A retrospective paper looking back 25 years at the U.S.-RF-IAEA Trilateral Initiative

Nancy Jo Nicholas - Los Alamos National Laboratory
File Attachment
The Trilateral Initiative was launched by Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Viktor Mikhailov, Director General Hans Blix, and U.S. Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary at their 17 September 1996 meeting in Vienna, Austria. The aim of the initiative was to fulfill the commitments made by Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin concerning IAEA verification of weaponorigin fissile materials and to complement their commitments regarding the transparency and irreversibility of nuclear arms reductions. Experts from the U.S., Russia and IAEA worked to explore technical, legal, and financial options for verification of classified weapons origin fissile materials. This paper will reflect on the history of the Trilateral Initiative, progress towards technical verification since then, and prospects for technology development to support future arms control efforts. As a technical rather than a policy expert, I will steer away from future arms control treaty prognostications and focus on looking ahead in the monitoring and verification technology realm. The U.S. government is funding several programs to help prepare technology experts support future arms control initiatives. The U.S. 2022 Nuclear Posture Review states that successfully enforcing future arms control agreements will require new technical capabilities for verification and monitoring. It references investing in needed technologies as well as developing the next generation of technical experts required to negotiate and implement future agreements. Some examples of these programs include NNSA’s Arms Control Advancement Initiative, Human Capital Development, enhanced basic R&D work on arms control monitoring and verification tools and technology, and the State Department’s effort with the Nuclear Threat Initiative on partnering internationally for the development, testing and demonstration of monitoring and verification technology tools.