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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published online by De Gruyter February 8, 2023

Expanding the Australia Group’s chemical weapons precursors control list with a family-based approach

  • Stefano Costanzi ORCID logo EMAIL logo , Gregory D. Koblentz and Richard T. Cupitt


The Australia Group (AG) is a forum of like-minded states seeking to harmonize export controls to prevent the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons. The AG Chemical Weapons Precursors list features dual-use chemicals that can be used as precursors for the synthesis of chemical weapons, all individually enumerated. This is in contrast with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) Schedules, which, alongside entries describing discrete chemicals, also include entries that describe families of chemicals. By using families of chemicals, the CWC achieves the objective of covering with a single entry a wide array of related chemicals of concern, including chemicals that have not yet been made. There are practical reasons why the AG Chemical Weapons Precursors list is exclusively based on the enumeration of individual chemicals. A cheminformatics tool of which we have developed a prototype, the Nonproliferation Compliance Cheminformatics Tool (NCCT), has the potential to enable export control officers to handle control lists that contain families of chemicals. Thus, it opens the way to expand the AG Chemical Weapons Precursors list to a family-based approach for some of its entries. Such a change would result in a closer alignment of the chemical space covered by the AG Chemical Weapons Precursors list with that covered by the CWC Schedules, thus closing loopholes that could be exploited by proliferators.

Article note:

A collection of invited papers based on presentations at the Virtual Conference on Chemistry and its Applications 2022 (VCCA-2022) held on-line, 8–12 August 2022.

Corresponding author: Stefano Costanzi, Department of Chemistry, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20016, USA, e-mail:

  1. Research funding: This work was supported by Global Affairs Canada under award CWC-2022-0002 (P0011281).


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Published Online: 2023-02-08

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