Research Group Science for Nuclear Diplomacy

The Science for Nuclear Diplomacy Group conducts research in experimental physics and computational nuclear engineering to support the nonproliferation, arms control, and disarmament of nuclear weapons. It is co-located at TU Darmstadt and PRIF. We focus on the development of novel verification techniques to assess compliance with corresponding treaties. Furthermore, proliferation potentials of new nuclear technologies are assessed. Lastly, the group explores avenues towards reductions in nuclear weapon arsenals and weapons-usable fissile materials.

We use various technical tools and methods: Simulations of the nuclear fuel cycle and the physical processes in its facilities are essential for designing verification approaches. We continue work on disarmament verification previously done in Aachen, developing methods to reconstruct past fissile material production and removals (nuclear archaeology). For this research, we exploit computational and data science methods (e.g. inverse problem solving, statistical methods). Beyond verification, simulations are used to evaluate the technical potential of new civilian nuclear technologies to be mis-used for nuclear weapon programs (proliferation). 

Radiation detection of nuclear materials plays an important role in verifying nonproliferation, arms control, and disarmament. Here, we focus on gamma, neutron, antineutrino und muon measurements. In addition to simulations of nuclear material detection and characterization as well as reactor operations, we conduct experimental work in the group’s own laboratory with gamma and neutron sources and passive detection systems.

Beyond the technical research, we engage in interdisciplinary initiatives. The main project is VeSPoTec — Verification in a complex and unpredictable world: social, political and technical processes. At its heart lies what we consider the nature of verification: Technologies and technical analyses interact with the political nature of nuclear governance and form a social practice of confidence-building and compliance assessment. VeSPoTec studies these linkages through an interdisciplinary approach involving natural science, social constructivism, strategic studies, and the sociology of knowledge. By integrating these perspectives to uncover the various factors that underlay how verification functions, we seek to contribute to addressing challenges to verification regimes on the horizon.

The research group is part of the Cluster for Natural and Technical Science Arms Control Research (CNTR).