The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
This seminar presents the results of archival research undertaken in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany into the origins of international safeguards approaches for gas centrifuge enrichment plants (GCEPs). Archival documents indicate that multilateral discourse on GCEP safeguards was dominated in the 1970s and early 1980s by political disagreements over a number of safeguards issues, including inspector effort, inspector access, and the role of the IAEA in verifying undeclared nuclear material and activities. While the gridlock that ensued over these questions necessitated the creation of the Hexapartite Safeguards Project (HSP), a technical forum in which technology holders and inspectorates were to agree once and for all on an approach for safeguards at GCEPs, some contentious HSP issues (including the question of cascade access) were still largely resolved through political compromise. Following a discussion of the factors that led to the 1983 HSP safeguards approach, the legacy of the HSP approach on the state of play of modern GCEP safeguards will be discussed, along with paths forward for ensuring the effectiveness and efficiency of GCEP safeguards in coming years.