US-Russia Nuclear Security Cooperation:
Transparency and Verification Measures

Progress has been slowest in the area of increasing transparency and adding verification measures with regards to US-Russia nuclear security efforts. This is best explained by that such measures necessitate openness at the heart the nuclear balance, the secret management and accountancy of nuclear weapons and material. Best results have been achieved in implementing transparency measures under the HEU Purchase Agreement where commercial interests of selling uranium paved the way for intrusive inspections to verify that the material originated from warheads.


Warhead and Fissile Material Transparency Program
administered through the US Department of Energy

  • Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Purchase Transparency Regime
    The HEU Transparency regime oversees the implementation of the HEU Purchase Agreement. The main task is to verify that the uranium purchased by the US private company USEC, Inc., is derived from Russian nuclear weapons. This arrangement is the most intrusive of US-Russia nuclear security programs and lets the US Office of International Nuclear Safety monitor Russian nuclear facilities involved in the down blending and processing of HEU. In turn, Russia can also verify that the uranium sold to the US is not re-enriched and used for weapons purposes. The US spent $74 million on HEU transparency between 1994 and 2000.

  • Lab-to-Lab Warhead Dismantlement Transparency Program
    This program is aiming to create more openness in the warhead dismantlement process, encourage advocates for transparency in Russia, and provide employment to Russian nuclear technical staff. The program is implemented through contracts signed between US and Russian nuclear laboratories. Areas of work include radiation measurement technology, tags and seals, remote monitoring, and other topics related to transparency.

  • Mayak Transparency
    When approving the Mayak Fissile Storage Facility Construction Program, the US Congress attached verification conditions to the funding. The US should with on-site inspections be able to confirm that the new facility (a) accepts only nuclear material from dismantled warheads; (b) is able to safely store the materials, and (c) makes sure that materials are not retrieved for military purposes. While agreement on measures (b) and (c) seems attainable, (a) has proved more problematic after Russia's decision to only store plutonium "pits" converted into non-classified forms at Mayak. That is, it will not be possible to verify if the material originated in warheads or not. Negotiations are conducted within the framework of the Trilateral Initiative (see below).

Bi-lateral documents

Other Resources


Trilateral Initiative
administered through the IAEA

Launched in 1996 by the US, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency the, the Trilateral Initiative intends to develop a new verification system under which nuclear weapons states can verify the presence and accounting of warheads and fissile materials without revealing classified information. US and Russia has yet to commit legally to the project, which is still in the developing phase examining technical, legal and financial issues associated with IAEA verification of the origin of weapons origin and materials. If put into place, the system is meant to verify, among other things, implementation of the Plutonium Disposition Agreement and the Mayak Fissile Storage Facility Construction Program.