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"I actually have a pretty good collection of Arms Control Today, which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues."
– Gary Samore
Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
Case for Test Ban Treaty Has Improved, Vice President Says; Leading Arms Control Group Urges Bipartisan Support for Ratification
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For Immediate Release: February 18, 2010

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, (202-463-8270 x107);
Tom Z. Collina, Research Director (202-463-8270 x104).

(Washington, D.C.)  Today, Vice President Joe Biden delivered a major policy speech in Washington on the Obama administration's approach to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).  In his speech, Biden said that the questions raised when the CTBT was last considered by the Senate a decade ago have been successfully addressed, and he reiterated the administration's commitment to win Senate approval for U.S. ratification of the treaty.

"There is now no technical or military reason to resume U.S. nuclear weapons testing and advances in test ban monitoring make the treaty effectively verifiable," said Daryl G. Kimball, ACA's executive director.

"At the same time, it is in U.S. national security interests to prevent others from conducting nuclear tests, which could allow them to prove new and advanced nuclear warhead designs.  It is past time that the United States ratifies the CTBT," he said.

The United States halted its nuclear testing in 1992, and became the first nation to sign the CTBT in 1996.  The treaty now has 182 signatories but has not entered into force because the United States and eight other nations have failed to ratify. The Senate briefly considered and rejected CTBT ratification in 1999.

"Since 1999, questions about the United States' ability to maintain its nuclear arsenal have been answered," said ACA Research Director Tom Z. Collina, author of a new report released this week detailing the case for the CTBT.

"Existing warheads, including those that arm the Trident submarine, the backbone of the U.S. arsenal, have been successfully refurbished and recertified without nuclear test explosions," he said.  

Former Secretaries Shultz, Perry, Kissinger and Senator Nunn recently wrote in an opinion editorial in The Wall Street Journal that the success of these warhead life extension programs has "obviated the need for underground nuclear explosive tests."

"Similarly, advances with the treaty's international monitoring system since 1999 mean that any militarily significant tests by a potential cheater would be detected," said Collina.  

"To date, 90% of the monitoring stations are complete or under construction.  U.S. national verification systems, such as satellites, have been improved, and short-notice, on-site inspections have been successfully exercised. North Korea's nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 showed that the monitoring system can detect very small nuclear explosions, well below one kiloton," Collina said.

Secretary of State Shultz, who served under President Ronald Reagan, said recently that senators "might have been right voting against [the CTBT] some years ago, but they would be right voting for it now, based on these new facts."

Biden also described the Obama administration's plan to increase funding by 10% to $7 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration's stockpile management facilities and programs.

"The administration's robust budget proposal for stockpile management should dispel any doubts that the nuclear weapons labs do not have the resources, tools, and expertise needed to maintain a reliable arsenal into the indefinite future and can do so without resuming nuclear testing or building newly-designed nuclear warheads," Kimball said.

"Given the overwhelming evidence that the United States can maintain an effective nuclear arsenal without resuming testing or building new design warheads, it is time for the administration to step up its effort to work with the Senate to reconsider and approve the treaty," Kimball said.

"Convincing two-thirds of the Senate that the treaty strengthens U.S. security, is effectively verifiable, and would not compromise future efforts to maintain a shrinking nuclear arsenal will be a challenge but is within the President's reach," said Kimball, who also directs the Project for the CTBT, a consortium of more than 50 NGOs and experts supportive of a global test ban treaty.

The new ACA report, "Now More Than Ever: The Case for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty," is available online from www.ProjectfortheCTBT.org.