WASHINGTON A new National Research Council report requested by Congress finds the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's updated site-specific risk assessment for the proposed National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kan., a "substantial improvement" over the original 2010 version, but it has a number of deficiencies and inadequately characterizes the risks associated with operating the facility.
The NBAF would be the world's fourth Biosafety Level 4 laboratory capable of large animal research, replacing the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center located off Long Island. It would study dangerous foreign animal diseases -- including highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), which affects cattle, pigs, deer, and other cloven-hoofed animals -- as well as emerging and new infectious diseases that can be transmitted between animals and people. In 2010 the Research Council reviewed the original site-specific risk assessment by DHS and found that it was inadequate due to flawed methods and assumptions. In response, Congress mandated that DHS revise its assessment to address shortcomings and directed the Research Council to evaluate the updated assessment, which is the focus of this report. Another Research Council committee, whose work is separate from this report, is examining the needs and possible scientific alternatives for a foreign animal and zoonotic disease research laboratory in the U.S.
The committee that reviewed the updated risk assessment found that many of the shortcomings identified in the 2010 report have been addressed and that the new version uses more conventional risk assessment methods and conceptual models, presents clearer descriptions of the approaches, and complies better with standard practices than the previous version. However, some of the risk analysis methods were misinterpreted and misapplied when executed. The assessment also contains questionable and inappropriate assumptions that l
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National Academy of Sciences