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"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
The Issues Behind the CTB Treaty Ratification Debate
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On October 20, just days before the Senate was to begin hearings on the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty, the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers held a press conference to discuss some of the key issues likely to arise during the debate over ratification. The coalition, a national alliance of 17 of the country's largest and most active arms control organizations, including the Arms Control Association, has played a key role in informing the Congress, the media and the public about the national security benefits of the treaty.

Moderated by coalition Executive Director Daryl Kimball, panel participants included Robert Bell, special assistant to the president for national security affairs at the National Security Council; Charles Curtis, former undersecretary and deputy secretary of energy and a member of the Nuclear Weapons Council from 1994 to 1997; Richard Garwin, a long time consultant on nuclear weapons and national security who is Thomas J. Watson Fellow Emeritus at IBM Research Laboratories; and Lynn Sykes, Higgins Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and a leading expert on seismic detection of underground nuclear tests.

The following is an edited version of the press conference, which took place prior to the CIA announcement that the Novaya Zemlya seismic event was not a nuclear explosion.

 


Robert Bell

We were very glad to get the treaty to the Senate on September 22 with the president's announcement of submission when he gave his speech to the United Nations. We worked hard to get the treaty before the Senate formally this session, including several months of very focused work on getting the funding issue settled for the stockpile stewardship program—one of the key aspects of the Senate's consideration of the treaty. We have been clear with the Senate leadership and with [Senate Foreign Relations Committee] Chairman [Jesse] Helms [R NC] that we do not expect them to try to come to a judgment on this treaty this session. Our goal, this session, is to get hearings started to have a foundation to work from by informing senators and their staffs about the treaty and the arguments for the treaty.

The Foreign Relations Committee, as many of you know, is very deeply invested now in the issue of NATO enlargement. It is going through a commendable series of hearings, with the support of the leadership of both parties, to try to have the informational phase of NATO enlargement completed before the Senate goes out. The idea being that the single, short protocol, which is the instrument of accession for the three states, should come before the Senate early next year and be acted on, we hope and trust favorably, as soon as March. While NATO enlargement is the priority for the Foreign Relations Committee, we think that the Senate, at the informational level, can do two or more things at once. We are looking forward to the hearings that Senator [Pete] Domenici [R NM] and Senator [Thad] Cochran [R MS] will be having in about a week. We hope there may yet be an opportunity for hearings in the Foreign Relations Committee, but we are not pressing to get this to a floor vote before the Senate goes out. We will deal with that next spring.

In terms of the treaty itself, I would just make five points. First, it is important to recognize that this is a historic treaty. I don't mean to suggest that some of the treaties that we have moved in the last couple of years have not been important. But as the president said, this is "the longest sought, hardest fought prize in the history of arms control." The attainment of a comprehensive test ban has been a goal of U.S. foreign policy dating back to President Eisenhower, who, we understand, considered the failure to achieve a CTB to be one of his main regrets as a two term president. We also understand that President Kennedy considered his greatest legacy as president to have been the attainment of the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty. So we hope that the historic dimension of the CTB Treaty will be very much on the minds of senators as they turn their attention to it.

Second, it is important to understand that we are out of the nuclear testing business, based on unilateral decisions that were made in this country. The Hatfield Exon Mitchell legislation of 1992 enacted a permanent ban on nuclear testing [after September 30, 1996] unless another state tested, in which case the legislation drops. As the CTB is debated, I think it is important to distinguish between concerns that individual senators may have about parts of the treaty, whether it is verification or costs or whatever, and the corollary proposition, which to me seems untenable, that the United States resume nuclear testing. It is hard for me to imagine that there is majority support in either body of this Congress for a proposition that we resume nuclear testing. If we are indeed out of the nuclear testing business in the same way that we decided to get out of the chemical weapons production business, then it seems to me that it is fundamentally in our interest, through a treaty, to try to get as near to universal adherence to that norm as possible.

