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Integrated Nuclear Security & Safeguards Laboratory

INSSL Helps Verification Solutions Working Group

By Chris McKallagat

Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) binds all states-parties, including the five recognized nuclear weapon states (NWS), to pursue negotiations in good faith leading to “a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” Since the Treaty entered into force in 1970, primary attention has paid by the international community to its foundational non-proliferation aspects in order to prevent new states from the going nuclear. Much less work has been done in support of the disarmament agenda under the NPT. For many non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS), this is becoming an increasingly salient issue that should be addressed at the 2015 NPT Review Conference in New York in order to strengthen the foundation of the nuclear non-proliferation regime in the 21st century. 

Important for making progress on disarmament, according to INSSL Associate Director Marco Marzo, Ph.D., are new ideas and approaches to overcome the political and technical obstacles to nuclear disarmament verification. An internationally recognized expert in the field of nuclear safeguards and the design of verification systems, Marzo flew to London in March 2015 to participate in the Verification Solutions Working Group, a unique meeting of international experts convened by the Verification Research and Training Center (VERTIC) and sponsored by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The objective of the meeting (London Conclave 2015), which took place over five jam-packed days, was to review and help finalize the proposed elements for a multilateral simulation exercise based on modeled nuclear state data. The eventual tabletop exercise is planned for later this year to include teams of experts from around the world simulating the experience of high-stakes international nuclear negotiations that Marzo has participated in throughout his career. 

Prior to joining the Faculty of Engineering at UMass Lowell, Marzo served at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the Department of Safeguards as a director of regional operations. Prior to the Agency, Marzo held senior positions at the Brazil-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC) and the Brazilian Nuclear Energy Commission where he played a leading role as an advisor to the President of Brazil in the process of negotiations with Argentina that committed both countries to the exclusively peaceful use of nuclear energy. 

The Verification Solutions Working Group is part of a larger VERTIC project, sponsored by Norway, that examines how nuclear disarmament can be verified through multilateral arrangements and explores the potential role that international and multilateral organizations can play in this process. So far, the bulk of nuclear disarmament verification has been done bilaterally or through informal arrangements. But an emphasis on multilateral solutions is growing. The Final Document from the last NPT Review Conference in 2010 endorsed an action plan intended to ensure, inter alia, progress on disarmament over the ensuing five-year period. Among the actions agreed to by consensus of the NPT States Parties, #19 notes the agreement of all parties on the importance of supporting cooperation amongst a wide range of actors aimed towards “increasing confidence, improving transparency and developing efficient verification capabilities related to nuclear disarmament.” 

Moving forward, Marzo expects INSSL’s considerable technical knowledge in nuclear materials control and accountancy and increasing training and policy expertise will be an asset to the Verification Solutions Working Group’s ongoing efforts. It is clear that both groups share a commitment to improving multilateral verification standards and best practices to achieve effective verification of nuclear disarmament.