Blockchain in Practice
Blockchain in Practice
A high level of trust is required for the verification of compliance with non-proliferation and disarmament treaties. In an era when technology is rapidly evolving alongside a range of emerging threats, international security regimes face a common challenge of ensuring the integrity of data, information flows and data traceability. The same applies to global supply chains and export controls where increasing automation and transfer of sensitive information between industry and governments require data security for intellectual property rights and export licensing.
Distributed ledger technology (DLT) offers a novel technological solution for data transfer, verification and building trust among parties normally suspicious of one another. At the same time, DLT streamlines processes and reduces administrative burdens. Stimson’s Blockchain in Practice program will test the potential for permissioned DLT platforms to create greater efficiencies in safeguards information management, nuclear security, the global trade in dual-use chemicals and for export controls. The long-term goal is to work with governments as they adopt the technology and study its impact on organizations, people and security regimes.
DLT is especially relevant for international security since many challenges in this area – secure and authentic information exchange among States, illicit trafficking concerns, insider threats – are a problem of provenance (e.g. is the information trustworthy and traceable?) and risk reduction for high-value assets (e.g. nuclear, chemical and biological materials and technologies). Additionally, national authorities, facility operators and international organizations have experienced a steady increase in reporting requirements and are continually assessing various tools and methods for improving reporting, compliance and verification.
Potential outcomes for the application of DLT to international security regimes could be significant for improving the timeliness for detecting diversion, unauthorized access, loss or theft of dual-use materials and technology. By providing trusted data, real-time monitoring, and faster reconciliation of corrections to declarations, security regimes could experience dramatic reductions in time dedicated to book inspections, which make up a large fraction of the total inspection effort. Simultaneously, security regimes could reinforce confidence in information provided by States and operators, even as corrections and adjustments are appended to the ledger. These improvements could transform how international organizations, national authorities and industry review and process information to allow for greater efficiencies in reporting and verification and thus inspire greater confidence in conclusions related to (non)compliance.
Stimson is on the cutting edge of exploring how DLT might apply to international security regimes. In 2019, Stimson launched the development of a DLT prototype for Finland’s national system of nuclear material accounting in partnership with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland (STUK). The team conducts extensive field, archival and desk research and convenes diverse stakeholders and partners to identify applications and implications of DLT for non-proliferation and security.
Ultimately, we aim to present a guide for policy practitioners on how to think about blockchain technologies as a new tool to streamline and improve non-proliferation. Notably, our research remains objective. We do not automatically support the application of blockchain, but rather we aim to test via prototyping whether this technology is appropriate for a specific operational or policy challenge.
We are among the first in the field to engage international and regional non-proliferation and disarmament organizations, national authorities and DLT companies on the applications of DLT for non-proliferation. We are also the first to work directly with a national nuclear regulator to develop a small-scale prototype to demonstrate the potential of DLT for creating greater efficiencies and effectiveness in safeguards information management. Stimson is at the forefront of studying and socializing the technology among stakeholders and testing the technology in real-life scenarios. Moreover, Stimson’s Blockchain in Practice functions across Stimson’s Promoting Security and Prosperity (PSP) program, elevating our expert credibility as we engage across the non-proliferation spectrum