We have the good fortune in this case of being joined separately by decisions by Russia, China, France and Britain, which came together in roughly the same timeframe, to end their testing programs as well. There really is an opportunity here to make universal a norm that is shared not only by the United States unilaterally, but by the five nuclear weapon states collectively.

The third point is that whether or not there is a CTB, the U.S. intelligence community has got to give priority to monitoring nuclear related activities of the nuclear powers and the nuclear "wanna bes." The CTB Treaty gives them new tools to do that job better and it is a net plus for the intelligence community. Whether the CTB rises or falls in the Senate, and we are, of course, confident that it will rise, the intelligence community has got to fulfill this role with or without a CTB.

The fourth point is that we do have a very sound program to maintain high confidence in our nuclear inventory absent actual nuclear explosions. We are in the fourth or fifth year of developing the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program [SSMP] and we are committed to it, as evidenced by our recent decision to increase—by about $300 million per year—the amount of money we propose to spend on this effort. We are putting our money where our commitments are in terms of maintaining that confidence.

The last point is simply that it is clear to us that the American public overwhelmingly supports the CTB Treaty. I do hope that this is a case where what the people want is appreciated "inside the beltway." Just as with the Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC], it seems to me the question is: "Are we better off with the treaty or without it?" The Clinton administration is convinced that we are better off with the treaty. That is the argument we will present to the Senate.

Now, with regard to Novaya Zemlya, I want to stress a couple of points. First, I want to emphasize that the U.S. government never accused Russia of having conducted a nuclear test. We made explicit in each statement that we were not "accusing" the Russian government of having conducted a nuclear test. There appears to be a debate now about whether we should retract an accusation, but we did not make an accusation.

Second, there also seems to be a debate now about whether we acted "too hastily." I would simply say two things. One, the information about the seismic event was almost immediately available on the internet. So we felt we were in a countdown situation before there was going to be a public debate about what the information suggested. I hope this does not come as a shock to this audience, but we do occasionally have leaks. When there is information available throughout the intelligence community or the defense community, it is often just a matter of hours before there is a story in which someone, contrary to their obligations under the law, has taken it upon themselves to give their spin on information that is still being analyzed. We not only knew that there was a possibility of a leak in terms of what individuals might have thought of this event, but we knew that the fact in and of itself was on the internet. It seemed incumbent to us to approach the Russian government and be very clear in what we were saying and not saying, namely, that there had been an event where the information could suggest a nuclear test, but that alternate interpretations were possible. We were not accusing them of having conducted a nuclear test, but we were keenly interested in asking them to cooperate with us in helping decide what it was or wasn't.

Now, in terms of where we are today, the best information I have still, as of this hour, is that we have a set of information on the technical side that is somewhat of an enigma. You cannot rule out that it was an earthquake and you cannot rule out that it was explosive in nature. We cannot prove that it was an earthquake and we cannot prove that it was not an earthquake. I think this makes the point that the CTB Treaty brings added value to the equation. With the CTB you have a mechanism under very tight timelines in terms of when you need to react and how much time you have to decide these things. The CTB also brings added tools in terms of consultation, clarification and on site inspection that helps shed light on events that are not necessarily clear cut.

 


Charles Curtis

I would like to talk about the science based Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program of the Department of Energy [DOE], which is the principal safeguard on which the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty rests. A steward is someone who is entrusted, usually with the keeping of an estate; in this case it is with the keeping of an enduring nuclear stockpile with a high degree of confidence that it is both safe and reliable. President Clinton in 1993 established the task of developing a science based stockpile stewardship program that could discharge that responsibility in the absence of testing.

When I arrived at DOE, the planning for that program was in the initial stages, and there was a fair amount of skepticism within the laboratories and within the department itself, and certainly within the Department of Defense, as to whether that challenge could be effectively met. I think that for this treaty to be accepted by the Congress, the departments of Energy and Defense and the administration, collectively, will have the burden of persuading the Senate and the Congress generally on a bipartisan basis that this challenge can indeed be met with a high degree of confidence. What I tried to bring to that process was what auditors bring to their task, namely, a healthy skepticism. In the nearly four years I was at the department, I helped contribute to the maturation of the planning process.

