California lab receives OPCW recertification

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, recently announced its recertification as a facility that can analyze samples collected during inspections under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

To maintain certification, LLNL and other laboratories selected by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons must maintain a three-year rolling minimum average of at least two A grades and one B grade in proficiency tests. The most recent recertification process took place over the course of two years.

LLNL received its original certification in 2003 and retained its certification to accept and analyze samples for the potential presence of chemical weapons for seven straight years.

In February 2011, the lab received a C grade on its proficiency test, suspending the lab from receiving samples during an OPCW challenge inspection. Since the suspension, the lab received A grades in three straight proficiency tests to regain its full status as an OPCW-designated laboratory.

"It's not unusual for a number of the OPCW laboratories to be suspended for failing to achieve their proficiency standards," Brad Hart, the director of the Laboratory's Forensic Science Center, said. "These tests are challenges. The OPCW is trying to push the science and technology to the absolute limit. In the event of a challenge inspection, a lot would ride on the results of these tests, so they want to be sure the labs are performing at the highest possible level."

The only other U.S.-designated OPCW labs are both based in Maryland and include the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and the Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Researchers at Livermore also work with the Homeland Security Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies on national security challenges and other matters.