Professor Alexander Glaser, Princeton University
Thursday, September 17, 2015, 16:00 – 17:00
Burlington Nuclear Laboratories, Room 1202

How to Keep a Secret: New Approaches to Trusted Radiation Measurements for Nuclear Warhead Verification

Current nuclear arms-control agreements between the United States and Russia limit the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons that each party can have. Future bilateral or multilateral treaties, however, will most likely also place limits on the total number of nuclear weapons and warheads. Such agreements would require the inspection of warheads that are in storage and therefore raise fundamentally new verification challenges, including: Can one party convince another party that an object is a genuine nuclear warhead without giving away any knowledge beyond the fact that this assertion is true?

Traditional approaches to nuclear warhead verification have relied on engineered information barriers, which process characteristic radiation signatures of the inspected item but display the result of the analysis in a simple pass/fail manner. Establishing trust in an information barrier that is supplied by one of the parties may be an elusive goal, however. To resolve this dilemma, we have recently proposed an alternative approach that is designed in such a way that sensitive information is never measured and so does not need to be hidden (Nature, 510, 2014). Following the cryptographic concept of an interactive zero-knowledge proof, we interrogate submitted items with energetic neutrons using non-electronic, pre-loadable detectors, making, in effect, differential measurements of both neutron transmission and emission. In addition to computational results for different diversion scenarios, this talk presents first experimental results based on this new approach to nuclear warhead verification.


Prof. Alexander Glaser, Princeton

Prof. Alexander Glaser, Princeton

Alexander Glaser is an assistant professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. Glaser is the co-editor of the journal Science & Global Security, co-author of Unmaking the Bomb (MIT Press, 2014), and co-chair of the International Panel on Fissile MaterialsHe is part of the Consortium for Verification Technology (CVT), where he directs the policy research thrust and supports technical research on disarmament verification. In 2014, Foreign Policy Magazine selected Glaser as one of the “100 Leading Global Thinkers” for his work on zero-knowledge warhead verification.