Blockchain can be a cryptographic tool for nuclear disarmament: study

Published on by Cointele | Published on

Researchers at the Centre for Science and Security Studies at King's College London have turned to analyzing "Non-political" solutions for the problem of nuclear disarmament.

The researchers' new report notes that the multilateral nuclear order consolidated around the United Nations' Non-Proliferation-Treaty, or NPT, has been consistently beset by problems of international cooperation, reinforced by the asymmetry between the nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states.

The latter, referred to as NNWS, are signatories to the treaty, but insofar as they are non-nuclear, their contribution to fulfilling their treaty obligations boils down to developing tools and processes that can help to improve multilateral disarmament verification.

Such shortcomings ostensibly exacerbate the perception, among nuclear and non-nuclear states alike, that the NPT is compromised by the lack of a robust, multilateral nuclear disarmament verification process.

"How can advance multilateral nuclear disarmament verification while ensuring that the highly sensitive data created in the process is managed in a secure, reliable manner?".

Taking a procedure-oriented and data-sensitive approach aligns with the report's explicit priorities, building on the authors' observation that many of the active non-proliferation efforts in recent years have taken "a technical and operational approach rather than a political one." Here, the authors point to the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification and the Quad initiative of Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Having affirmed the importance of technical solutions, the researchers argue that blockchain could benefit verification processes by providing a practically-immutable, encrypted record that can serve as a "Chain-of-custody" for "Treaty-accountable items."

Blockchain could also tackle the issue of trust: while states may share a common interest in reducing nuclear risk, they often lack trust in each other, which impedes full cooperation.

"Blockchain could act as a cryptographic escrow for national declarations in disarmament processes, allowing parties to reveal sensitive data in a phased manner, in parallel with political and strategic developments."

The researchers admit that whether or not blockchain can actually help achieve non-proliferation objectives fully depends on states' high-level policy objectives and how these objectives are pursued.