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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
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

Conference Report Available "CTBT at 15: Status and Prospects"

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For Immediate Release: October 24, 2012

Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, 202-463-8270, ext. 107; Tom Z. Collina, Research Director, 202-463-8270, ext. 104;

(Washington, D.C.) The Arms Control Association, in association with the UK Government and the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation, organized a day-long conference on February 17, 2012 in Vienna, Austria, to mark the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). This conference report details the value of the CTBT and explores pathways to its entry into force.

The 48-page report includes presentations by leading CTBT experts such as Dr. Lassina Zerbo, who on Oct. 23 was elected as the next Executive Secretary of the CTBT Organization, based in Vienna, as well as Amb. Tibor Toth, the current Executive Secretary of the CTBTO. Other speakers include: Robert Wood, the United States’ Acting Permanent Representative to the CTBTO; Ambassador I Gusti Puja, Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the International Organizations in Vienna; Ambassador Nils Daag, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the International Organizations in Vienna; Ambassador Michael Weston, former U.K. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament; Pramit Pal Chaudhuri of The Hindustan Times; and others.

The CTBT has already helped bring an end to nuclear testing and reduced nuclear arms competition. Before the treaty was opened for signature in Sept. 1996, over 2,000 nuclear tests had been conducted worldwide. Since then, only three countries have tested, and since 1998 only one country--North Korea--has tested. But until the CTBT enters into force, the door to renewed nuclear testing remains open. To close the door on testing, eight key states must still ratify the treaty: the United States, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Iran and North Korea.

With the CTBT in force, the established nuclear-weapon states would not be able to proof-test new nuclear warhead designs, and emerging nuclear states would encounter greater obstacles in fielding a reliable arsenal. The CTBT strengthens global capabilities to detect and deter testing and would reduce nuclear dangers.

To download a copy of the report, please click here.


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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal,
Arms Control Today.

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(Washington, D.C.) The Arms Control Association, in association with the UK Government and the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation, organized a day-long conference on February 17, 2012 in Vienna, Austria, to mark the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). This conference report details the value of the CTBT and explores pathways to its entry into force.

CTBT at 15: Status and Prospects

Organized by the Arms Control Association in partnership with the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation with financial support from the Government of the United Kingdom.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has already helped to bring an end to nuclear testing, reduced nuclear arms competition, and improved global capabilities to detect and deter nuclear testing in the future. But until the CTBT enters into force, the door to renewed testing is still open. Entry into force requires ratification by a handful of key states.

No Going Back: 20 Years Since the Last U.S. Nuclear Test

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Volume 3, Issue 14, September 20, 2012

On September 23, 1992, under the surface of the Nevada Test Site, the United States conducted its 1,030th--and last--nuclear weapon test explosion. At the time, there were serious questions about whether the United States could indefinitely extend the service lives of its nuclear warheads without regular nuclear testing.

But today, with the help of two decades of hard data and problem-solving through the nuclear weapons Stockpile Stewardship Program, those questions have been answered. As Bruce T. Goodwin, principal associate director for weapons at Livermore National Laboratory told The Washington Post in November 2011: "We have a more fundamental understanding of how these weapons work today than we ever imagined when we were blowing them up."

It is now widely recognized that the United States no longer has any need for, nor any interest in, conducting nuclear explosive tests.

Four presidential administrations have determined that it remains in the U.S. national security interests to refrain from resuming nuclear explosive testing: George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The more time passes the more it becomes clear: the days of U.S. nuclear testing are over.

The Test Ban and Stockpile Stewardship

The 1992 U.S. testing halt was triggered by Congressional approval of the Exon-Hatfield-Mitchell 9-month test moratorium legislation--a bipartisan initiative that was prompted by the end of the Cold War, the closure of the Soviet test site in Kazakhstan in 1989, and Russia's unilateral test moratorium announced on October 5, 1991.

The Senate approved the measure on August 3, 1992 by a 68-32 vote. The House adopted it on September 24 by a 224-151 margin. The legislation limited the number and purpose of any additional testing and set a September 30, 1996 end date for U.S. testing.

On July 3, 1993, after an extensive interagency review, President Bill Clinton nnounced he would extend the U.S. moratorium and pursue multilateral negotiations for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Negotiations began in 1994 and concluded in mid-1996. The treaty, which was opened for signature in September 1996, prohibits "any nuclear weapon test explosion," provides for an extensive global monitoring system and the option for short-notice, on-site inspections to detect and deter surreptitious nuclear weapons testing.

Before signing the CTBT on September 24, 1996, President Clinton created the Stockpile Stewardship Program to maintain the U.S. nuclear arsenal in the absence of nuclear test explosions. Before the program would be able to show concrete results, the Senate rejected the CTBT in 1999 after a hasty and abbreviated debate, in part because some senators were concerned that the new approach might not work.

