January 9, 2024
Staff Accomplishment

PNNL Scientists at Celebration of Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention

Broadening the scope of national security research to support the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention 

VERIFIN Group in Finland

PNNL's Jonathan Forman and Raul Aranzazu along with others at the VERIFIN Convention in Helsinki, Finland

(Photo courtesy of Jonathan Forman | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

The 50th anniversary of the Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (VERIFIN) was recently celebrated in Helsinki, Finland. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s (PNNL) Jonathan Forman and Raul Aranzazu attended this international event, with Forman presenting on the “Expanding Scheduled Chemical Universe” in the introductory session of the event. 

Forman is a science and technology advisor in the Treaty Implementation Team within the Emerging Threats and Technology Division which works on chemical and biological security, and chemical and biological weapon nonproliferation treaty implementation.

Over his career, he has built long standing relationships with internationally recognized experts and laboratories in this space. “I’ve worked with the people at VERIFIN over a decade, and I was thrilled to be able to give a talk at their 50th anniversary event,” said Forman.  

During the event, VERIFIN launched a brand-new edition of the renowned Finnish “Blue Book.” The Blue Book is a resource of recommended operating procedures and reference information for identifying chemical warfare agents and related chemicals for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) designated laboratory system. With a network spanning 30 laboratories across 24 countries, the 2023 edition has significant international reach and visibility.

The 2023 edition is the first Blue Book edition to feature PNNL authors. Forman and Aranzazu along with PNNL Chemist Oliva Primera-Pedrozo, and experts from the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory in United Kingdom coauthored two chapters.  

These were a review of chemicals relevant to the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention in the introductory section, and a brand-new chapter on the use of vegetation for the detection of chemical warfare agent exposure and use. 

“It’s great to have PNNL authors listed as contributors. This gives us a lot of visibility as a laboratory and will keep us connected with the larger community of laboratories that work toward countering the threat of chemical weapons,” said Forman.  

Along with celebrating the new edition of the Blue Book, the event provided a forum for international scientists to connect and build community. Aranzazu, a biomedical scientist in the National Security Directorate, was pleased to be given the opportunity to participate. “You get to interact with experts in the field from laboratories across the world. I was able to talk to early career scientists like me and discuss how we might collaborate, address common challenges, and advance our research interests,” said Aranzazu.  

Attendees included Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elina Vaitonen, and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Director-General, Ambassador Fernando Arias, who provided high level remarks highlighting the impact and reach of VERIFIN’s work in supporting the implementation of Chemical Weapons Convention.

PNNL’s presence at this event can be attributed to the important contributions to nonproliferation and countering chemical threats that PNNL is engaged in. “While PNNL may not be part of the OPCW Designated Laboratory network, our laboratory and its experts are recognized as leaders and key contributors to the international community that work in this space,” said Forman.