The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) is a nonprofit agency based in Washington, D.C., and chaired by former U.S. senator Sam Nunn and CNN founder Ted Turner, two influential Georgians. The agency’s mission is to reduce the threat from all weapons of mass destruction, including biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. Formed in 2001, NTI helps finance twenty think tanks around the world. Ted Turner pledged $250 million to fund the NTI, which also accepts personal and corporate contributions.
One of NTI’s tactics is to fund projects around the world that reach out to the scientific community. The theory is that scientists ultimately hold the keys to nuclear proliferation. Some of the projects originate at the Georgia Institute of Technology, home of the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs.
One such project in 2001 enabled Georgia Tech scientists to share their experiences in technology research and development with Russian scientists, many of whom have lacked gainful employment since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. NTI sponsored the exchanges between the scientists, flying scientists from Georgia to Russia and then bringing the Russian scientists to Georgia. In addition to promoting goodwill, the Georgia delegation came up with a proposal for several business incubators in Russia. This project reportedly came about after a group of Russian scientists who were attending one of Nunn’s policy roundtables were impressed with Georgia Tech’s business incubator, the Advanced Technology Development Center. The Advanced Technology Development Center, which uses academic brainpower to help grow fledgling technology companies, has assisted more than eighty such companies in the state, including MindSpring (later EarthLink), Theragenics, and Digital Furnace.
Nunn also advocates pressuring national leaders to work toward resolving political instability around the world, which he sees as the root cause of terrorism. Nunn, who chaired the Armed Services Committee before he left the Senate in 1996, credits NTI for exacting a pledge from the Group of Eight (G8) nations to fund efforts to keep weapons of mass destruction out of terrorists’ hands. In 2002 the G8 nations pledged to match the United States’ efforts with $1 billion every year for the next ten years. At the 2004 G8 summit on Sea Island, Georgia, NTI focused on making the issue of weapons of mass destruction a top priority.
In fall 2003, NTI sponsored a $2.9 million public awareness campaign called Act Now for a Safer World. Through television, radio, and print advertisements, the campaign aimed to make voters aware of the urgency of eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons.
In late 2004 Turner announced that the NTI would donate $500,000 toward an upgrade of the Global Public Health Intelligence Network. This network, founded by the Canadian government, searches the Internet for unusual health reports around the world and serves as an early warning system for potential disease outbreaks or bioterrorist attacks.