There are a couple points that I think often get lost in this discussion, but are important to keep in mind. First of all, this is not just the invention of the Department of Energy. The science based stockpile stewardship program is a carefully constructed and detailed program plan that has been worked out in close collaboration with the Strategic Command and the Joint Staff at the Department of Defense, and it represents the very considered collective view of the departments of Defense and Energy with respect to what is required to make this plan work. That detailed program plan is embodied in something called the Green Book, a classified document that is now in the second stage of iteration and that will be, I expect soon, transmitted to the Congress. The first iteration has already been provided. It represents the collective view of those involved in the process as to what is in place and what is planned to discharge the stewards' duty to provide a high degree of confidence in the safety and reliability of the stockpile.

The second thing that I would like to emphasize is the linkage of the science based stockpile stewardship program with the annual certification process for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. This certification process involves the directors of the three weapons laboratories—Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia—the commander in chief of the Strategic Command, the Joint Staff and the Nuclear Weapons Council. The council is composed of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, the vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a designee of the Department of Energy. In the period I was at DOE, that was me. It is usually the undersecretary or the deputy secretary, as the secretary of energy specifies. This wholly transparent and disciplined process provides assurance to the president, through the secretaries of Defense and Energy, that the weapons in the enduring stockpile are indeed safe and reliable and sufficient for their military missions. It is a process that, now in its second year, has been and will continue indefinitely to be an important part of the safeguard regime.

The third point I would like to make is that one of the important roles of the stewardship program is to greatly enhance the stewardship process underway today, in advance of bringing on the new proxies for testing in the form of new facilities and equipment. The Department of Energy has greatly improved the surveillance mechanism in place to create a dual track process to validate each of the weapons in the enduring stockpile involving both of the design laboratories. As we start to bring the new proxies into the stewardship program, we are committed to the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore and the reinstituted construction of the Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility at Los Alamos, and we have also invested in greatly improving the computational capability of the department through the Advanced Strategic Computing Initiative.

Lastly, we acted on what is perhaps the most significant challenge, which is to retain and renew the talent of the laboratories. We have done that by providing for a long term investment in the laboratories to attract the best and the brightest.

We often refer to a nuclear weapons system as consisting of limited life components. Probably the weakest link in the system is the limited life component of our scientists who are engaged in nuclear weapons work in our laboratories. In the post Cold War period, this is not the most exciting endeavor to recruit personnel for. So it is very important that we support this enormous challenge of providing for the stewardship of this enduring stockpile by equipping these laboratories with the facilities to do great science and to give these laboratories and this program budgetary support over a long time period. Incidentally, the latest actions to provide a budget deal with the Congress have provided the ability to sustain a long term budgetary commitment. For three of the four years that I was at DOE, the ability to speak in any credible way to budget out years was frankly non existent while the budgetary conflict waged. Now, with the budget deal, it is possible for the first time to provide for that out year budget security, which is so essential to support this program and was identified in the president's safeguard regime as well.

 


Richard Garwin

The U.S. interest in the CTB Treaty arises because the treaty severely restricts or eliminates significant nuclear weapons advances by other nuclear weapon states and by those countries that might acquire nuclear weapons. Such advances might include a reduction in the amount of fissile material required to make a weapon, which would increase the number of nuclear weapons in the other stockpiles. The treaty alleviates U.S. concerns about and competition for new types of nuclear explosion powered weapon systems and it frees resources that can be used for maintaining a safe and reliable stockpile. An indirect, but critically important, benefit of the CTBT is non proliferation. By ending the testing, and hence the advancement, of nuclear weaponry by the five nuclear weapon states, the CTBT legitimizes U.S. non proliferation efforts and provides the basis for universal enforcement of a CTBT even against the few nations that may not adhere.

