in weapons inspections, an understanding of global trade, and a knack for the element of surprise helped Taylor and other weapons inspectors discover, among other things, the existence of Iraq’s biological weapons program.
Nikita Smidovich at a 2015 Global Conference on Biological Threat Reduction in Paris. Photo by World Organisation for Animal Health.

Perspectives on UNSCOM and UNMOVIC: An interview with Nikita Smidovich

In this interview with Henrietta Wilson, a researcher at SOAS University of London, Nikita Smidovich details the lessons that the UNSCOM experience can teach those who undertake weapons of mass destruction verification efforts today.

Some long-term effects of UNSCOM: People are important, or, therein lies much of the problem

In this article, Charles A. Duelfer, Deputy Executive Chair of UNSCOM, 1993-1998, and Head of the Iraq Survey Group, 2004-2005, finds that UNSCOM demonstrated the value of access to individuals in achieving monitoring goals. A vital aspect of UNSCOM’s inspection authorities (arguably the most important) was the access to interview identified individuals. “Experts talking to experts” produced data and intangible, but critical, confidence in the weapons of mass destruction declarations of Iraq.

How countries can build on UNSCOM’s legacy to solve today’s problems

In this article, the author, who was chief of the WMD Branch at the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, explains how UNSCOM provided a foundational example of multilateral efforts to prevent the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction and why it is incumbent on all countries to work together to follow and build on that example today. 

A perspective on UNSCOM culture

In this article, the author—who served as special adviser to UNSCOM’s executive chair and spokesperson for UNSCOM for nearly four years—focuses on the way in which UNSCOM’s organization and culture evolved to adapt to its mission to destroy, remove, and render harmless Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and its long-range missiles.

UNSCOM’s work to uncover Iraq’s illicit biological weapons program: A primer

In this article, the authors offer a primer of sorts that outlines UNSCOM’s historical context and the logistics of its work—central aspects contributing to Special  Commission’s successes in searching for Iraq’s hidden biological weapons program.

It’s time to reignite US-Russia cooperation in space. Nuclear power may hold the key

As US-Russia tensions in space have increased over the last several years, cooperation in space nuclear research presents itself as one opportunity to both ease bilateral relations and develop the technologies needed for the next generation of crewed space missions.
SMR research in lab

Can small modular reactors help mitigate climate change?

Small modular reactors fail the tests of time and cost, which are of the essence in meeting the challenge of climate change. Even the official schedules indicate that their contributions will be negligible by 2030 and remain small by 2035, when the grid needs to be nearly completely decarbonized.
A test version of the new B61-12 guided nuclear bomb to be deployed in Europe as part of a modernization program. Photo from a video by Air Force Staff Sgt. Cody Griffith.

Do Germany and the Netherlands want to say goodbye to US nuclear weapons?

The United States still deploys about 100 nuclear weapons in Europe under NATO’s nuclear sharing policy. Germany and the Netherlands are now debating the prospective withdrawal of these weapons. This article presents the findings of a recent public opinion poll in the two countries on withdrawal.
North Korea’s military parade on October 10, 2020

Nuclear Notebook: How many nuclear weapons does North Korea have in 2021?

This Nuclear Notebook column examines North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. The authors cautiously estimate that North Korea may have produced enough fissile material to build between 40 and 50 nuclear weapons; however, it may not have actually assembled that many.

UNSCOM bioweapons inspectors at a facility in Iraq, October 1991.
(UN photo; cover by Thomas Gaulkin)

Subscribe Now

We've relaunched the Bulletin's award-winning digital magazine. Get premium access for less than $5 a month.

Magazine archive

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists March 2021 magazine issue cover
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists March 2021 magazine issue cover
Bulletin cover May 2020
January 2020 bulletin of the atomic scientists magazine cover nuclear weapons united states president election
Albert Einstein in Washington, D.C., between 1921 and 1923. Harris & Ewing, photographers. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2016885961/

Premium subscribers can read the complete Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ archive, which contains every article published since our founding in 1945.

This archive was created in honor of John A. Simpson, one of the Bulletin’s principal founders and a longtime member of its Board of Sponsors. This searchable archive provides exclusive online access to original interviews and commentary by luminaries like Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Ruth Adams, John F. Kennedy, Stephen Hawking, Christine Todd Whitman, US Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, and multiple Nobel laureates.