VERTIC launches report on 'Irreversibility in Nuclear Disarmament'

On Friday 14 October 2011, VERTIC’s Executive Director Andreas Persbo delivered a presentation on nuclear disarmament irreversibility, the subject of a newly-released VERTIC report, at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York. The New York gathering was organised to mark the twin launch of VERTIC’s report, ‘Irreversibility in Nuclear Disarmament: Practical steps against nuclear rearmament’, and a companion report on irreversibility by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Both reports were written under grants from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

The launch of these reports ‘marks the conclusion of a project that was begun nearly a year ago, when VERTIC first started work on the subject of nuclear disarmament irreversibility under a grant from the Swiss government,’ Mr Persbo said. In his address, he stressed that while VERTIC’s report is focused on a concept – irreversibility – that features often in policy statements and official documents, it is a concept that has in fact been hitherto largely unexplored, at least in the context of nuclear disarmament. From the beginning, the research team were required to wrestle with the very nature of the concept itself. Can disarmament ever be irreversible, now that the knowledge of how to produce nuclear weapons exists in scientific minds around the world? In light of this reality, VERTIC’s report sought ‘to provide an understanding of the term that is as useful as possible,’ Mr Persbo said. ‘We wanted this understanding to be functional, derived from practice, and of operational use.’ The result is a technically-focused report that frames irreversibility in terms of the costs and difficulty of rearmament and outlines, as indicated by the report’s title, practical steps against rearmament in a state having abandoned a nuclear arsenal.

In his address, Mr Persbo also listed three areas that VERTIC sees as priorities in the quest for irreversible nuclear disarmament: (i) research into verified nuclear warhead dismantlement, with a view to the inclusion of warhead dismantlement in future nuclear arms treaties; (ii) controls on, and reductions in, weapons-usable fissile material stockpiles around the world; and (iii) the adoption of multilateral fuel cycle schemes by states.

But Mr Persbo noted that the VERTIC report, and its SIPRI counterpart, do not by any means represent the end ofthe story. ‘These reports are only the first two attempts to structure the debate,’ he said. Without being prescriptive, the aim was ‘to challenge readers and to introduce new approaches and options,’ to ‘provide food for thought and for further work.’

The full VERTIC report, ‘Irreversibility in Nuclear Disarmament: Practical steps against nuclear rearmament’, is available for download here.

Last changed: Oct 14 2011 at 6:09 PM