As for the impact of the treaty on U.S. nuclear weapons programs, I am convinced that the U.S. can confidently maintain its nuclear weapon stockpiles safely and reliably for dozens or even hundreds of years. To do this will require a surveillance program of the same type that we have operated over the last decades. You have heard from Charlie Curtis that we now have an enhanced surveillance program and in due time we'll have a facility for remanufacturing every element of a nuclear weapon. A stockpile stewardship program has been instituted by the Department of Energy to carry out this activity. I support it as an important contribution to maintaining our nuclear stockpile for as long as we have nuclear weapons.

However, if the program is expected to allow the development of new types of nuclear weapons or to permit major changes in the untestable portions of a nuclear weapon—the primary and the secondary explosive charges—then the program will lead to a lack of confidence in the regime. The proper role of the program is to provide the basis for confidence in a conservative remanufacturing and surveillance program. I don't blindly support everything that has an SBSS label stuck on it, but I do believe that a program that will cost $4 billion or $4.5 billion a year is appropriate for this important task.

In the evolution of the U.S. position on the CTBT, the weapons laboratories at one time were divided on the desirability of allowing so called hydronuclear tests with nuclear yields up to the equivalent of 2 kilograms of high explosive, that is, 4 pounds or one ten millionth of the first nuclear weapons. The JASON committee review of the information one could obtain from such experiments convinced us that such extreme modifications in the weapon were required to reduce the yield to this level that the U.S. would gain very little benefit from such tests. Accordingly, a true zero yield CTB Treaty should be more acceptable than one that permits hydronuclear tests. These tests were, however, important in the past in certifying that our present weapons designs are "one point safe" against accidental detonation of the high explosive; but once accomplished, those tests do not need to be repeated. So that is a dead issue.

Now, as for verification of a CTBT, the U.S. should not sign a treaty for which it cannot adequately verify the compliance of the other participants. The CTB Treaty creates an international monitoring system that is augmented by unilateral intelligence capabilities. The word "adequate" is an important qualifier in assessing arms control treaties, emphasized by Paul Nitze as relating to militarily significant violations of a treaty. The four components of the treaty's international monitoring system provide confidence that we will be able to detect a 1 kiloton nuclear explosion on Earth, and the capability is much better in the vicinity of the declared test sites of the nuclear powers. Furthermore, it should be expected that the U.S. would focus additional resources to augment this international system.

An additional deterrent to non compliance is posed by the on site inspection rights under the treaty, which will allow for the detection, in some cases, of the radioactive gases leaking from an underground nuclear test. That the CTBT bans activities that cannot be detected by the system is not a weakness of the treaty but a strength. If a threshold test ban treaty banned only nuclear explosions above 1 kiloton, we could be more confident of detecting violations although there would be the problem of ensuring that an explosion that registered at 0.6 kilotons was not, in fact, 2 kilotons.

Between the 1 kiloton threshold that we can confidently verify worldwide—not to mention the substantially lower detection levels obtainable at the declared test sites and many areas around the world—and the zero yield limit of the CTBT is a vast range of lower yields with less and less, and eventually zero, military utility to a violator of the CTBT. Nevertheless, we should care if a CTBT member violates the regime by testing at a nuclear yield of 2 kilograms or 10 tons, but not because we will be militarily disadvantaged by the results. Normal intelligence gathering systems will provide some probability of detection of such militarily irrelevant violations, which should be sufficient to deter such actions by others. The CTBT is of indefinite duration and I personally hope that conditions are such that it endures forever.

In reality, any signatory to any treaty can be expected to renounce the treaty if the survival of the nation or its supreme national interests are at stake. A mechanism for invoking the supreme national interest clause is written into some treaties. In the case of the CTB Treaty, President Clinton has specified that if the Department of Energy cannot certify the continued safety and reliability of the enduring stockpile, this would be grounds for the abandonment of the treaty.

