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Olli Heinonen

Mailing address

Littauer P-20
79 John F. Kennedy Street
Mailbox 53.
Cambridge, MA, 02138

Olli Heinonen

Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Telephone: 617-495-5663
Fax: 617-495-8963



Olli Heinonen is a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. His research and teachings include: nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, verification of treaty compliance, enhancement of the verification work of international organizations, and transfer and control of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Before joining the Belfer Center in September 2010, Olli Heinonen served 27 years at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. Heinonen was the Deputy Director General of the IAEA, and head of its Department of Safeguards. Prior to that, he was Director at the Agency’s various Operational Divisions, and as inspector including at the IAEA’s overseas office in Tokyo, Japan.

Heinonen led teams of international investigators to examine nuclear programmes of concern around the world and inspected nuclear facilities in South Africa, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Libya and elsewhere, seeking to ensure that nuclear materials were not diverted for military purposes. He also spearheaded efforts to implement an analytical culture to guide and complement traditional verification activities. He led the Agency’s efforts to identify and dismantle nuclear proliferation networks, including the one led by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, and he oversaw its efforts to monitor and contain Iran’s nuclear programme.

Prior to joining IAEA, he was a Senior Research Officer at the Technical Research Centre of Finland Reactor Laboratory in charge of research and development related to nuclear waste solidification and disposal. He is co-author of several patents on radioactive waste solidification.

Heinonen is the author of several articles, chapters of books, books, in publications ranging from the IAEA and nuclear non-proliferation issues, to regional nuclear developments. His writings and interviews have be published in various newspapers and magazines including: Foreign Policy, The Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, the Bulleting of the Atomic Scientists, Arms Control Today, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, the Helsingin Sanomat, the New York Times, the Mehr news, Die Stern, the Haaretz, the New Statesman, the Washington Post, the BBC, and the Time. His policy briefings have been published by the Belfer Center,  the Atlantic Council, the Nautilus Institute, the Institute for Science and International Security, the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center,  the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Carnegie Endowment.

Olli Heinonen studied radiochemistry and completed his PhD dissertation in nuclear material analysis at the University of Helsinki.



By Date



Jim Gray / Stringer / Getty Images

July 2014

"Five Challenging Decades of IAEA Safeguards"


By Olli Heinonen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Since 1972, IAEA safeguards has played a pivotal role in providing assurances that states live up to their NPT commitments. Today, the NPT and the IAEA continue to remain as foundations to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and preventing proliferation. Over the span of time over which international safeguards has been around, it has been far from a static story.



Vahid Salemi / AP

June 30, 2014

"Comprehensive Agreement in Works"


By Olli Heinonen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

In our dealings with the Iran nuclear issue, it is important to look at it from a strategic rather than a fire brigade, putting-out-small-fires short-term approach with regards to Iran’s nuclear aspirations. This is a choice of Realpolitik with long-term consequences.



June 2014

"International Atomic Energy Agency Inspections in Perspective"

Book Chapter

By Olli Heinonen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

The nuclear nonproliferation regime continues to face a broad array of challenges. It is easy to see why new solutions are needed. The world is undergoing rapid changes on many fronts—including technologically. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) entered into force 40 years ago. It should not surprise us that the solutions of 1970 are not a perfect fit to the challenges of the 21st century.



Getty Images

June 10, 2014

Olli Heinonen's Testimony on 'Verifying Iran’s Nuclear Compliance'


By Olli Heinonen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

In my testimony today, I will focus on the verification aspects of elements needed in a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, which is being negotiated as a next stage to the Joint Plan of Action concluded in Geneva on 24 November 2013. I base my remarks on the implementation of the comprehensive safeguards agreement and relevant UN Security Council resolutions in Iran, and complemented with experiences drawn, in particular from the IAEA verification activities in South Africa after its dismantlement of its nuclear weapons program, Syria and North Korea.



U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

June 2014

"Laser and gas centrifuge enrichment"


By Olli Heinonen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

With the onset of new gas centrifuge enrichment capacities, the World Nuclear Association expects that there will be in 2020 87 million SWU available to satisfy the estimated need of 60 million SWU. Most of the world’s enriched uranium will be produced by AREVA, CNNC, GLE, ROSATOM, and URENCO. In the light of these developments, there should be fairly little economical or security reasons for another country or commercial entity to embark on large enrichment projects elsewhere.



June 3, 2014

Five Compromises to Avoid in a Comprehensive Agreement with Iran


By Olli Heinonen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

A long term, comprehensive solution under the Joint Plan of Action needs to ensure Iran uses nuclear energy for exclusively peaceful purposes. Any such agreement will be complex and require a range of interrelated provisions. We have evaluated five commonly discussed proposals based on a set of criteria, including breakout potential, reversibility, stability, and verifiability and found them flawed.



May 2014

"The IAEA Verifications System in Perspective"

Report Chapter, volume 137

By Olli Heinonen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Much of the achievements to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons can be attributed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and to the work of the nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Nonetheless, the new cases of proliferation reveal weaknesses in the IAEA verification systems, and illustrate states’ willingness to circumvent international safeguards. These cases also highlight the need to recognize that safeguards verification is a work in progress that must adapt to evolving challenges and technology




May 16, 2014

"Monitoring, Verification and Compliance Challenges for a Final Nuclear Deal with Iran"


By Olli Heinonen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

“If we look at a little bit bigger picture and draw the lessons from the previous implementation of safeguards in Iran after 2003, read the lessons from North Korea, read the lessons from Syria, read the lessons from Libya, the most difficult thing is to confirm the absence of undeclared material and activities. This has traditionally been the big weakness of verification system.”

A transcript of a Foundation for Defense of Democracies' panel featuring Senior Fellow, Olli Heinonen.




April 29, 2014

"Why the Monitoring of Movements of UF6 Cylinders Matters"


By Olli Heinonen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

As the growth of nuclear industry during the coming decade is considered to increase, the number of cylinder shipments will expand accordingly. Beyond that, new vendors with less experience will enter the uranium conversion and enrichment market. Under such a scenario, there is no reason to discount the disappearance of interest to nuclear proliferation or illicit trafficking of nuclear material. Thus an enhanced system to track UF6 movements is a must. Better to be safe than sorry.



AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

March 27, 2014

"Nuclear Kingdom: Saudi Arabia's Atomic Ambitions"

Policy Brief, Washington Institute for Near East Policy

By Olli Heinonen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Simon Henderson

Olli Heinonen and Simon Henderson write that although Iran's nuclear potential will likely dominate talks between President Obama and King Abdullah on March 29, Riyadh's own nuclear plans should also be part of the discussion.



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