Nuclear Weapons | Discussion Takeaways

Nuclear Security and Information Sharing

November 2015


The need to share nuclear security-related information while maintaining confidentiality of its sensitive aspects has been identified as an issue of paramount importance to strengthening global nuclear security. However, international nuclear security conventions only encourage, but do not formalize, the exchange of information among state parties and international organizations in a manner that would sustain effectiveness. To examine this dilemma and the nuclear security-related information needs of the major world players, a roundtable of experts and policymakers was convened at the Airlie Center outside Washington, DC, held October 12-14, 2015, as part of the Stanley Center’s 56th annual Strategy for Peace Conference.

While information exchange among signatories is emphasized in international legal instruments, the formal obligation covers only a minimum of information. Examination of the legal instruments and voluntary agreements and standards reveals untapped information-sharing options for strengthening global nuclear security.

The information currently available is insufficient, and the resulting information gaps span across states as well as within industry supply chains. Effective interaction and cooperation among a broad range of stakeholders are essential for meeting nuclear security objectives and maintaining a strong nuclear security culture. However, unless performed with care, there is a risk that releasing information and increasing transparency in nuclear security could potentially compromise security, with lower protection against theft, sabotage, or other unauthorized access.

In the roundtable discussion, the group worked to identify providers and recipients of nuclear security information on the facility, national, and international levels and to determine what kinds of nuclear security-related information are useful to each group. They also discussed the differences in sharing information during normal circumstances versus in emergency situations and how increased, regularized, and sustained information exchange may strengthen security regimes nationally, regionally, and internationally.

The policy memo summarizes the roundtable dialogue and analysis of these challenges from leading experts.