In summary, the CTBT will make a major contribution to U.S. national security through the imposition of limits on the weapons of potential adversaries and through the support it gives against proliferation of nuclear weapons. U.S. nuclear weapons in the enduring stockpile can be maintained safely and reliably under such a treaty through the science based Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program. The treaty can be adequately verified in the sense that militarily significant violations can be detected with confidence. In sum, the U.S. is far better off with a CTBT than without it.

 


Lynn Sykes

First, some general remarks about verification, which has always been a central U.S. concern. The U.S. government insisted on very high standards of verification during the negotiations for the test ban treaty. I believe that the United States, in fact, got what it wanted in terms of the four major types of global monitoring systems under the international monitoring system [IMS]. These consist of seismological, underwater sound, atmospheric infrasound and a sampling of radionuclides produced by nuclear explosions. This monitoring system provides for monitoring of all different types of environments.

In addition to these international monitoring systems, of course, the United States, under the treaty, is allowed to use its so called national technical means of verification; that is intelligence gathering systems that include satellite imagery and other types of sensors. For example, with regard to seismology, the treaty provides for a global network of 170 stations and also an international data center. Many people may not be aware that, in fact, both of these have been operating for almost three years. At the present time, of those 170 stations, 121 are now operating and by the end of this year we should have 10 more.

In addition, around the world, particularly in a number of the countries in which there is concern about proliferation, including North Africa and the Middle East, there are other so called auxiliary seismic stations. The field of seismology, just like that of meteorology, has had a very long history of exchange of international data. For example, today modern digital data are accessible from many of these other stations very rapidly.

Let me turn now to the August 16 seismic event. On August 28, The Washington Times carried the story that the Russians were suspected of having carried out a nuclear test at their arctic test site at Novaya Zemlya. I believe that the data are very strong—both from the international monitoring system and from other key stations that were available almost instantaneously, as well from Europe and Asia—and show that the event was a small earthquake in the ocean and not a small nuclear explosion. On my hand out, the location of a small earthquake in 1987 is shown. Many people are not aware that there were four previous small earthquakes or small seismic events, and three of those also caused considerable concern within the U.S. government, although I think it is fair to say not as much as the present event. The data, particularly from seismic stations in northern Finland and Norway, show that, based on the ratios of certain seismic waves, all five of these events were earthquakes. The largest one was in 1986 and there is multiple evidence that it was an earthquake.

What are some of the reasons for believing that this latest event was an earthquake? It was located more than 80 miles from the Russian nuclear test site. It occurred in the ocean. The ratio of so called "sheer" waves to "compressional" waves, the S:P ratio, providing it is taken at moderately high frequency and at stations a distance of no more that 1,000 kilometers, indicates that the event had the character of an earthquake. It was quite different from previous nuclear explosions that the Russians detonated up until the time that they stopped testing in 1990. There is also a report by British scientists, who have worked in this field for many decades, that compared the signals from this most recent earthquake with the 1986 event, which they showed quite unambiguously to be an earthquake. They put in the mechanism for the 1986 earthquake and they were able to explain the suddenness or lack of suddenness of certain seismic waves, the P and S waves, at the various stations that recorded the 1997 event. Finally, in going back over the 1997 data, it became apparent that there was an aftershock four hours after the main event. I think that all these pieces of evidence show quite unambiguously that this was an earthquake.

 


Questions and Answers

Q: Can those in Congress who oppose the CTB Treaty, and arms control treaties in general, say since you cannot even decide what the August 16 event was, how can we have confidence that the international monitoring system is going to work under the test ban?

Bell: I think you have to step back and put the whole debate into context. We are making the argument that on balance we are better off with the CTB than without it. We are making no claim that the CTB will prevent nuclear proliferation or prevent countries from acquiring nuclear capability. If a state wants to build a crude nuclear device without testing it, obviously the CTB does not come into play. You have to accept that. Beyond that, we are quite clear in saying what the strengths of the verification regime are and what the limitations are. If you are asking the CTB to provide high confidence that you can detect and confirm any very low yield test or hydronuclear test, then you are asking too much of the CTB. Does that mean, though, that you should reject the CTB? No, because our basic argument is that the CTB constrains proliferation both in vertical and horizontal dimensions.

