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Title: Supporting Technology for Chain of Custody of Nuclear Weapons and Materials throughout the Dismantlement and Disposition Processes

The ratification and ongoing implementation of the New START Treaty have been widely regarded as noteworthy global security achievements for both the Obama Administration and the Putin (formerly Medvedev) regime. But deeper cuts that move beyond the United States and Russia to engage the P-5 and other nuclear weapons possessor states are envisioned under future arms control regimes, and are indeed required for the P-5 in accordance with their Article VI disarmament obligations in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Future verification needs will include monitoring the cessation of production of new fissile material for weapons, monitoring storage of warhead components and fissile materials and verifying dismantlement of warheads, pits, secondary stages, and other materials. A fundamental challenge to implementing a nuclear disarmament regime is the ability to thwart unauthorized material diversion throughout the dismantlement and disposition process through strong chain of custody implementation. Verifying the declared presence, or absence, of nuclear materials and weapons components throughout the dismantlement and disposition lifecycle is a critical aspect of the disarmament process. From both the diplomatic and technical perspectives, verification under these future arms control regimes will require new solutions. Since any acceptable verification technology must protect sensitive design information and attributes to preventmore » the release of classified or other proliferation-sensitive information, non-nuclear non-sensitive modalities may provide significant new verification tools which do not require the use of additional information barriers. Alternative verification technologies based upon electromagnetic and acoustics could potentially play an important role in fulfilling the challenging requirements of future verification regimes. For example, researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have demonstrated that low frequency electromagnetic signatures of sealed metallic containers can be used to rapidly confirm the presence of specific components on a yes/no basis without revealing classified information. PNNL researchers have also used ultrasonic measurements to obtain images of material microstructures which may be used as templates or unique identifiers of treaty-limited items. Such alternative technologies are suitable for application in various stages of weapons dismantlement and often include the advantage of an inherent information barrier due to the inability to extract classified weapon design information from the collected data. As a result, these types of technologies complement radiation-based verification methods for arms control. This article presents an overview of several alternative verification technologies that are suitable for supporting a future, broader and more intrusive arms control regime that spans the nuclear weapons disarmament lifecycle. The general capabilities and limitations of each verification modality are discussed and example technologies are presented. Potential applications are defined in the context of the nuclear material and weapons lifecycle. Example applications range from authentication (e.g., tracking and signatures within the chain of custody from downloading through weapons storage, unclassified templates and unique identification) to verification of absence and final material disposition.« less
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  1. United States Department of State, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, Office of Verification and Transparency Technologies, Washington, DC (United States)
  2. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 0892-9882
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Science and Global Security; Journal Volume: 22; Journal Issue: 2
Taylor and Francis
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States