Now, the stewardship program has proven so successful over the years that many informed observers who were initially skeptical believe that the United States does not need nuclear tests.

As Linton Brooks, former director of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) under President George W. Bush, said in November 2011, "as a practical matter, it is almost certain that the United States will not test again... I have been in and out of government for a long time.  And in recent years I never met anybody who advocated that we seek authorization to return to testing."

And George Shultz, President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State, said in April 2009, "[Republicans] 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.... [There are] new pieces of information that are very important and that should be made available to the Senate."

That Was Then, This Is Now

During the Congressional debate on the proposed nuclear test moratorium legislation in June 1992, then-Rep. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) argued: "... as long as we have a nuclear deterrent, we have got to test it in order to ensure that it is safe and it is reliable."

Times have changed since 1992 and many of the old assumptions and beliefs about nuclear weapons and nuclear testing no longer apply. We now have almost two decades of experience with the Stockpile Stewardship Program, which has exceeded all expectations.

The recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, "The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty--Technical Issues for the United States," lays out a compelling technical case, based on the latest information, that the United States does not need nuclear tests to maintain its arsenal.

The NAS report finds that "The technical capabilities for maintaining the U.S. stockpile absent nuclear-explosion testing are better now than anticipated" when the NAS issued its previous report in 2002, and that "the United States has the technical capabilities to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without nuclear-explosion testing."

The technical strategy for maintaining the U.S. nuclear stockpile without explosive testing has been in place for almost two decades. Since 1994, each warhead type in the U.S. nuclear arsenal has been determined to be safe and reliable through a rigorous annual certification process. The Stockpile Stewardship Program includes nuclear weapons surveillance and maintenance, non-nuclear and subcritical nuclear experiments, and increasingly sophisticated supercomputer modeling.  Life extension programs have successfully refurbished existing types of nuclear warheads and can continue to do so indefinitely.

A 2009 study by JASON, the independent technical review panel, concluded that the "lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence."

Arguments for resuming U.S. nuclear testing have become weaker and weaker with time, as the stockpile is certified year-after-year and more warhead types have their service lives extended.

Moreover, NNSA has more resources than ever before to perform core stockpile stewardship work. Since 2009, funding for the nuclear weapons complex has increased by 13%. The Obama administration's $7.6 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013 would boost NNSA weapons programs funding even more, by 5% over last year's appropriation of $7.2 billion.

As Sen. Dianne Feinstein noted at a March 21, 2012 appropriations committee hearing, "Regarding nuclear weapons activities, I believe the fiscal year 2013 budget request provides more than sufficient funding to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile."

Nevertheless, some die-hard CTBT critics say that the United States might someday need to test to develop a new type of nuclear weapon. First, there is no military requirement for new types of nuclear weapons.

Second, in the exceedingly unlikely event that nuclear testing is needed in the distant future, the United States has the option to exercise the CTBT's "supreme national interest clause" and withdraw from the treaty.

Given that the United States already has the most advanced nuclear arsenal in the world, setting off another round of global nuclear tests would only serve to undermine U.S. security by helping other nuclear-armed states improve their nuclear capabilities.

Time To Finish The Job

The CTBT has now been signed by 183 nations and ratified by 157. The treaty has already improved U.S. and global security. Both Russia and China halted nuclear testing as a result of the CTBT and only one nation (North Korea) has conducted nuclear tests since 1998.

In order for the CTBT to formally enter into force, however, it must still be ratified by the remaining eight "holdout" states listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty.

Ratification by the United States and China is crucial. By signing the treaty and ending nuclear testing, Washington and Beijing have already taken on most CTBT-related responsibilities, yet their failure to ratify has denied them-and others-the full security benefits of the Treaty.

U.S. ratification would reinforce the taboo against testing and prompt other key states--such as China, India, and Pakistan--to ratify the treaty. Without positive action on the CTBT, however, the risk that one or more states could resume nuclear testing will only grow.

Nuclear testing is a dangerous and unnecessary vestige of the Cold War that the United States rightly abandoned in 1992. After 1,030 tests, the United States does not need further nuclear explosive testing, but those who would seek to improve their arsenals do.

It is past time to take another look at the CTBT. The Senate has a responsibility to reconsider the treaty and to do so on the basis of an honest and up-to-date analysis of the facts and the issues at stake. --TOM Z. COLLINA and DARYL G. KIMBALL

For more information, see:

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

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On September 23, 1992, under the surface of the Nevada Test Site, the United States conducted its 1,030th--and last--nuclear weapon test explosion. At the time, there were serious questions about whether the United States could indefinitely extend the service lives of its nuclear warheads without regular nuclear testing.