In his letter of transmittal to the Senate, President Clinton said the treaty is "effectively verifiable." We believe the treaty is effectively verifiable because, in our view, the tests that a state would have to conduct to advance its nuclear capability—both in terms of number and yield—will likely be detected under this treaty. Of course, you can remanufacture or build any nuclear device you want and tell yourself that you have made it more capable, more deadly or more sophisticated. But the issue is whether you have confidence that you have achieved that goal. Our view is that most nuclear powers, given the realities of the CTB, are not going to take a chance on putting some new weapons type into their inventory that has never been tested, or take a chance at some tests below the full level of the primary and then try to extrapolate the results. Beyond that you have to ask yourself why would you take the risk at all.

Moreover, it is one thing to say that we will not have high confidence that we could detect very low yield testing. That does not mean, however, you do not have any chance of detection. You have other means available, such as human intelligence and signal intelligence. These are sources beyond the treaty's international monitoring system. Is any state going to take that chance for a technical result that is of such meager value? Our assessment is no. That is why we assert that the treaty is effectively verifiable.

Garwin: Let me add two specific points. First, when the CTBT enters into force, I hope that there will be open seismographs at the test sites so this sort of thing would not happen in the future. We would know very well the time of origin of the event, and then by analyzing the seismic data we would be able to determine the depth and a better estimate of the location of the event. It is very important though that this information be made available, as provided by the treaty, openly and promptly. It is now available to all of the nations in the prototype international monitoring system, but it is not available, really promptly, to the independent seismological community. It would be much better if it were rather than having to rely on leaks, or American seismologists having to get data from the Norwegians rather than from the data center here in Arlington.

Finally, since we all agree that this event took place either in the Kara Sea or below the sea floor there, if it was a nuclear explosion there are fission products in the water. There are going to be people going around looking for those fission products, so we will find out. What anybody would do with a 5 ton nuclear yield test is not at all clear. If it is below the ocean floor, how did they do it? How did they dig a hole deep enough to contain a 100 ton test without being noticed? If you are worried that in the future somebody is going to dig into the sea bottom and detonate an explosive, that is a pretty bizarre scenario without military benefit so far as I can see.

Q: While there were a lot of activities at the Russian test site that caused legitimate concern, the Russians have said they are identical to those experiments that the United States conducted last summer at the Nevada Test Site. There have been proposals to have these permitted activities be mutually verified, but the U.S. has turned them down. Wouldn't it make sense to come up with a proposal for mutual verification of these activities?

Bell: The short answer to your question is yes, but I'm afraid you have it backwards. We have proposed transparency at our mutual test sites, but unfortunately, to date, we have not been able to reach agreement with the Russian government on a set of measures that could be mutually applied at the test sites to increase transparency and confidence that the kinds of experimental activities undertaken at the sites are, in fact, not in violation of the treaty. But we are still in the middle of those discussions. I am cautiously optimistic that we will work out an arrangement with the Russians that will allow us to have more confidence as to what is going on at Novaya Zemlya and allow the Russians to have a clear understanding of what is going on at the Nevada Test Site.

Q: Could you comment on the issue of verifying other activities at test sites?

Garwin: If you talk to the Russians about monitoring, informally and non governmentally, they say it might be okay to have bilateral monitoring but not international monitoring because that could lead to proliferation. Whether you believe that or not, there is a distinction in their minds between the two. If we are interested in bilateral monitoring then we have to make that clear to them.

With regards to transparency, the JASON committee's report on sub critical experiments went into considerable detail as to how much plutonium would be used with how much high explosives. The Department of Energy announcement of the second sub critical experiment also included these details. I think that is a good development. We do not have anything like that in the way of transparency from Russia, and we cannot insist on it. Yet, it would be good to have a Russian presence, in my opinion, at the Nevada Test Site and a U.S. presence at Novaya Zemlya.

