Enforcing Nuclear Non-Proliferation—The Role of Verification

  • Barry KellmanEmail author


Nuclear non-proliferation verification should be framed as a multiple negative in connection with deterring and detecting States’ nuclear activities so as to impel States to neither develop nor otherwise acquire disallowed weapons. Accordingly, international authorities must have legal authority to determine whether non-proliferation obligations are satisfied, to resolve doubts about compliance, and in the rare case to coercively enforce such obligations. Ultimately, verification necessarily entails an elevation of legal authority to judge a State’s behaviour from self-appointed State political and military elites to technical elites within the United Nations or other international organizations, thereby strengthening global governance in the cause of peace and security. The international community must know what States are doing with and about nuclear and other weapons, and this superior interest must trump the strategic interests of any particular State. This chapter first asserts that the core imperative of verification must be to enable detection of violations of non-proliferation obligations, and it frames the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) role in verifying compliance with States’ mutual commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. It then addresses two controversies associated with nuclear non-proliferation verification, respectively: the scope of States’ legal obligation to allow the IAEA to resolve doubts about compliance, and the Security Council’s authority to impose sanctions for non-compliance with nuclear non-proliferation obligations pursuant to recent international law decisions. The author concludes that the IAEA is fully mandated to verify not only the correctness but also the completeness of a State’s reports, and the Security Council has unreviewable authority to enforce international obligations in the maintenance of peace and security.


Completeness Compliance Correctness Enforcement International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Nuclear non-proliferation Sanctions Verification 


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Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press and the authors 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Weapons Control CenterDePaul University College of LawChicagoUSA

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