Belfer Center releases report on IAEA verification of fissile material

Last week saw the publication, by the Harvard Belfer Center Project on Managing the Atom, of a report on 'IAEA verification of fissile material in support of nuclear disarmament'. The report, by ex-IAEA staffers Thomas Shea and Laura Rockwood, is designed to build on work undertaken by the US-Russia-IAEA Trilateral Initiative from 1996-2002, which investigated the feasibility of IAEA verification of classified forms of weapon-origin fissile material. That initiative, the full work of which has never been made public, is widely understood however to have made great progress in examining the various issues involved in what is a politically, legally and technically complex verification challenge.
 
In this report, Shea and Rockwood suggest that IAEA verification of fissile material could be done in a 'progressive' fashion—first to unclassified forms of material, then to warhead 'pits' and 'secondaries' and other material of a classified nature (both of which stages were also addressed by the Trilateral Initiative). The authors go on to discuss IAEA verification of two additional stages: the storage and dismantlement of nuclear warheads; and the removal and monitoring of deployed nuclear warheads that are set for elimination. All these issues are ones that VERTIC too has been exploring over recent years in relation to our project on multilateral nuclear disarmament verification.
 
That Shea and Rockwood's report has been published now is not accidental. The release has been timed to coincide with the five-yearly NPT Review Conference, which, the authors write, 'offers an opportunity for renewed attention to the achievements of the Trilateral Initiative in addressing the technical, legal and financial aspects of IAEA verification in support of disarmament, and building on those achievements along the lines of the framework proposed herein.' They call on Review Conference participants to agree that nuclear-weapon states 'begin without delay negotiation with the IAEA of agreements for IAEA verification of fissile material to ensure that such material remains permanently outside military programs.'
 
The full report can be downloaded from the Belfer Center website here.
 

Last changed: May 06 2015 at 4:16 PM

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