Since its founding as the Center for International Security and Arms Control, CISAC has worked through scholarly research and Track II diplomacy to influence policies that will help reduce the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. Among researchers' contributions are a number of landmark studies and publications. They include John Lewis' and Xue Litai's China Builds the Bomb; David Holloway's Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy; Lynn Eden's Whole World on Fire; and Scott Sagan's The Limits of Safety: Organizations, Accidents, and Nuclear Weapons.

CISAC researchers travel widely in an effort to better understand nations' nuclear capabilities and vulnerabilities, and to communicate their findings through articles and policy briefings to the U.S. policy and scholarly communities. John Lewis, a CISAC co-founder, has made scores of visits to China and North Korea, and hosted numerous officials from both of these countries at Stanford. These interactions have added tremendously to researcher and policymaker understanding of Chinese and North Korean military and nuclear capabilities. Likewise, in his capacity as CISAC co-director from 2007-2012 and current Senior Fellow, Siegfried Hecker has visited Russia, the former Soviet States, and North Korea dozens of times and, in particular, has made key contributions to U.S. policymakers understanding of the North Korean nuclear program.

Other CISAC researchers are engaged in critical policy work aimed at discouraging proliferation and ensuring that nuclear materiel remains in safe hands. Sidney Drell, a theoretical physicist and a CISAC co-founder, has been a leading voice in the arms control community for decades. William J. Perry, the former secretary of defense, is a member of the Gang of Four statesmen calling for a world free of nuclear weapons. With Siegfried Hecker, he co-directs the Nuclear Risk Reduction project, which builds on the work of the Preventive Defense Project to address the changing nuclear threat following the end of the Cold War and the rise of international terrorism.

Finally, CISAC researchers and scientists are studying the future of the nuclear energy industry and identifying ways to ensure the safe management of dual-use technologies. CISAC hosted a two-day seminar on potential events that may affect the future of nuclear energy, which culminated with a major paper by physicists Kate Marvel and Michael May. Edward Blandford, Rodney Ewing, and Thomas Isaacs are all active in the development of research and policy on nuclear reactor safety and the safe handling and disposal of nuclear waste.

Nuclear Risk and Cooperation