Below, IPNDV offers some basic information about nuclear disarmament verification for people who are new to this issue.
What is nuclear disarmament?
Nuclear disarmament refers to the process leading to the realization of the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Different tools and procedures would be required to verify the disarmament process. A future disarmament agreement might seek to limit a country’s ability to break out of the agreement quickly, in order to allow time to detect and respond to any violation, before a country could rebuild one or more nuclear weapons. The IPNDV is examining a range of options related to disarmament, in order to provide the policy community with a comprehensive view of both opportunities and challenges.
What is the difference between disarmament and dismantlement?
While disarmament refers to the process, or the end state, after nuclear weapons are eliminated, dismantlement refers to specific steps of physically separating high explosives from nuclear material in a nuclear weapon, so that it can no longer produce a nuclear yield. Dismantlement is just one phase of a larger disarmament process. The IPNDV’s first phase addressed nuclear weapon dismantlement because it is one of the most important, complex, and challenging topic related to future arms control reductions.
Aren’t nuclear weapons already being dismantled?
Yes. Several countries with nuclear weapons have taken steps to reduce their arsenals. Arms control agreements have generated an extensive set of procedures to monitor and verify limits on nuclear weapons and delivery systems, but they have not developed procedures to verify the destruction of weapon components. The IPNDV is working to develop technical and procedural solutions to fill these critical gaps.
How does a nuclear weapon get verifiably dismantled?
The IPNDV defines verification as “iterative and deliberative processes of gathering, analyzing, and assessing information to enable a determination of whether a state party is in compliance with the provisions of an international treaty or agreement.” These data collection processes to assess compliance with a treaty or agreement can build confidence among and between states, help meet policymakers’ needs, and encourage states to engage in future agreements. Showing what is verifiable can strengthen the resolve of policymakers to seek new commitments or inspire new thinking on what is possible. Developing and implementing verification activities may also increase transparency and build confidence in commitments aimed at reducing nuclear threats.
What tools are used for verification?
No single approach by itself—on-site inspections, satellite imagery, data collection, or remote monitoring—would ever be enough; an effective verification system is the sum of many complementary tools and techniques.
The IPNDV is developing practical procedures and concepts that aim to complement an effective verification system for a future international treaty or arms control agreement. Visit the Reports & Analysis page and the Dismantlement Interactive for more information.
Tags, seals, scales, and 3D surveillance scans are tools for verifying and monitoring nuclear warhead dismantlement.