Sykes: An additional set of data is available from the IRIS Consortium, a university based seismic research group located in the U.S. In fact, it is available over the internet. Of the 170 modern seismic stations worldwide, more than 50 are run by this consortium and some of those are getting plugged into the international monitoring system. There were two key stations that were not plugged in. I believe if those data had been fed into the process within a day or so after the event, they would have made a difference in terms of providing a better location of this event.

I think that there is now no question that the event was not at the Russian test site but was in the ocean. That conclusion I think will be developed over the next few weeks in articles by U.S. scientists and British scientists looking at the ratio of seismic waves, and looking at other small events near Novaya Zemlya and how they compare with some of the previous Russian tests there before the Russians stopped testing. The data exists, particularly data from Norway, that show, quite unambiguously, that the event was an earthquake. In fact, augmented by these key stations, the international monitoring system is doing quite a good job.

There is no question that calibration chemical explosions at the U.S., Russian and, I hope, Chinese test sites would give us additional confidence, as would seismic stations at these sites and personnel who would be there at the time any chemical explosions are set off. I understand that there are plans to have some chemical explosions at the Nevada Test Site, and if the Russians did this at their test site this would be helpful. I think that there are reasons for having some observers with equipment there or announcing explosions of that type as well as sub critical explosions.

Q: One of the questions asked by some Senate critics of the CTBT is why do we have to ratify this treaty now since there is not a deadline involved unlike the case of the Chemical Weapons Convention? How do you respond to that?

Bell: There are two points. One is the U.S. should lead. We have taken the lead for 40 years. We took the lead in the negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament [CD] in getting this treaty completed. President Clinton took great pride in being the first head of state to sign the CTB a year ago. I hope we would be in the vanguard of states to get the treaty ratified. Second, there is more of a direct issue concerning the entry into force conditionality of this treaty. The treaty requires the ratification of India and Pakistan for entry into force at the earliest opportunity a year from now. You are all familiar with India's position on this. In the endgame in negotiating the treaty, we had a choice: not to have a treaty because China was not going to agree to the treaty unless there was a prospect of India being in it, or come up with a middle ground position, which we were able to get at the very end of the negotiations, that there would be two ways to secure entry into force. The first is through the front door; 44 states, including India and Pakistan have to ratify for the treaty to enter into force in the fall of 1998. If that fails though, there is the three year mark in the fall of 1999, when the states that have ratified the treaty get to vote on calling an extraordinary conference to figure out how to get the treaty into force despite these provisions. The catch is that you have to have ratified the treaty to be able to vote to convene that conference.

If the U.S. were to take the position that it is not going to act until India acts, I think it would be a fundamental mistake. We would not even get to have a say then in whether there is an extraordinary conference to explore an alternative means of getting this treaty into force. So I think that it is incumbent that the Senate act on this treaty next year both to maintain the U.S. position of leadership on this issue to ensure that we are in a position to talk to the Indian government with moral force, in terms of already having ratified the treaty, and so that we are in a position to call for this treaty conference in the fall of 1999.

Q: There has been an amazing coalition supporting the stockpile stewardship program. Will this coalition fall apart when the Senate begins its consideration of the CTB Treaty? Do you think the Clinton administration will be able to stave off the criticism from the arms control community of some of the facilities involved in the program?

