The Stanley Foundation
Seeking a secure peace with freedom and justice, built on global citizenship and effective global governance.
Better Than a Floppy: The Potential of Distributed Ledger Technology for Nuclear Safeguards Information Management

Cindy Vestergaard, Ph.D.
Policy Analysis Brief
November 2018

Blockchain is transitioning away from the hype and gaining legitimacy as the next-wave technological solution to distribute data and build a network of trust among parties. Distributed ledger technology (DLT), which underpins cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, is a combination of already-existing technologies (such as cryptography) to securely manage and easily audit large volumes of data across a network. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has identified the need to examine the potential utility of blockchain technology for safeguards applications, specifically nuclear material accounting, in its safeguards Research and Development Plan. In this policy analysis brief, Dr. Cindy Vestergaard of the Stimson Center further explores the idea.

This policy analysis brief provides an overview of DLT and explores its utility for safeguards information management. It considers the landscape of factors determining how safeguards data is inputted, processed, and accessed. The findings and recommendations suggest where adding a DLT layer could be applied to provide greater efficiency, data reconciliation, accuracy, and trust in information management at the international, national, and facility levels.

Proof of concept will be the first step to understanding the plausibility of DLT for safeguards information management. It would not be technically difficult to configure a permissioned DLT to meet specifications of the organizations involved. The bigger hurdle to adoption will be acceptance by member states, each of which has their own policies for information exchange and technology practices. The varied ideas on how to create greater resource efficiencies within the IAEA and different lead times in adoption of emerging technologies also pose challenges to implementation.

The application of DLT to nuclear safeguards information management will not displace the essential role of the IAEA as a central authority nor diminish the importance of its work. Instead, it could add layers of security and traceability to better control and streamline data which, in turn, can facilitate more-effective safeguards implementation.

Share: Email Facebook Twitter

Catherine Miller Explorer Awards: Where in the World Do You Want to Go? Catherine Miller Explorer Awards: Where in the World Do You Want to Go?
Attention all full-time Muscatine Community School District and Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School K-12 teachers, for the 2019-2020 school year, the Stanley Foundation announces: Catherine Miller Explorer Awards. Enter the drawing.

60th Strategy for Peace Conference 60th Strategy for Peace Conference
The Stanley Foundation convenes its Strategy for Peace Conference annually to consider key policy challenges, drawing on the experience and knowledge of invited experts from the public and private sectors.

Concurrent roundtables focused on each of the foundation’s three current areas of programming—climate changenuclear policy, and mass violence and atrocities. These roundtable discussions are intended to generate group consensus recommendations for policy change and multilateral action. More.

Courier Courier
The Spring 2019 issue of Courier highlights some of the impact-driven activities the Stanley Foundation pursue with its partners. This includes stories that resulted from two journalism workshops: one examining the false missile alert in Hawaii, as well as one focused on issues of conflict and instability. This issue also examines how Green Banks could help bridge the climate finance gap, explores a new initiative that hopes to bring gender equity to the nuclear field, and brings you the stories of three teachers who enhanced their understanding of the world through travel. Spring 2019 PDF. Subscribe for Free.

the latest the latest
Our bimonthly newsletter is filled with resources to keep you up to date with our work at the Stanley Foundation. Each edition includes news about recent publications and stories as well as features our people and partners.

You will also find many extras, from upcoming events to multimedia resources. 

Sign up for the latest to stay engaged on key global issues.

Receive Materials Receive Materials
The Stanley Foundation publishes policy briefs, analytical articles, and reports on a number of international issues. To reduce our carbon footprint and cut waste, we almost exclusively, use electronic distribution for our publications. Sign up to receive our resources via e-mail.

The Stanley Foundation: Part of COP24 The Stanley Foundation: Part of COP24
As a part of our efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the foundation put forward policy ideas to achieve a global turning point in emissions by 2020, built upon efforts to catalyze global climate action by countries and sub- and non-state actors, and worked with journalists to strengthen coverage of the UN climate negotiations.