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Verification of Nuclear Warheads Using Physical Cryptography

March 27, 2017 @ 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm

The abundance of nuclear weapons in the world is one of the biggest dangers to human civilization, and ambitious, aggressive nuclear disarmament treaties are necessary to reduce this existential threat. New technologies however are necessary to enable the verification of those treaties while protecting the nuclear secrets of the participants, in order to make those treaties effective. This entails verifying the authenticity of the warheads slated for elimination before proceeding with their dismantlement. But how do you verify that an object is a nuclear bomb, without looking inside? Our group at MIT is working on a physical cryptography system, which uses Nuclear Resonance Fluorescence (NRF) in transmission mode to produce a physical “hash” of the weapon. This physically encrypted data is then compared to that from measurements taken on another weapon of known authenticity: a successful match will indicate that the first weapon is also authentic. Since the comparison is done in cryptographic domain no direct information about either weapon is revealed. The seminar will include a discussion of the history of nuclear weapons and arms control treaties, as well as a description of the cryptographic verification concept. Some of the results will be presented and discussed.

Areg Danagoulian is an assistant professor at MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. He graduated from PhysMath School in Yerevan in 1993, after which he studied physics at MIT. After completing his PhD in experimental nuclear physics in 2006 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Areg moved to Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he worked on a variety of research programs including stockpile stewardship, physics beyond the standard model, and nuclear security. He then worked for six years in industry, where he developed an award-winning active interrogation system that uses fast neutrons to detect fissionable materials, such as uranium and plutonium, hidden in cargo containers. In addition to treaty verification technologies, Areg’s research interests include advanced methods for screening of commercial cargoes for the presence of nuclear materials


March 27, 2017
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm


College of Science & Engineering
+374 60 69 40 40


308E, Paramaz Avedisian Building
Baghramyan Ave., 40
Yerevan, Yerevan 0019 Armenia
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+374 60 69 40 40