The International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV) established technical working groups in Phase I and Phase II to steer and facilitate its work. During the first multi-year phase (2015-2017), experts in these groups laid significant groundwork in identifying potential procedures and technologies that can be used across the 14 steps in the nuclear dismantlement “lifecycle.” The work resulted in more than 35 detailed reports and papers published on the IPNDV website. Moving forward into Phase II of the Partnership, the three working groups are making plans to take their work from “paper to practice” by preparing hands-on activities, such as exercises and technology demonstrations.
Below, international experts from the three technical working groups discuss the focus of their respective groups at the most recent IPNDV Joint Working Group meeting in Seoul, Republic of Korea and the work that lies ahead.
Dr. Leesa Duckworth is a Nonproliferation Program Specialist and Technical Team Lead at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the United States. She participates in Working Group 4, Verification of Nuclear Weapon Declarations (WG4):
During the latest working group session, WG4 took a deep dive into the technical elements of verification and discussed ways in which we can use past experiences, like the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), as foundations from which to build an approach for future nuclear disarmament-related declarations. We also explored what we expect to be acted upon in a verification regime as a result of a declaration, and we discussed the importance of transparency—its enabling elements and how it aids in the development of comprehensive confidence.
At its next meeting, WG4 plans to conduct a table-top exercise that uses ideas and concepts from the existing CFE regime and tests them against a series of pre-determined scenarios. We also have several new technical papers in the works, including one that will look at the development of transparency and its overall role in a declaration.
Dr. Irmgard Niemeyer is the Head of Nuclear Safeguards and Security at Forschungszentrum Jülich, a major research center in Germany. She participates in Working Group 5, Verification of Reductions (WG5):
At the meeting in Seoul, WG5 continued mapping verification objectives and requirements across the 14 steps. We discussed each step in some detail, starting from removing a nuclear weapon from its delivery system at a deployed site to the disposition of the weapon’s components.
In moving from paper to practice in Phase II, WG5 and WG6 are working together to help design practical exercise activities. One of these activities, led by colleagues from Japan, will be a walkthrough of step 14 on disposition, and another activity will test some of the procedures identified in Phase I for verifying the actual nuclear weapon dismantlement (Step 8) during an exercise planned by France and Germany at Forschungszentrum Jülich.
WG5 has started to develop a common scenario for planned Phase II exercise and demonstration activities using a fictitious state. This scenario draws from the “Quad Nuclear Verification Partnership,” a multi-year arms control initiative between Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. WG5 will investigate whether a physical model, a tool known from IAEA safeguards, could provide a more structured overview of all technologies and processes related to nuclear disarmament within the fictitious state. This model could help specify state-specific verification goals and identify verification measures to address these verification goals. By doing so, we hope to introduce more systems thinking to the complex issue of nuclear disarmament verification.
Klaas van der Meer is Head of the research group Society & Policy Support at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK•CEN. He participates in Working Group 6, Technologies for Verification (WG6):
During the Partnership’s meeting in Seoul, WG6 heard presentations on technologies from several of our colleagues. We discussed these technologies in the context of their application across the 14 steps, but with a focus on the actual dismantlement process. We also continued populating our technology “toolbox,” a comprehensive matrix of technologies that we are building on from our Phase I work. Furthermore, insight was provided by our UK colleagues on the size of the undertaking that nuclear weapon dismantlement verification is.
Our joint sessions with WG5 helped identify areas where our groups can work together to map technologies and procedural details at each step. As a complement to the joint French-German exercise, which focuses more on testing procedures, WG6 members are planning practical exercises and demonstration activities for Phase II. One demonstration, hosted by Belgium, plans to use actual nuclear material to demonstrate technologies for the detection of the presence and absence of plutonium. Another demonstration, hosted by Canada, will focus on muon tomography technology. Several partners expressed interest in participating in these demonstrations.
Read more about the work done at the at the latest Joint Working Meeting here. IPNDV Partners will meet again for a Plenary session in the United Kingdom at the end of 2018.
A version of this article was also posted on www.nti.org