The verification of nuclear warheads for arms control involves a paradox: international inspectors will have to gain high confidence in the authenticity of submitted items while learning nothing about them. Proposed inspection systems featuring ‘information barriers’, designed to hide measurements stored in electronic systems, are at risk of tampering and snooping. Here we show the viability of a fundamentally new approach to nuclear warhead verification that incorporates a zero-knowledge protocol, which is designed in such a way that sensitive information is never measured and so does not need to be hidden. We interrogate submitted items with energetic neutrons, making, in effect, differential measurements of both neutron transmission and emission. Calculations for scenarios in which material is diverted from a test object show that a high degree of discrimination can be achieved while revealing zero information. Our ideas for a physical zero-knowledge system could have applications beyond the context of nuclear disarmament. The proposed technique suggests a way to perform comparisons or computations on personal or confidential data without measuring the data in the first place.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Open Access articles citing this article.
New Generation Computing Open Access 02 April 2021
Scientific Reports Open Access 14 January 2021
Scientific Reports Open Access 26 November 2020
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Comley, C. et al. Confidence, Security & Verification: The Challenge of Global Nuclear Weapons Arms Controlhttp://www.fissilematerials.org/library/awe00.pdf (Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston, UK, 2000)
Spears D., ed. Technology R&D for Arms Controlhttp://www.fissilematerials.org/library/doe01b.pdf (US Department of Energy, Office of Nonproliferation Research and Engineering, Washington DC, 2001)
Fuller, J. in Cultivating Confidence: Verification, Monitoring, and Enforcement for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons (ed. Hinderstein, C. ) Ch. 4 (Hoover Institution Press, 2010)
Anderson, B. et al. Verification of Nuclear Weapon Dismantlement: Peer Review of the UK MoD Programme (British Pugwash Group, London, 2012)
Goldwasser, S., Micali, S. & Rackoff, C. The knowledge complexity of interactive proof-systems. SIAM J. Comput. 18, 186–208 (1989)
Chazelle, B. The security of knowing nothing. Nature 446, 992–993 (2007)
Fuller, J. Verification on the road to zero: issues for nuclear warhead dismantlement. Arms Control Today 40 (10). 19–27 (December 2010)
A general Monte Carlo N-particle (MCNP) transport code. Release MCNP5-1.40 http://mcnp.lanl.gov (Los Alamos National Laboratory, 2005)
Roquemore, A. L., Jassby, D. L., Johnson, L. C., Strachan, J. D. & Barnes, C. W. Performance of a 14-MeV neutron generator as an in situ calibration source for TFTR. In 15th IEEE/NPSS Symposium on Fusion Engineering 114–118 (IEEE, 1993)
Hall, J. Uncovering hidden defects with neutrons. Sci. Technol. Rev. http://www.llnl.gov/str/May01/Hall.html 4–11 (May 2001)
d’Errico, F. Radiation dosimetry and spectrometry with superheated emulsions. Nucl. Instrum. Methods Phys. Res. B 184, 229–254 (2001)
d’Errico, F., Nath, R., Lamba, M. & Holland, S. K. A position sensitive superheated emulsion chamber for three-dimensional photon dosimetry. Phys. Med. Biol. 43, 1147–1158 (1998)
d’Errico, F., Di Fulvio, A., Maryañski, M., Selici, S. & Torrigiani, M. Optical readout of superheated emulsions. Radiat. Meas. 43, 432–436 (2008)
Bleuel, D. L. et al. Neutron activation analysis at the National Ignition Facility. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 83, 10D313 (2012)
Thermo Scientific P 385 Neutron Generator. http://www.thermoscientific.com/en/product/p-385-neutron-generator.html
Allen, K. et al. UK-Norway Initiative (UKNI) approach for the development of a gamma ray attribute measurement system with an integrated information barrier. In Proc. ESARDA 35th Annual Meeting (Ispra, Italy, June 2013) (ed. Sevini, F. ) (European Commission, 2013)
Goldreich, O., Micali, S. & Wigderson, A. in Proc. 19th Annual ACM Conference on Theory of Computing (ed. Aho, A. V. ) 218–229 (ACM Press, 1987)
Lindell, Y. & Pinkas, B. Secure multiparty computation for privacy-preserving data mining. J. Privacy Confident. 1, 59–98 (2009)
Fisch, B., Freund, D. & Naor, M. Physical zero-knowledge proofs of physical properties. In Proceedings of CRYPTO 2014 (eds Garay, J. & Gennaro, R. ) (in the press); http://www.iacr.org/conferences/crypto2014/acceptedpapers.html
This project was supported by Global Zero and the US Department of State, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (DOE contract DE-AC02-09CH11466) and in-kind contributions from Microsoft Research New England. We thank D. Dobkin, F. d’Errico, J. Fuller, D. MacArthur, J. Mihalczo, S. Philippe and M. Walker for discussions and feedback. We thank S. Philippe (Princeton University) for graphics in Fig. 2. All simulations were run on Princeton University’s High Performance Cluster.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Glaser, A., Barak, B. & Goldston, R. A zero-knowledge protocol for nuclear warhead verification. Nature 510, 497–502 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13457
This article is cited by
Scientific Reports (2021)
New Generation Computing (2021)
Scientific Reports (2020)
Nature Communications (2019)