Dealing with Secrecy, Trust and Access in Nuclear Weapons Verification

Lecture | February 14 | 1-2 p.m. |  Nuclear Science and Security Consortium

 2150 Shattuck Ave, Suite 230 , Berkeley, CA 94704

 Sébastien Philippe

 Nuclear Science and Security Consortium

Presented by Sébastien Philippe.

Future nuclear arms-control agreements could place numerical limits on the total number of warheads in the arsenals of the weapon states. Verifying these agreements would face at least two fundamentally new challenges. First, inspectors would have to confirm that the number of declared items does not exceed the agreed limit; and, second, inspectors would also have to confirm the authenticity of nuclear warheads prior to dismantlement. Both tasks may involve procedures that put at risk classified or otherwise sensitive information and require access to sensitive facilities. A viable verification regime needs to protect this information and possibly limit access to these facilities while providing inspectors the ability to acquire data they can trust. This presentation reviews the emerging challenges for nuclear verification and proposes technical approaches to address them building on new applications of cryptography and information security.

Sébastien Philippe is a doctoral candidate in applied physics at Princeton University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. His research focuses on innovative verification approaches and technologies to support future international treaties, with a focus on nuclear non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament. As part of his Princeton dissertation, he has designed and carried out successfully the first experimental demonstration of a physical application of the cryptographic concept of zero-knowledge proofs.

Sébastien is a member of Princeton’s Nuclear Futures Laboratory and affiliated with the Program on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is also an editorial assistant of the peer-reviewed journal Science & Global Security. Before joining Princeton, Sébastien was a graduate research fellow at the French war college and a nuclear safety engineer for strategic nuclear forces within the French defense procurement agency. He holds a MSc from France’s National Institute of Applied Sciences in Lyon (2010) and a MA from Princeton University (2014).

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