Research project

New Approaches to Transparency and Verification in Nuclear Security and Disarmament

The current global inventory of weapon-usable fissile materials is estimated to include about 1,800 tonnes of highly-enriched uranium and separated plutonium. Given that it takes only several kilograms of fissile material to build a nuclear explosive device, it is clear that the existence of a stock this large poses very serious challenges to the international effort to reduce nuclear dangers. This material has to be adequately protected to exclude any possibility of misuse. Achieving progress on nuclear disarmament will require verifiable elimination of most of the fissile material produced for nuclear weapons.

In this project, UNIDIR will explore new tools and approaches that can provide transparency and accountability in nuclear disarmament and nuclear security with a focus on fissile materials in the military domain, including materials still in nuclear weapons and their components. The primary goal of the project is to develop tools that would use recent advances in verification technologies to achieve transparency without intrusiveness in dealing with materials that are sensitive in nature.

This project consists of two parts that have a common goal of developing new methods of addressing nuclear security and nuclear disarmament. The first, "New Approaches to Transparency and Verification of Fissile Material Stocks", focuses on transparency measures that could support establishing a verifiable baseline for future reductions of fissile materials stocks. The key approach to verification that is explored in depth is the concept of deferred verification developed at UNIDIR as part of its work on the Fissile Material (Cut-off) Treaty. The second part of the project, "New Approaches to Transparency in Nuclear Security and Disarmament" explores new verification technologies that would allow to strengthen nuclear security, including the security of military materials, and that would provide transparency of the existing stocks of fissile materials in a non-intrusive way.

Researcher: Pavel Podvig

Support from UNIDIR's core funders provides the foundation for all of the Institute's activities.
In addition, dedicated project funding was received from the Government of Germany for the component "New approaches to transparency and verification of fissile material stocks" and from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the MacArthur Foundation for "New approaches to transparency in nuclear security and disarmament" activities.