ACA Director Speaks in Moscow on CTBT

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Prospects for Realizing the Full Potential of the CTBT

Prepared Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
at Moscow Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference
Moscow, Russia
September 7, 2012

Distinguished colleagues, it is an honor to address you at this important meeting on the value of and the path forward on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Since the opening for signature of the CTBT nearly sixteen years ago, the vast majority of the world’s nations have signed and ratified the Treaty. They recognize that nuclear testing is a dangerous and unnecessary vestige of the past and understand that the CTBT is a cornerstone of the international security architecture of the 21st century.

The CTBT would reinforce the widely supported de facto global nuclear test moratorium.

By banning all nuclear weapon test explosions, the CTBT can help accomplish the indisputable obligation under the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons to cease the nuclear arms race at an early date and to achieve nuclear disarmament.

With the CTBT in force, other states can be assured that the established nuclear-weapon states cannot proof-test new, more sophisticated nuclear warhead designs.

Without the option of nuclear explosive testing, newer nuclear nations cannot perfect smaller, two-stage thermonuclear warheads, which are more easily deliverable via ballistic missiles. Such weapons, if developed, would undermine security in Asia and could lead to a dangerous action-reaction-cycle.

The CTBT also can provide confidence about the peaceful intentions of non-nuclear weapon states, such as Iran. Ratification of the CTBT is a tangible way for states, including Israel, Egypt, and Iran, to contribute to the realization of a Middle East Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction and help de-escalate tensions in the region.

With the CTBT in force, the already robust International Monitoring System will be augmented by the option of on-site inspections, which would improve the detection and deterrence of potential cheating.

Although 183 states have signed the CTBT, the long journey to end testing is not over. For the CTBT to formally enter into force, it must still be ratified by the remaining eight “holdout” states listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty.

The United States and China

Ratification by the United States and China is particularly important. By signing the treaty and ending nuclear testing, Washington and Beijing have already taken on most CTBT-related responsibilities, yet their failure to ratify has denied them—and others—the full security benefits of the Treaty.

What are the prospects for U.S. approval of the CTBT twenty years since the last U.S. nuclear test and more than fifteen years since President Bill Clinton signed the treaty?

The task will be very difficult, but is within reach in 2013 or 2014, if President Barack Obama is reelected this November and the Democratic Party retains control of the U.S. Senate. Both of which appear to be likely at the moment, though nothing is ever certain until election day.

To date, Governor Mitt Romney had said nothing about the CTBT and the Republican Party Platform does not mention the CTBT, but it is highly unlikely he would make the CTBT a priority. It is more likely that Romney would, if elected, maintain the U.S. nuclear test moratorium but try to reverse President Obama’s policy of not pursuing new types of nuclear weapons or modifying existing warhead types to give them new military capabilities.

Why do I remain optimistic?  Partly because the successful approval of New START in 2010 shows that even controversial arms control agreements can be approved in a tough political climate when the executive branch devotes sufficient time and high-level attention, when key Senators take the time to ask good questions and seriously consider the facts, and when U.S. military leaders speak up in support of the treaty.

It is self-defeating for the United States to oppose a treaty that prohibits an activity—nuclear testing—for which it has no need or interest in resuming. As Linton Brooks, the former head of the United States’ National Nuclear Security Administration, said in December 2011: "as a practical matter, it is almost certain that the United States will not test again ... in recent years I never met anybody who advocated that we seek authorization to return to testing."

Another reason for optimism is President Barack Obama’s strong support for moving the CTBT forward.

In his April 5 speech in Prague, President Obama declared that his administration “will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” More recently, March of this year, he said: “… my administration will continue to pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” And the official Democratic Party platform—out just this week—once again pledges to “work to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

To date, however, the Obama administration has not done enough to mobilize the scientific and technical expertise necessary to debunk spurious assertions against the Treaty and to mobilize support for its reconsideration by the U.S. Senate.

The focus of the administration’s attention over the course its first term has been the negotiation and ratification of New START, the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and its implementation, the 2010 and 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and the challenges posed by the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.

As a result, the administration’s CTBT effort has not been immediate nor has it been aggressive. President Obama has not yet launched what could be called a systematic and high-level political effort that will be necessary to win the support of key senators for the CTBT.

In a May 10, 2011 address before the Arms Control Association, then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher said the Obama administration would take the time necessary to brief Senators on key technical and scientific issues that gave some Senators reason for pause during the 1999 debate.

"In our engagement with the Senate,” Tauscher said, “we want to leave aside the politics and explain why the CTBT will enhance our national security. Our case for Treaty ratification consists of three primary arguments: One, the United States no longer needs to conduct nuclear explosive tests, plain and simple. Two, a CTBT that has entered into force will obligate other states not to test and provide a disincentive for states to conduct such tests. And three, we now have a greater ability to catch those who cheat."

