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Blockchain could be the key to nuclear material safeguards

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Did you know that many countries rely on paper-based systems to track transactions involving nuclear material?

This is not the case in Australia, but the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has issued an Improving Nuclear Safeguards program to track all fissile nuclear material that could be used in undeclared weapons programs and used in the manufacture of bombs. enthusiastic about

The IAEA reports to the United Nations and assists member states in the peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy while preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Each member state of the IAEA now has its own regulatory authority that must meet reporting requirements for nuclear material. This report not only provides evidence that the country’s nuclear activities are consistent with its stated intentions, but also assists the IAEA in conducting inspections to verify this.

Driven by continued pressure for efficiency and fixed budget allocations in governments and the IAEA, as more and more recordkeeping migrates to electronic systems, it is possible to overwrite or amend historical records as physical archives are replaced. and potentially easier to do.

This, coupled with information security and efficiency, increases the need for auditability. Continued innovation in nuclear safeguards is essential to the IAEA’s mission and to national regulators contributing to its important work.

Therefore, future IAEA Symposium on International SafeguardsIt is held every four years.

At a symposium in Vienna, Austria, blockchain technology will be used to prevent falsification of electronic records by sharing an immutable ledger of nuclear material accounting information among all Member States, much like the IAEA itself. We will publish research that suggests it will be possible. I try to make it quite difficult.

Known as the Shared Ledger Implementation of Nuclear Material Accounting and Control (SLINMAC), this proof-of-concept system provides a secure platform for sharing sensitive reports and a trusted and auditable shared ledger of all transactions. SLINMAC is designed to complement established reporting practices and improve the efficiency of transit matching for domestic and international shipments of nuclear material.

Security requirements for nuclear information

The IAEA Nuclear Information Security Implementation Guide states: availability). “

A major advantage of blockchain technology is the superior data integrity provided by cryptographically linking blocks together with self-referential hashes. Fraudging the ledger by editing a committed block breaks this chain, requiring an unrealistic amount of computing power to rebuild it with fraudulent entries.

The decentralized nature of blockchain storage makes data readily available and easily accessible. The blockchain is updated as soon as a transaction is accepted, with multiple copies of the ledger distributed across all nodes. This builds resilience if your network is compromised.

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Blockchains provide a powerful system for tracking nuclear material whose digital records cannot be amended, whereas a simple open blockchain allows all parties to read the ledger hosted at the nodes. No confidentiality is provided by default.

This is a problem because certain information about nuclear security or intellectual property used in clean energy or nuclear medicine should be kept private for good reasons.

The solution is to encrypt information related to nuclear safeguards on a ledger and upload and download it to the blockchain in transit.

Not only that, but the encryption used ensures long-term protection of data for the full lifetime of the underlying asset, which can span time scales of thousands of years for nuclear waste management. It is in this context that the high integrity and availability of blockchain records truly come to the fore.

A major advance of SLINMAC is to investigate how end-to-end encryption, which is essential for blockchains to meet nuclear security requirements, affects the auditability of the system. SLINMAC uses a multicast encryption protocol. This also allows multiple organizations to decrypt the same information and validate each other’s access. This is important when the same report needs to be distributed between nuclear facilities, national regulators and the IAEA.

The idea of ​​using blockchain to track nuclear material is in the early stages of research and we welcome the opportunity to discuss SLINMAC and more general concepts at the symposium. This work builds on the first blockchain demo of a Safeguard Information System called “SLUMBAT” that he presented at his last Safeguard Symposium in 2018, which will be distributed between UNSW, Finland’s national regular STUK and the Stimson Center. led to his SLAFKA project. 2020.

An increase in global nuclear energy is widely recognized by the IPCC as critical to achieving decarbonization goals over the next 30 years and beyond. To meet the growing number of safeguard transactions required to make this happen, the safeguard community needs new technologies such as blockchain to increase efficiency without compromising security and auditability. .

We believe that technologies like SLINMAC can improve trust levels across the nuclear industry, while providing new points of engagement for exciting technical cooperation between the nuclear safeguards, blockchain, and information security communities. I believe.

We want to ensure that nuclear energy is produced in a safe manner. This relies in part on the security of information on nuclear materials, coupled with the transparency and auditability of the nuclear supply chain.

SLINMAC shows some of what this future might look like.

Marcus Borscz, Taste of Research Student, School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, UNSW Sydney

Dr. Edward Obbard, UNSW Nuclear Engineering Program Coordinator, UNSW Sydney

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