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"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Shervin Taheran

Japan and Kazakhstan to Co-Chair Next Article XIV Conference

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Erland Idrissov will lead the next Article XIV Conference to take place September 29, 2015 in New York. Japan and Kazakhstan were unanimously nominated at a meeting of member states to lead the international efforts to implement the CTBT for a period of two years, beginning with the September Article XIV Conference. Article XIV of the CTBT stipulates that if the CTBT has not entered into force three years after the date of the anniversary of its opening for signature (1996), member states may request to hold a conference...

Multinational Workshop in Israel Evaluates IFE14 Results

Following the CTBTO's Nov. 3 to Dec. 9, 2014 Integrated Field Exercise (IFE14) in Jordan's Dead Sea region, experts from around the world and across the Middle East gathered in Ramat-Gan, Israel from April 12-16 for the first of two workshops to evaluate the results. Around 100 experts specializing in nuclear physics, geophysics, seismology, communication, health, safety, and verification-related areas from 30 countries participated. The field exercise was designed to replicate a scenario in which a country has been accused of conducting a nuclear test and the on-site inspection team...

Integrated Field Exercise 2014 (IFE14) in Jordan

The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) carried out their second integrated field exercise (IFE14) in Jordan’s Dead Sea region from Nov. 3 to Dec. 9, 2014. The field exercise was designed to replicate a scenario in which a country (in this case, the fictional “Maridia”) has been accused of conducting a nuclear test and now the CTBTO must find evidence to either repudiate or validate this claim and find the specific nuclear test explosion site. Once the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) enters into force, any state party will have the right to...

Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons Conference in Vienna

The third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons was held in Vienna on Dec. 8-9, 2014. The first conference was held in Oslo, Norway, and the second was held in Nayarit, Mexico. Notably, the Vienna conference was the first conference attended by the United States. The U.S. statement, given by Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation Adam Scheinman, can be found here . The conferences aim to discourage the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons by discussing the dangers they pose to civilians and the general public in terms of contamination of...

Angola Ratifies the CTBT

On March 20, Angola ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), bringing the total number of states who have ratified the treaty to 164. Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Lassina Zerbo remarked of the ratification, “I congratulate Angola on its ratification of the CTBT. It is a powerful message of peace to Africa and to the world. This development is an unequivocal reminder of Angola’s commitment towards creating an Africa free of nuclear weapons, as an essential component of a nuclear-weapons-free world.” The United States and seven more...

Angola Ratifies Test Ban Treaty

May 2015

By Shervin Taheran

Angola on March 20 became the 164th country to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Angola’s ratification leaves 10 African countries that have not ratified the pact. 

Mauritius, Somalia, and South Sudan have not signed the treaty; seven others—Comoros, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, São Tomé and Principe, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe—have signed but not ratified it. 

Egypt is one of the 44 countries that, under the terms of the treaty’s Annex 2, must ratify the CTBT to bring it into force. In addition to Egypt, seven other countries—China, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States—of the 44 have not ratified the treaty.

Angola signed the CTBT on Sept. 27, 1996, three days after the pact was opened for signature.

Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), congratulated Angola on its ratification. “This development is an unequivocal reminder of Angola’s commitment towards creating an Africa free of nuclear weapons, as an essential component of a nuclear-weapons-free world,” Zerbo said in a March 20 press release.

The CTBTO is building a global monitoring system as part of its verification regime to detect nuclear tests. According to the CTBTO, about 90 percent of this network has been established, including 31 facilities in 22 African countries. Among the African states that have not joined the CTBT, Egypt has two dedicated monitoring stations that are part of the monitoring system, and Zimbabwe has one dedicated station.

NNSA Experiments With New Nuclear Test Detection Tools

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) recently led an experiment designed to improve the United States’ ability to detect underground nuclear explosions using conventional and advanced detection technology. This experiment was the fourth in a series of experiments conducted since 2011. The experiment tested many detection tools, such as: high-resolution accelerometers, infrasound, seismic, explosive performance, electromagnetic, ground-based LIDAR (light detection and ranging), digital photogrammetry data, and satellite-based interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR)...

Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons Conference in Vienna

The third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons was held in Vienna on Dec. 8 -9, 2014. The first conference was held in Oslo, Norway, and the second was held in Nayarit, Mexico. Notably, the Vienna conference was the first conference attended by the United States. The U.S. statement, given by Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation Adam Scheinman, can be found here . The conferences aim to discourage the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons by discussing the dangers they pose to civilians and the general public in terms of contamination of...

U.S. Officials Reaffirm Support for CTBT

By Shervin Taheran

A group of senior U.S. officials from the State, Energy, and Defense departments last month reiterated the Obama administration’s commitment to bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force, even as one of the officials made clear that the administration would not be sending the treaty to the Senate for approval in the near future.

Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said at a Sept. 15 event at the U.S. Institute of Peace that ratification of the CTBT would “help to enhance our leadership role in nonproliferation and strengthen our hand in pursuing tough actions against suspected proliferators. That is more important than ever in our current global environment.”

But she said the Obama administration “has no intention of rushing into this or demanding premature [Senate] action before we have had a thorough and rigorous discussion and debate.” 

The current priorities, Gottemoeller said, are “education” and “a healthy, open dialogue” with senators, rather than setting a timeline.

The United States signed the CTBT in 1996, when the pact was opened for signature. The Clinton administration submitted the treaty to the Senate three years later. On Oct. 13, 1999, the Senate rejected the treaty by a vote of a 51-48. Treaty approval requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

Several speakers at the event, which was organized by the Arms Control Association, Green Cross International, and the Washington embassies of Canada and Kazakhstan, emphasized changes in the landscape since the 1999 vote. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz declared that “[t]he world will be a safer and more secure place if nuclear testing is relegated to the pages of history” and said there had been “enormous progress” over the past 15 years on two key technical issues from the 1999 debate: ensuring the reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile and verifying that countries are not covertly violating their no-testing commitment.

With regard to the first point, Moniz said that the directors of U.S. national laboratories “believe that they actually understand more about how nuclear weapons work now than during the period of nuclear testing.”

The United States has not conducted a nuclear weapon test explosion since September 1992. To ensure the readiness of U.S. nuclear warheads, the Energy Department has carried out a program known as stockpile stewardship to monitor, replace, and refurbish key components of the warheads in the nuclear stockpile. 

Moniz also cited progress in the global verification system that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is putting in place. 

A 2012 report by a National Academy of Sciences committee said stockpile stewardship had been “more successful than was anticipated in 1999.” The report found that “U.S. national monitoring and the [CTBTO] International Monitoring System has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999.” (See ACT, April 2012.)

At the Sept. 15 event, Andrew Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, said the United States is “not even considering” a resumption of nuclear testing. 

Nevertheless, he said, the U.S. government is not prepared to shut down its nuclear testing facilities in Nevada. “I would expect that if we can get ratification and entry into force [of the CTBT], those facilities would be closed. But there is a desire to keep at least a limited readiness until the treaty enters into force,” he said.

Weber is the staff director of the Nuclear Weapons Council, through which the Defense and Energy departments coordinate management of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

Under terms outlined in Annex 2 of the CTBT, 44 specified countries must ratify the treaty to bring it into force. The United States is one of eight countries on that list that have not ratified the pact. The other seven are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan. In her remarks, Gottemoeller reiterated the U.S. position that “there’s no reason for the remaining Annex 2 states to wait for the United States before completing their own ratification processes.”

In his closing remarks at the Sept. 15 event, CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo said that although it is important to be patient in the effort to bring the CTBT into force, “we have to be mindful of those who have signed and ratified this treaty long ago and have been waiting for its entry into force.”

Senior U.S. officials reiterated the Obama administration’s commitment to bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force, but made clear that the Senate would not be asked to consider the pact in the near future.

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