Unprecedented interest in seeking progress toward nuclear disarmament exists today; even some nuclear weapon states are looking for new ways to strengthen this process. National declarations of fissile material holdings*highly enriched uranium and plutonium*could play an important role in supporting this effort, facilitating not only transparency but also the irreversibility of the process. This article discusses what kind of content such declarations could have in order to be meaningful and effective, the sequence of data on fissile material holdings that states might release, and some of the challenges to be expected in reconstructing historic fissile material production; it also summarizes current attitudes of weapon states toward making such declarations. Initial declarations can be valuable as confidence-building measures, but better and more background data are necessary if declarations are to serve as the groundwork for deeper cuts in the nuclear arsenals. A robust verification approach would ultimately require inspectors to have access to fissile material production and storage sites. The methods and tools of nuclear forensic analysis*in this context also dubbed nuclear archaeology*would be a key element of this process. This article discusses the capabilities and limitations of potential approaches to verifying declarations of historic production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium; it also identifies and discusses opportunities for further research and development.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Political Science and International Relations
- Fissile material
- Highly enriched uranium
- Nuclear weapons