30 scientists from 10 countries: an international exercise brings nuclear disarmament verification one step closer


Today, an international exercise will be launched at the site of the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) in Mol to test and compare measurement techniques for nuclear disarmament. “Thanks to the right techniques, we will be able to verify whether nuclear weapons were actually dismantled and the fissile material was removed”, explains organizer Klaas van der Meer (SCK•CEN). More than 30 participants from 10 different countries will take part in the ten-day exercise.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in 1970, is meant to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The treaty contains an article in which the current nuclear-weapon states pledge to dismantle their nuclear arsenal. After the Cold War, the United States and Russia, formerly known as the Soviet Union, dismantled tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. However, there is no agreement for future disarmament or on the processes for nuclear disarmament verification. In 2014, the U.S. Department of State announced that the U.S. government would lead the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV) in cooperation with the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). “Procedures are being developed and tested within the IPNDV to verify the dismantling of nuclear weapons. We pay special attention to the measurement methods which support these procedures”, continues Klaas. “Belgium, with its thorough nuclear knowledge, was also asked to join.”

The IPNDV and its member states gather on a regular basis to dig deeper into the various aspects of nuclear disarmament verification. During the international exercise organised by SCK•CEN from 9 to 20 September, they will scrutinize various technical and procedural measurement techniques. “The participants measure structures of nuclear materials, each one having a different composition, mass and shielding layer”, explains organizer Klaas van der Meer (SCK•CEN). Co-organiser Alessandro Borella (SCK•CEN) adds: “Considering that we know the material composition in detail, we are able to assess the accuracy of the measurement techniques and to identify the improvement areas.” The exercise gives insight into the efficiency of the measurement techniques used. “It allows us to make a better choice when it comes to adequate technology and to further develop nuclear disarmament”, concludes Klaas van der Meer (SCK•CEN).

International gathering

The International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification channels expertise from over 25 states, both with and without nuclear weapons, to address the complex challenges involved in nuclear disarmament verification. Belgium has been partner in the IPNDV since the Partnership’s first phase began in 2015, and representatives from SCK•CEN have led the organisation of this practical exercise. The participants come from all over the world. “Belgium, Finland, Norway, Hungary, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the European Union, Australia, Canada and Japan are all represented. The Netherlands and Germany will act as observers”, states co-organizer Alessandro Borella (SCK•CEN).

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