This series, launched in 2001, revived the earlier Verification Matters series (1990-1997) and replaced its successor, the VERTIC Research Reports (1998-1999). They are substantive ad hoc research reports on a variety of verification topics, written by VERTIC researchers or external authors. To order a print copy of Matters, please contact

Report on Tabletop Exercise on UNSGM Investigation of Alleged Biological Weapons Use

This report outlines the main conclusions and lessons identified during a tabletop exercise (TTX) run by VERTIC on 31 October – 1 November 2019. The TTX explored the possible challenges to an international investigation run under the UN Secretary-General’s Mechanism for investigation of alleged use of chemical and biological weapons (UNSGM). The TTX focused on a scenario in which the alleged use of a biological weapon was being investigated. VERTIC’s exercise is part of a study on current UNSGM capabilities to respond to alleged use of biological weapons and on ways to support and build these capabilities in the future.

Means to Reinforce Research on Nuclear Disarmament Verification: report on a series of regional conversations

The achievement and maintenance of a world free of nuclear weapons remain stated policy objectives of many governments. Years of bilateral and plurilateral research initiatives have however not yielded a formal process whereby results can be internationally shared, leading to an initial set of verification arrangements that may prove politically acceptable. This report is based on a series of four consultative workshops hosted by VERTIC throughout 2017 with stakeholders in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, which aimed to explore if further measures can be taken to enhance international cooperation on nuclear disarmament verification. The consultations discussed a hypothetical proposal, namely, the establishment of a multilateral Group of Scientific Experts as a means to build on the embryonic network of international expertise on nuclear disarmament verification that currently exists through a sustainable and inclusive programme of work.

Matters no. 13, PDF format, November 2017

Exploring multilateral verification of nuclear disarmament: scenarios, modelling and simulations

The report provides a guide for developing simulation exercises to consider the technical, legal and political challenges involved in verifying nuclear disarmament. It explains how creating nuclear disarmament ‘scenarios’ and technical models of nuclear programmes can provide detailed and holistic environments in which to run these simulations. It also discusses questions that need to be addressed while exploring disarmament verification options to ensure that any proposed solutions are reliable, coherent, trusted and accessible.

Matters no. 12, PDF format, November 2015
Matters no. 12, .epub format, November 2015
Matters no. 12, .mobi format, November 2015

The IAEA and nuclear disarmament verification: a primer

This primer seeks to facilitate an informed debate at domestic and international levels on the challenges and opportunities of multilateral verification of disarmament through the IAEA. It aims to strengthen capacity among IAEA Member States and other stakeholders in verified nuclear disarmament by providing the reader with an introduction to the main issues associated with an IAEA role in nuclear disarmament verification.

Matters no. 11, September 2015

Member state views on an IAEA role in verifying nuclear disarmament

VERTIC has conducted a survey of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) member states to provide a more detailed and standardised assessment of views on an agency role in disarmament verification. The survey examines views on the steps the agency should take to equip itself for this role, and the types of support mem- ber states are prepared to give towards this end.

Matters no. 10, September 2015
Survey Results Table, September 2015

Verified warhead dismantlement: past, present, future

The UK-Norway Initiative was not the first effort to look into dismantlement verification; nor will it be the last. Comparing the Initiative’s strengths and limits with initiatives of the past seemed a good way to highlight its unique features, to explore which verification solutions might work in real-world scenarios, and to identify gaps in the current body of research.

David Cliff, Hassan Elbahtimy, Andreas Persbo
Matters no. 9, September 2010

Use of voluntary transparency measures to increase trust in States’ nuclear programmes: the case of Iran

This paper, together with its companion study, collectively aim to identify a range of possible verification, transparency and confidence-building mechanisms—through which trust can be re-established and further strengthened.The two papers are written from a technical and legal perspective and are intended to give an independent, impartial and dispassionate analysis of possible measures and processes to facilitate resolution of the current situation.

James Acton with Joanna Little
Matters no. 8, May 2007

Thinking inside the box: exploring legal approaches to build confidence in Iran’s nuclear programme

This paper, together with its companion study, collectively aim to identify a range of possible verification, transparency and confidence-building mechanisms—through which trust can be re-established and further strengthened.The two papers are written from a technical and legal perspective and are intended to give an independent, impartial and dispassionate analysis of possible measures and processes to facilitate resolution of the current situation.

Andreas Persbo
Matters no. 7, May 2007

A new strategy: strengthening the biological weapons regime through modular mechanisms

In December 2004 the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (WMDC) published the study, Enhancing BWC Implementation: A Modular Approach, which was prepared by the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC). In the study VERTIC identifies a range of mechanisms that could improve the implementation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). This new VERTIC study updates the 2004 WMDC study and assesses the possible mandates for, and the responsibilities and requirements of, the modular mechanisms that have been identified to strengthen the biological weapons regime.

Matters no. 6, October 2006

IAEA verification of military research and development

The International Atomic Energy Agency has been guardian of the nuclear non-proliferation regime since the 1950s. The organization’s mission statement reads that it ‘verifies through its inspection system that States comply with their commitments, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and other non-proliferation agreements, to use nuclear material and facilities only for peaceful purposes’. Its central role in nuclear verification is uncontested and essential in the worthwhile effort to build trust among nations, and ultimately to realize the core objective of the organization’s own motto, to promote ‘atoms for peace’. To date, there have been few readily accessible studies on the Agency’s role in detecting the research, assembly and testing of a nuclear weapon or a nuclear explosive device once a state has acquired the necessary quantity of nuclear material.

James Acton with Carter Newman
Matters no. 5, July 2006

On-Site Inspections in Arms Control and Disarmament Verification

A comparative theoretical framework of on-site inspections (OSIs) is presented. Specific regimes, together with their historical contexts, are then described, including the implementation of OSIs. The future nature and role of OSIs, as well as related technical aspects, are also considered. While some OSI regimes are broadly comparable in terms of purpose and implementation, the variety of their respective structures and specific purposes makes it difficult to draw meaningful comparisons across the various regimes. Since OSIs have generally been considered within the context of individual treaty regimes, it is hoped that the present study will provide a clearer understanding of their role in arms control and disarmament regimes generally.

John Hart
Matters no. 4, October 2002

Global Spending on Nuclear Disarmament Verification Work

It is sometimes argued that advances in the technologies and techniques that are vital for implementing and verifying nuclear arms reductions would facilitate the political decisions necessary to achieve deep cuts in nuclear weapons and, ultimately, the creation of a nuclear weapon-free world. To assess the scope for such advances being made in the near future, it is useful to survey current worldwide patterns of expenditure on verification and related research and development (R&D). The scale, geographical location, organisation and technical objectives of existing work will help suggest where opportunities lie for reform or expansion of efforts worldwide.

Tom Milne
Matters no. 3, April 2002

The Biological Weapons Convention Protocol: Politics, Science and Industry

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), which was opened for signature in 1972 and entered into force in 1975, prohibits the development, production, stockpiling and acquisition of biological and toxin weapons and reinforces the existing taboo against their use. The BWC was heralded as groundbreaking—the first international agreement to outlaw an entire class of weapon of mass destruction. But the treaty, only four pages long, lacks detail on how some of its commitments should be implemented and contains no verification measures.

Henrietta Wilson
Matters no. 2, December 2001

Chemical Industry Inspections under the Chemical Weapons Convention

On-site inspections (OSIs) are one of the principal means for verifying state party compliance with the 1993 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC). The purpose of OSIs is to detect evidence of non-compliance, add to the deterrent effect of the verification system as a whole and enhance confidence that the treaty is being implemented effectively.

John Hart
Matters no. 1, October 2001