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Chair: Dr Amanda Chisholm
Discussant: Mr. William Alberque – Director, NATO’s Arms Control, Disarmament, WMD Non-Proliferation Centre
Speaker: Dr Lyndon Burford
Trust the machine? Blockchain in nuclear disarmament and arms control verification
Blockchain is best known as the technology that underlies Bitcoin, but it also has a vast array of existing and potential uses in areas such as finance, communications, security, trade, manufacturing, medicine and transport. At its core, blockchain is a peer-to-peer networking technology that allows participants to transact and store encrypted data in a highly tamper-resistant way.
By giving participants very high confidence in the veracity of shared data, blockchain creates a technical foundation for cooperation among parties that otherwise have no basis for trusting each other, without the need for a central authority or intermediary. This has led to its nickname of ‘the trust machine’. For several years, researchers have been exploring the potential for blockchain to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of international safeguards to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
In this talk, Lyndon will explore the flipside of that coin: can blockchain help to streamline and strengthen multilateral processes to verify the dismantlement of existing nuclear arsenals? If so, it could help to create a technical basis for international cooperation to reduce nuclear risks through disarmament and arms control — areas where states share significant interests but are usually too mistrustful of each other to collaborate.
Lyndon Burford is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Centre for Science and Security Studies, King’s College London, where he studies the theories, technologies and politics of nuclear deterrence, arms control and disarmament. His PhD research looked at the relationship between national identity and nuclear disarmament policy in Canada and New Zealand. In 2015, he was an advisor to the New Zealand government delegation at the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in 2011, he won the McElvany Prize from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies for his essay on a user-pays model for nuclear risk reduction.
Mr. Alberque has served as the Director of NATO’s Arms Control, Disarmament, and WMD Non-Proliferation Centre since 2017. Prior to that, he served as the Head of the NATO Arms Control and Coordination Section, starting in 2012.
William has worked on arms control, non-proliferation, and safeguards issues since 1994. In the 1990s, he worked on IAEA safeguards, and on improving the security of Russian nuclear weapons-related facilities as part of the Nunn-Lugar Program. He then joined the Defence Threat Reduction Agency in 2000, working on strategic planning, arms control, and Small Arms/Light Weapons. He then served as the DoD Treaty Manager for Arms Control before moving to the State Department to support the 2010 NPT Review Conference. He returned to the Pentagon in 2011 to direct European arms control policy, and worked on chemical-biological defence, and global WMD non-proliferation.
William’s publications include “The NPT and the Origins of NATO’s Nuclear Sharing Arrangements,” Proliferation Papers, No. 57, Ifri, February 2017, and “Substantial Combat Forces in the Context of NATO-Russia Relations,” Research Paper, No. 131, NATO Defence College, June 2016, with a paper on the Reagan-Nakasone Correspondence and its influence on the INF Treaty forthcoming.
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