NBA History of Science Seminar: Alexander Glaser

Alexander Glaser,Confronting the Perpetual Menace: Can We Have Nuclear Disarmament without Nuclear Transparency?

Nuclear weapon states historically have attached great secrecy to their nuclear weapon and fissile material production programs and stockpiles. Even before the atomic bomb had been fully developed, Niels Bohr was among the first to warn that such policies would fuel fears, handicap informed debate and decision-making, and drive arms races. As he put it in his 1950 Open Letter to the United Nations, “full mutual openness, only, can effectively promote confidence and guarantee common security.” Indeed, there has been a growing recognition among states, nonproliferation and disarmament treaty parties, and international organizations in particular, of the need for concrete transparency measures by nuclear weapon states as a necessary part of the process of achieving nuclear disarmament. Still, after an era of increased openness and cooperation following the end of the Cold War, the last two decades have seen a backsliding toward increased secrecy surrounding nuclear weapon programs. At the same time, new technologies have matured that can facilitate transparency without revealing information that parties consider sensitive. This talk reviews the main episodes and turning points of the debate and offers a roadmap for “smart transparency” as a tool for policy action enabling nuclear disarmament.

Alexander Glaser
Alexander Glaser, Princeton University.

Alexander Glaser is associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs and in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. Glaser has been co-directing the Program on Science and Global Security since 2016. Along with Harold Feiveson, Zia Mian, and Frank von Hippel, he is co-author of Unmaking the Bomb (MIT Press, 2014). For Princeton’s work on nuclear warhead verification, Foreign Policy Magazine selected him as one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2014. Glaser holds a PhD in Physics from Darmstadt University, Germany. He is currently a visiting researcher at the Einstein Center Digital Future in Berlin.

This online talk is jointly organized by The Niels Bohr International Academy and the Niels Bohr Archive. It takes place online via Zoom: