Nuclear Verification and Disarmament Laboratory

An example of technical research for disarmament: Gamma measurement of a (mockup) warhead and spectrum analysis using an "information barrier" to verify warhead dismantlement. Click on picture for the paper from Princeton University. Picture: A. Glaser

Beginning research in November 2017, the new Nuclear Verification and Disarmament Laboratory is now looking for motivated Bachelor and Master students. If interested, please contact Malte Göttsche. Research areas are suggested below, own ideas are welcome.

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 Laboratory 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 Laboratory 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 Laboratory 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).

Research areas for thesis projects

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.

Inverse analysis to deduce information from radioactive waste. This projects seeks to develop advanced algorithms to deduce a maximum of reactor operation and fuel cycle information from the radioactive waste measurement data. Aspects of this work include statistical methods and optimization. The project builds on preparatory work.

Measurement techniques to deduce information from radioactive waste. Examine the use of several techniques to measure waste (passive and neutron-induced gamma measurements). This work will be performed using Monte Carlo simulations and will train students in radiation transport and detection.

A fuel cycle simulation code for nuclear archaeology. This project seeks to develop a fuel cycle simulation code for nuclear archaeology. It should calculate fissile material flows and characteristics throughout the fuel cycle, based on input specifying how facilities were operated. Besides the actual coding, it must be evaluated which functions the code must be able to perform. The project builds on preparatory work.

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.