Dealing with Secrecy, Trust and Access in Nuclear Weapons Verification: Can Cryptography Help Crack the Next Generation of Arms-Control Treaties?

Sebastien 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 an agreed limit; and, second, inspectors would also have to confirm the authenticity of nuclear warheads prior to dismantlement. These tasks would involve both inspectors accessing sensitive military facilities and measurement procedures that could put at risk classified information. A viable verification regime needs to protect this information, limit intrusive access to 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.


Sebastien Philippe is a PhD candidate and Harold W. Dodds Honorific Fellow at Princeton University's Program on Science and Global Security and Nuclear Futures Laboratory. His work combines research in cryptography, applied physics, and nuclear science and engineering in the context of public policy and international affairs, with a focus on nuclear arms control. As part of his dissertation, he has demonstrated a physical application of zero-knowledge proofs to nuclear weapon verification. Before joining Princeton, Sebastien was a nuclear weapon system safety engineer within the French Ministry of Defense.

Time and Place

Tuesday, February 13, 4:15pm
Gates 463