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Keep it simple for effective tamper-resistant seals and enclosures

It’s a balance between simplicity of design and robustness for the job. The seals and enclosures being developed by NNSA’s Office of Nonproliferation and International Security (NIS) and scientific experts employ technologies to safeguard and secure nuclear materials, weapons or components from diversion, theft, or sabotage – tasks critical to support arms control treaties. Yet these technologies must also be simple to use, provide clear indications of tampering, be suitable and safe for deployment in hostile environments, and not include covert or proprietary features.

Reflective Particle Tag technology; developed for START

That’s a tall order, but experts at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and their colleagues in the U.K. are striving to learn what is possible and workable for future arms control treaties that involve the monitoring of nuclear weapons dismantlement. In a bilateral treaty, the monitoring party must rely upon these technologies to confirm that the treaty provisions are being met. In turn, the host must certify that seals and enclosures meet the provisions of the treaty, while protecting sensitive information.

In a dismantlement facility where the host has the opportunity for free access to the monitoring equipment, seals and enclosures can be used to deter unauthorized access to or tampering with the equipment. For the sake of nuclear facility safety and security, monitors may have constraints on the equipment they can bring in for authentication purposes. So the simpler the designs for tamper-indicating seals and enclosures are, the easier they are to authenticate and inspect.

When implemented in tamper-indicating devices, simple designs and defense in depth are concepts that enable treaty partners to safeguard and secure their nuclear items and associated monitoring equipment. NIS’s Office of Nuclear Verification continues to support the development of these technologies as part of its contribution to the U.S. nonproliferation and verification agenda.