Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Good Idea of the Evening

A recently released report commissioned by Britain's Royal Society has called for the creation of an international database of global nuclear programs in order to improve nuclear forensic capabilities and provide incentives for governments to secure their nuclear materials. The idea is that if there were a global databank detailing the scope, extent and nature of civilian and military nuclear activity, it would increase the chances that smuggled nuclear material or - God forbid - the remains of a nuclear attack would be traced back to their source. If governments know that they will be blamed for rogue groups using their nuclear stocks, they will take better care of them. Also, in the chaotic atmosphere that would surely follow a nuclear attack of unsure provenance, having the outlines of an appropriate response in place beforehand would reduce the possibility of knee-jerk reactions that could amplify the crisis.

Best of all, the Society's proposal has few downsides for most international actors, meaning that it is realistically implementable. Certainly opaque nuclear powers like Israel and emerging powers like Iran would be reluctant to disclose the information necessary to participate, but even if they remained outside of the databank regime, it would serve its purpose, as the chances that their nuclear materials would be identified would be increased through the process of elimination. For most established nuclear powers, whose arsenals play the role of strategic backstop, the diminished threat of 'loose nukes' would be well worth the marginally uncomfortable disclosure process. Here's hoping this idea is picked up by those in positions of global leadership.

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