Nuclear Verification Report: The Unspoken Implication
Guy Quinlan, LCNP President
This month, a task force of the Defense Department’s Defense Science Board issued a special report on “Assessment of Nuclear Monitoring and Verification Technologies”.
The report notes that “for the first time since the early decades of the nuclear era, the nation needs to be equally concerned about both ‘vertical’ proliferation (the increase in capabilities of existing nuclear states) and ‘horizontal’ proliferation (an increase in the number of states and non-state actors possessing or attempting to possess nuclear weapons.” It urges an expanded and qualitatively improved effort to upgrade monitoring and verification technology, in order to keep up with "the increasing challenges of controlling, limiting and stabilizing the global nuclear regime and the increasing difficulty of monitoring it."
The report emphasizes that "the nuclear future will not be a linear extrapolation of the past," citing such factors as the increasing spread of "fundamental nuclear knowledge", the development of dual-use technologies, the ongoing modernization of existing nuclear arsenals, the growing sophistication of cyber espionage, and the fact that "the growth of nuclear power worldwide offers more opportunities for 'leakage' and/or hiding small programs."
However, the most important conclusion which should be drawn from the assessment is that the status quo of the current "global nuclear regime" is simply not sustainable. In effect, the report undercuts the tacit assumption of the nuclear powers that the current regime can be maintained indefinitely, keeping nuclear weapons out of "the wrong hands" while "step by step" disarmament negotiations continue at a glacial pace toward a distant future. Although the authors of the report surely did not intend it, it offers a powerful argument for expeditious action in support of a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention.