International experts from across the three working groups of the IPNDV met in London in December 2018 for the Partnership’s sixth plenary session. The meeting marked a half-way point for the Partnership’s second two-year phase, in which members are taking a deeper dive into the 14 steps of the dismantlement lifecycle and conducting a series of collaborative practical activities to test theories and methods.
Below, experts from each of the IPNDV working groups discuss their involvement in the Partnership and the work underway in their respective groups.
Col. Marek Sobótka is a senior military adviser in the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Poland to the United Nations Office and the International Organisations in Vienna. He is also co-chair of IPNDV’s Working Group 4 (WG4), which is investigating the role of nuclear weapon declarations and how to verify them. Throughout Phase I, he served as co-chair of Working Group 2, which explored lessons learned from various on-site inspection regimes and identified a number of common principles and inspection procedures that could be applied to future nuclear disarmament verification. The work done by this group in Phase I helped lay the groundwork for Phase II:
Poland has always attached great importance to arms control and has been excited to be part of this multilateral initiative from the beginning. IPNDV, despite its uniqueness, does not work in a vacuum. From the beginning of the work carried out under the Partnership, an important activity was the exploration of existing arms control regimes (including those not related to nuclear weapons) in terms of selecting elements that can be used in the process of nuclear disarmament and identification of possible needs in this area.
During the London Plenary meeting, WG4 conducted a table-top exercise based on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty model, which has a system of information exchange and verification with a lot of similarities with the START family of Treaties. We prepared different options and scenarios to allow participants to look at the practicalities and activities that could be undertaken to verify the weapon declarations at the different deployment sites and areas. The exercise showed the complexity of the verification of provided weapon declarations in the context of “Correctness and Completeness” of the process. We concluded that further investigation is needed to understand:
- the criteria for selection of undeclared facilities, which should be subject to challenge inspections within the specified area; and
- the procedures and technical capabilities for controlling warheads located in containers.
The exercise was very helpful to our experts and we may develop plans to conduct another one later in Phase II.
Hege Schultz Heireng is a senior adviser at the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority. After presenting the paper Achieving Irreversibility in Nuclear Disarmament during an IPNDV meeting in 2017, she became involved in Working Group 5 (WG5), which is investigating potential monitoring and verification approaches to verify reductions of a declared number of nuclear weapons. This includes the concept of irreversibility across the dismantlement lifecycle, particularly during the disposition of components (Step 14). This is an important aspect of the Partnership’s work, and Hege and her colleagues from Norway have played a major role in furthering this issue and others throughout their participation in the IPNDV:
Although there is general agreement about the importance of making nuclear disarmament measures irreversible, there is still a need for more clarity and a common understanding of the actual meaning of irreversibility. We wanted to make the concept less abstract and more practical.
The IPNDV is an arena where countries share knowledge on past arms control agreements and initiatives, and exchange information on verification procedures and technologies. They do all this without breaching their NPT obligations. Norway has shared outcomes and lessons from the UK-Norway Initiative and the Quad Nuclear Verification Partnership, demonstrating that countries without nuclear weapons also can take part in future nuclear disarmament verification.
It is interesting to see how discussions are becoming more concrete and technical, and how new ideas and concepts are brought to the table. I will continue to participate in WG5 where my colleagues are currently finalizing the comprehensive 14 Step report deliverable.
Alex Walker works on nuclear disarmament policy in the UK’s Counter Proliferation and Arms Control Centre. Alex and his British colleagues hosted the London Plenary, which included a visit to RAF Honington, the site of Quad Nuclear Verification Partnership exercise LETTERPRESS in 2017. This event was his first IPNDV meeting, and he joined Working Group 6 (WG6) to continue the identification of technologies that can be used to verify steps and procedures across the nuclear dismantlement lifecycle. As one of countries with nuclear weapons participating in the IPNDV, the UK has played a critical role as a partner since the Partnership’s inception:
Effective verification is a vital tool in achieving our goal of a world without nuclear weapons. While countries with nuclear weapons do have specific expertise to bring to the challenge of nuclear disarmament verification, we certainly don’t have a monopoly on it. It’s important that we develop a common understanding of the verification process and how to solve some of its specific challenges together as an international community. The enthusiasm I’ve seen for doing this at IPNDV is really encouraging.
At the most recent plenary meeting, the UK hosted a visit to RAF Honington, which was the site of Quad exercise LETTERPRESS in 2017. I hope that partners found it useful to see an example of the kind of facility where verification may take place, as well as hear from LETTERPRESS participants about some of the lessons learned. Several WG6 colleagues are planning exciting experiments and demonstrations in 2019 that will test various detection and measurement technologies, including a demonstration by Belgian colleagues which will use nuclear material for the first time.
Read more about the work done at the at the London Plenary here. IPNDV Partners will meet again for a joint working group meeting in Helsinki in March 2019.