Nuclear Verification and Disarmament

Verification is vital to ensure the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, and to enable arms control and disarmament, as it can detect non-compliance with agreements and build confidence. The Nuclear Verification and Disarmament group conducts technical research to develop new verification approaches that address emerging challenges and will be essential to make progress on nuclear disarmament. An interdisciplinary initiative, the group also explores the conditions and avenues that enable reductions in nuclear weapon arsenals and weapons-usable fissile materials.

The research lies at the crossroads of experimental physics, computational nuclear engineering as well as the social sciences. The group and its current main project on nuclear archaeology is sponsored by a FREIGEIST-Fellowship of the VolkswagenStiftung.

A German Nuclear Archaeology Laboratory: Reconstructing the Nuclear Past to Enable a Nuclear-weapon-free Future

Today, there exist more than 15,000 nuclear warheads in nine countries. Independent estimates assume that the civilian and military fissile material stocks amount to 500 tons of plutonium and 1,400 tons of highly-enriched uranium, much of which is available to build additional nuclear warheads. Whether it be North Korea, the United States or any other nuclear weapon state, even countries' own assessments of their produced fissile materials bear significant uncertainties, corresponding to several thousand warhead-equivalents globally. This project seeks to develop new tools and methods to understand and reduce these uncertainties. A solid understanding of fissile-material holdings is needed to achieve a meaningful degree of predictability and irreversibility of future arms-control initiatives. Speculations about possibly large unaccounted fissile-material stockpiles could make progress in this area very difficult. Additional information on the nuclear archaeology concept can be found here (from page 25).


B.Sc. and M.Sc. thesis topics for 2019 are now online!


Scientific discoveries and technological innovations have always exerted a great influence on peace and security. The conference SCIENCE · PEACE · SECURITY '19 aims for an accurate understanding and fruitful discussions of today’s and tomorrow’s peace and security challenges. This includes scientific-technical as well as interdisciplinary contributions, focusing on problems of international security and peacebuilding as well as contributions dedicated to transparency, trust-building, arms control, disarmament, and conflict management. We invite researchers and practitioners to contribute to this conference, which will prospectively be published in the form of conference proceedings and special journal issues. Further information can be found here. Prof. Göttsche is a member of the Program Committee.


Group leader  
Prof. Dr. Malte Göttsche
Jutta Schmitz
Dr. Madalina Chera
Doctoral student  
Antonio Figueroa, M.Sc.
Erasmus Trainee
David Pérez


Research areas

Required facilities and production paths (arrows) for plutonium and highly enriched uranium. The green boxes show facilities and indicators that can be exploited to reconstruct the past fissile material production. Click on graphic to enlarge.

We are always looking for motivated Bachelor and Master students. If interested, please contact Malte Göttsche.

Inverse analysis to deduce information from radioactive waste and shut-down reactors. This projects seeks to develop advanced algorithms to deduce a maximum of reactor operation and fuel cycle information from the radioactive waste measurement data and samples of structural materials from reactors. Aspects of this work include statistical methods such as Bayesian inference and numerical methods (Monte Carlo and optimization).

(Anti)neutrino detectors. Various isotopes present in the nuclear fuel waste undergo beta decay. Measuring the resulting antineutrino flux could provide an excellent means for verifying nuclear waste sites declarations. We are investigating the feasibility of using state of the art (anti)neutrino detection technologies, e.g., liquid argon time projection chambers, for verification purposes. This project involves working with an advanced detector simulation and carrying out data analyses for performance evaluations.

Nuclear archaeology indicators. This work aims at studying which information or indicators different fuel cycles produce that are useful to reconstruct a fissile material production history. It includes information that could be obtained from measurements on radioactive waste or from provided documentation such as original records. The work will require simulating production histories, and understanding how nuclear facilities function.

The nuclear archaeology archive. This project investigates how extensive documentation (or knowledge) of the nuclear past can be by examining how it was produced and managed. Knowledge production depends on laws, national and facility-specific regulations as well as professional codes of conduct regarding the reporting of activities. Knowledge management encompasses regulations and practices of archiving and preserving knowledge, but also secrecy.


Jakob Brochhaus, Impact of Reactor Parameters on Isotopic Concentrations of High-Level Waste, Bachelor thesis, 2018.