Vintage electronics for trusted radiation measurements and verified dismantlement of nuclear weapons

Autoři: Moritz Kütt aff001;  Alexander Glaser aff002
Působiště autorů: Institute for Peace Research and Security at the University of Hamburg, Germany aff001;  Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, United States of America aff002
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(10)
Kategorie: Research Article


Information barriers are trusted measurement systems to confirm the authenticity of nuclear warheads based on their radiation signatures. Traditional inspection systems rely on complex electronics both for data acquisition and processing. Several research efforts have produced prototype systems, but it has proven difficult to demonstrate that hidden switches and side channels do not exist. After almost thirty years of research and development, no viable and widely accepted system has emerged. We pursue a fundamentally different approach: Our prototype of an inspection system uses vintage hardware built around a 6502 processor. The processor uses 8-micron technology and has only about 4,200 transistors. Vintage electronics may have a number of important advantages for applications where two parties need to simultaneously establish trust in the hardware used. CPUs designed in the distant past, at a time when their use for sensitive measurements was never envisioned, drastically reduce concerns that the other party implemented backdoors or hidden switches on the hardware level. We demonstrate the performance of a prototype system using an Apple IIe and a custom-made open-source data-processing board connected to a standard sodium-iodide radiation detector for low-resolution gamma spectroscopy. Data processing and analysis is exclusively done on the Apple IIe hardware. We show that subtle differences in radiation signatures can be detected in 2–3 minutes based on the result of a simple chi-squared test. Vintage electronics may therefore offer a new path toward fieldable, trusted information barriers.

Klíčová slova:

Data processing – Electronics – Prototypes – Computer hardware – Photomultiplier tubes – Gamma radiation – Gamma spectrometry – Nuclear weapons


1. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Arms Control and Nonproliferation. Transparency and verification options: An initial analysis of approaches for monitoring warhead dismantlement, 1997. Available from:

2. Commitee on International Security and Arms Control, National Research Council. Monitoring nuclear weapons and nuclear-explosive materials. Washington DC: The National Academies Press; 2005.

3. Sastre C. CIVET a controlled intrusiveness verification technology. Report BNL-90156-1988, Brookhaven National Laboratory; 1988.

4. Spears D (Ed.). Technology R&D for arms control. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nonproliferation Research and Engineering, Washington, DC; 2001. Available from

5. Fuller J. The functional requirements and design basis for information barriers. Report PNNL-13285, Pacific Northwestern National Laboratory; 1999.

6. White G. Review of prior U.S. attribute measurement systems. Proceedings of 53rd Annual INMM Meeting. Orlando, FL; July 2012.

7. Kouzes, RT, Fuller JL. Authentication of monitoring systems for non-proliferation and arms control. Report PNNL-SA-35296, Pacific Northwestern National Laboratory; 2001.

8. Göttsche M, Kirchner G. Measurement techniques for warhead authentication with attributes: Advantages and limitations. Science & Global Security. 2014; 22(2): 83–110. doi: 10.1080/08929882.2014.918805

9. Jie Yan, Glaser A. Nuclear warhead verification: A review of attribute and template systems. Science & Global Security; 23(3): 157–170.

10. Zuhoski PB, Indusi JP, Vanier PE. Building a dedicated information barrier system for warhead and sensitive item verification. Report BNL-66214-1999, Brookhaven National Laboratory; 1999.

11. Mac Arthur D. Proposed attribute measurement system (AMS) with information barrier for the Mayak/PPIA demonstration: System overview. Report LA-UR-99-5611. Los Alamos National Laboratory; 1999.

12. Avens LR, Doyle JE, Mullen MF. The fissile material transparency technology demonstration (FMTTD). Proceedings of 43th Annual INMM Meeting. Indian Wells, CA; 2001.

13. Shergur J, Bracken D, Carrillo L, Elmont T, Frame K, Hirsch K et al. An overview of the design of a next generation attribute measurement system. Proceedings of 46th Annual INMM Meeting. Phoenix, AZ; July 2005.

14. Williams R, Johansen T, Karpius P, MacArthur D, Smith M. Implementation of an information barrier for the next generation attribute measurement system. Proceedings of 48th Annual INMM Meeting. Tucson, AZ; July 2007.

15. Thron J, Karpius P, Santi P, Smith M, Vo D, Williams R. Designing a 3rd generation, authenticatable attribute measurement system. Proceedings of 50th Annual INMM Meeting. Tucson, AZ; July 2009.

16. UK-Norway Initiative. Information Barrier—Can people trust equipment when they don’t trust each other? [cited 11 April 2019]. Available from:

17. Allen K, Backe S, Chambers DM, Day E, Hustveit S, Johansson K et al. UK-Norway Initiative (UKNI) approach for the development of a gamma ray attribute measurement system with an integrated information barrier. Proceedings of 35th ESARDA Symposium. Edited by F. Sevini. Bruges, Belgium; May 2013.

18. Seager KD, Mitchel DJ, Laub TW, Tolk KM, Lucero R, Insch KW. Trusted radiation identification system. Proceedings of 43rd Annual INMM Meeting. Indian Wells, CA, July 2001.

19. Merkle PB, Weber TM, Strother JD, Etzkin J, Flynn AJ, Bartberger JC et al. Next Generation Trusted Radiation Identification System. Proceedings of 51st Annual INMM Meeting. Baltimore, MD, July 2010.

20. Seager KD, Lucero RL, Laub TW, Insch KW, Mitchell DJ. Trusted radiation identification system (TRIS) users manual (revised version). Report SAND2017-0578TR, Sandia National Laboratory; 2011.

21. Red Pitaya [cited 11 April 2019]. Available from:

22. Kütt M, Göttsche M, Glaser A. Information barrier experimental: Toward a trusted and open-source computing platform for nuclear warhead verification. Measurement; 114, 2018: 185–190. doi: 10.1016/j.measurement.2017.09.014

23. MOnSter 6502 [cited April 11 2019]. Available from:

24. Development Tools: Emulators. In:—the 6502 microprocessor resource [cited April 11 2019]. Available from:

25. Visual Transistor-level Simulation of the 6502 CPU [cited April 11 2019]. Available from

26. Holme A. Verilog 6502 [cited April 11 2019]. Available from:

27. Mirion Technologies. 802 Scintillation Detectors. Datasheet. Available from:

28. Laboratory for Science and Global Security. IBX II software and hardware design [cited April 11 2019]. Available from:

29. Glaser A, Barak B, Kütt M, Philippe S. Physical public templates for nuclear warhead verification. Proceedings of 59th Annual INMM Meeting. Baltimore, MD, July 2018.

Článek vyšel v časopise


2019 Číslo 10
Nejčtenější tento týden