Looking for a demarcation between nuclear transparency and nuclear secrecy

Schaper, Annette

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URL http://edoc.vifapol.de/opus/volltexte/2008/263/
Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: HSFK-Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
Schriftenreihe: PRIF reports
Bandnummer: 68
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 2004
Publikationsdatum: 24.01.2008
SWD-Schlagwörter: Atommacht , Kernwaffe , Rüstungspoklitik , Geheimhaltung , Öffentlichkeit
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 89.90 (Außenpolitik, Internationale Politik), 89.77 (Rüstungspolitik)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

Future progress in nuclear arms control and disarmament will be strongly dependent on an increase of transparency of nuclear-weapons-related information. However, much of the information on nuclear warheads and fissile materials that will be needed in verification is still shrouded in secrecy. Some of this information should be declassified, but that which is proliferation relevant should remain classified. Although nuclear transparency must have a limit, therefore, it is unclear where this limit should be placed: where an ideal demarcation between transparency and secrecy should lie. This report is the first publication of a project that aims to compare the transparency of several nuclear weapon possessing states. It aims to identify technical information that is relevant for nuclear verification, to discover whether it is publicly available or secret, and then to identify where the ideal demarcation line might lie. There are several motives for secrecy: the first is non-proliferation. Detailed engineering and technical information has the potential to advance a proliferator’s program substantially, for example, by sparing him time and money, and thereby also reducing the probability that the program will be detected before its completion. The second is national security, in order to ensure the survivability of the arsenal for deterrence, maintaining uncertainty about intentions and capabilities, hiding technological weaknesses or protecting technological superiority. A third motive might be status: The disclosure of technical information is sometimes seen as a surrender of status, and defeat. Fourthly, excessive secrecy may be because of democratic deficiencies. It could serve as a cover for mismanagement, crime, or corruption. It may also be abused by certain constituencies to set agendas that serve their special interests, to preserve autonomy in decision-making, to maximise their power-through-knowledge, and to avoid scrutiny by competitors or publics. Fifthly, a reason for secrecy could also be historic traditions and conservative inertia. Finally, those outside the NPT might want to minimise diplomatic pressure by revealing as little as possible about their nuclear weapon programmes. Motives and criteria in favour of transparency can be best studied by using the example of the U.S. “openness initiative”. It was designed to gain public trust through greater accountability, informing the public about all of the Department of Energy’s activities. The Openness Initiative is unique in international comparison, not only because of its unprecedented detailed classification and declassification criteria that try to minimise any abuse but also because of the thorough and transparent public discussions that finally shaped its outcome. The major motivation was compliance with the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. As a result, the U.S. government has released a lot of data. In order to enable progress in nuclear arms control, it is important to recognise that there are several levels of transparency. There is transparency between two NWS, between several NWPS as a group, between states including NNWS or inspection agencies, and transparency towards the public as a whole. Information on nuclear warhead arsenals and deployments poses hardly any proliferation risk. Nevertheless, a lot of information is still secret which is mainly justified for naII tional security reasons, notably protecting nuclear deterrence and ensuring the survivability of a state’s nuclear retaliatory forces. Transparency of warhead stockpiles would give others a realistic image of capabilities. It would avoid unnecessary ambiguities and would contribute to the prevention of potential new arms races and competitions. And achieving greater transparency about nuclear warheads has been on the arms control agenda for several years. A special concern relates to warheads that are not yet covered by any control regime, but that are ready for use, namely, tactical nuclear weapons. Verification measures also apply to the technical details of individual warheads. They seek to distinguish between a real and a fake warhead and its identification. But most of these technical properties are classified because their disclosure would be too risky in proliferation terms. National security reasons also play a role. But in any meaningful future nuclear disarmament, transparency of warhead dismantlement will be an important part. The pursuit of technical solutions to transparency problems have been investigated in detail by the US and Russia since the mid-1990s. The aim of these technical measures is to protect as much sensitive information as possible while at the same time to create the highest assurance possible that an object can be identified correctly. They become the more difficult to devise and to negotiate, the less information that is released. Transparency of warheads would be incomplete if it was not supplemented by transparency in fissile material stocks and production facilities. Reasons for secrecy vary. In relation to the technical properties of warhead components, it is obvious that the reasons are the same as for secrecy on technical details of complete warheads. But there are examples in which the secrecy is hardly understandable. An example is Russian secrecy of the isotopic composition of its excess weapons plutonium. Transparency in fissile materials, especially on those from or for nuclear weapons, would create international confidence that the nuclear disarmament process is taking place as declared. It is also an important requisite for future nuclear disarmament verification, and it would facilitate international collaboration on improving material protection, control, and accounting (MPC&A) and preventing theft and smuggling. In discussions on the need for nuclear testing and the scope and the verification of the CTBT, a variety of information plays a role. It includes information that facilitates verification of the CTBT and that is hardly proliferation relevant. Important information includes other experiments or activities that may replace nuclear tests such as the U.S. “science based stockpile stewardship”. Some of this information does pose certain proliferation risks. On the other hand, it is information that is necessary in order to evaluate compliance with the CTBT. The ideal demarcation between transparency and secrecy outlined in this report is still far from reality. A preliminary view shows that the U.S. is by far the most open, in comparison to the other NWPS. The differences between them seem striking. Much progress in nuclear arms control and disarmament can only be expected when there is progress in nuclear transparency in other NWPS. The reasons for the differences are still unclear and will be investigated in the further research of the project.


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