Bell: I think its critical that the broad base of support we have for the stockpile stewardship program continues through the years. It is in the best interest of the arms control community to maintain its strong support of this and not leave the field once the treaty is secured. As Dick Garwin pointed out, the submission to the Senate makes clear we are asking the Senate to adopt a condition in its resolution of ratification that will lock in this mechanism under which the secretary of energy and secretary of defense, as advised by the lab directors, the head of the Strategic Command and the Joint Staff each year in perpetuity, must certify as to their high confidence in the safety and the reliability of these weapons. If, in any year, they could not be so certain, the president has said that he is prepared to withdraw from the treaty and conduct the necessary testing required to fix a weapons type that is crucial to our deterrent. That does not mean some old bomb that is about to come out of the inventory and be retired, but a warhead on which our deterrent rests. You can fill in the blanks whether it is a D 5 or Minuteman missile and there is a crisis with regard to the confidence in that weapon's ability to perform. We are making this position very clear and we are putting it into the resolution of ratification.

Now, to be able to avoid that, President Clinton was very clear when he announced this in 1995 that he does not anticipate that eventuality ever coming to bear. We have got to deliver on the stockpile stewardship program. For the sake of the treaty, I would hope that all arms controllers would agree that it is in everyone's interest to maintain support for these facilities so we can make those certifications year after year.

Garwin: We are still in the early stages of the stockpile stewardship program and we will know more about it as time goes on. Costs may increase; costs may come down. It is possible that as we accumulate information we will be able to do stockpile stewardship and retain people for less money, but it might cost more. So what is important, in my opinion, is the outcome. I support strenuous efforts for economy and efficiency as well. Some of these major systems are not the most important part of the stewardship program; the most important part is the enhanced surveillance and the remanufacturing.

Q: How do we make sure that the United States is not designing new kinds of nuclear weapons that would upset the spirit of the CTB Treaty?

Garwin: We have statements going back to President Bush that we are not doing that, and that we don't have any need for it from the Strategic Command. Weapon designers are always thinking about preliminary designs. But the people who are in charge of the design efforts take seriously the directive that we are not to do this and they are not doing it. I do not believe that we have any significant effort to design new kinds of weapons. And I would say that a new kind of weapon is not only one that exceeds the parameters, such as higher yield, of weapons we already have. You could have a brand new weapon, but dangerous from the point of view of low confidence, which was designed to reproduce exactly the yield of an existing weapon but claimed to be safer or more reliable. In the absence of testing, this would be a wolf masquerading in sheep's clothing. I hope that we will have the good sense not to do any thing like that.

Bell: I think Dick is exactly right. You have to begin by appreciating that there is a fine line here. We are asking our nuclear establishment to maintain their capability into the indefinite future. You cannot build a nuclear weapon and put it in a warehouse somewhere and come back 20 years later and take it off the shelf. They are very vibrant and dynamic entities. For the indefinite future, they have to be able to fix and replenish and repair, and if necessary swap parts when suppliers leave the business, so that you can maintain their effectiveness on this level of certification. The idea that our military establishment would come up with a secret plan to replace our current inventory with new types that have never been tested, in which performance was based strictly on computer extrapolations, I think stretches the doable.

Q: There is an enormous amount of work going on at the labs improving non nuclear components of the weapons that will give them new capabilities. What does not seem apparent from the program is when you cross the line from present capability to advanced capability that constitutes a new weapon, even though you have not done any new development on the physics package. How can you tell the American public and international community that we are not designing new weapons?

Bell: Let me cite just one example. The W 61 Model 11 is a case where a proven, thoroughly tested physics package was repackaged in terms of the weapon that it was placed in. I think that it is good that we have done this, because we are able to recycle an existing physics package into a new container. This means we have been able to retire a much more dangerous nuclear weapon. We were able to take a 9 megaton airblast behemoth that we have relied upon to take out deeply buried and hardened command centers and replace it with this repackaged weapon. So, by any standard of arms control, it seems to me this is a good development. But it is not a new nuclear design.

Garwin: I have no trouble supporting activities that maintain the physics package and replace the other elements on a cost effective basis, including the electromechanical switches. I think that is a good thing and the CTBT is not the forum in which to fight that. If you are against that, then you want to fight it in a forum addressing numbers and uses of nuclear weapons. I am in favor of this development, but I am also for restrictions on numbers of nuclear weapons in the future.