Since she spoke there is new evidence in support of the treaty that the Obama administration has at its disposal.

The March 2012 report by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) reaffirms that the United States no longer needs and would not benefit from further nuclear testing. The report documents the significant technical advances over the past decade that should resolve the Senate’s concerns about the treaty in 1999.

For instance, the report finds that maintaining an effective nuclear stockpile will require continued diligence, but it does not require nuclear test explosions.

The report also finds that “the status of U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System [IMS] has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999.” The new report confirms that with the combined capabilities of the nearly completed IMS, as well as tens of thousands of civilian seismic monitoring stations, no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of military utility would escape detection.

As George Shultz said in 2009, his fellow Republicans “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.”

A thoughtful, thorough Senate review of the issues is essential. There is no reason for further delay, but at the same time the process cannot be rushed.

The Senate has not seriously examined these issues in years. In the decade since the Senate last considered the CTBT, 59 Senators have left office; only 41 Senators who debated and voted on the CTBT in 1999 remain. Although treaty ratification has become very political in the United States, it is important to recognize that New START ratification was approved with the support of 13 Republican Senators—10 of whom remain in the Senate today.

To move forward quickly after election day on the CTBT, President Obama will need to appoint a senior, high-level White House coordinator to push the ratification campaign along. For weeks and months, key committees and key Senators will need to be briefed in detail on the new National Academy of Sciences report and the new NIE on nuclear test monitoring issues and the progress of the U.S. stockpile stewardship program.

The Obama administration will also need to more aggressively address misconceptions and misinformation being put forward by hard-line opponents of the CTBT. For instance, some critics erroneously claim the CTBT does not define "nuclear test explosion" and therefore some states such as Russia believe low-yield tests are permitted. The record is clear: Article I of the CTBT bans "any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion" and all signatories of the treaty understand that means zero nuclear test explosions.

While the final outcome will depend on the politics of the moment, it will also depend on the administration’s ability to make a strong case and bring forward the many U.S. military and scientific leaders who support the CTBT and to mobilize key political constituencies in support of the treaty.

In sum, U.S. ratification of the CTBT has been delayed too long but it remains within sight.

The Role of Other Key States

While U.S. action on the treaty is essential for entry into force, other Annex II states must provide leadership rather than simply remain on the sidelines on the CTBT. Indonesia’s ratification of the CTBT in 2011 is an example of how key states can do so.

In particular, it is time for China’s leaders to finally act on the CTBT. On January 19, 2011, President Hu Jintao and President Barack Obama issued a Joint Statement in which they declared: “… both sides support early entry into force of the CTBT.”  Such statements are welcome but insufficient.

Concrete action toward CTBT ratification by China would increase its credibility as a nonproliferation leader and improve the chances that other states will follow suit. Chinese ratification would put pressure on India to approve the treaty and would help constrain the possibility of a future nuclear arms race in Asia in the coming years.

China has provided no plausible reason—technical, political, or military—not to ratify. President Hu should provide the leadership necessary to take China off the list of CTBT holdout states or else provide a timeline for Chinese action on CTBT ratification.

China has and must continue to play a more constructive role to underscore the importance of the global nuclear test moratorium and accession to the CTBT, particularly with North Korea.

India and Pakistan

India and Pakistan could also advance their own cause and substantially ease regional tensions by converting their unilateral test moratoria into legally binding commitments to end nuclear testing through the CTBT.

India’s current leaders should recall that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s eloquent and visionary 1988 action plan for disarmament argued for “a moratorium on the testing of nuclear weapons … to set the stage for negotiations on a comprehensive test-ban treaty.”

India has pledged in various domestic and international contexts to maintain its nuclear test moratorium, which makes it all the more logical for New Delhi’s leaders to reinforce global efforts to detect and deter nuclear testing by others through the CTBT. Those in India who once argued for a resumption of testing have been pushed to the margins and there does not appear to be any major political faction that opposes the CTBT for military or technical reasons.

Pakistan would clearly welcome a legally binding test ban with India and entry into force of the CTBT, and would very likely agree to ratify the treaty if India were to do so.

UN member states that are serious about their commitment to the CTBT and nuclear risk reduction should insist that India and Pakistan sign and ratify the CTBT before they are considered for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and that India should sign and ratify before its possible membership on the Security Council is considered.

The Middle East

With no shortage of conflict and hostility in the Middle East, ratification by Israel, Egypt and Iran would reduce nuclear weapons-related security concerns in the region. It would also help create the conditions necessary for the realization of a Middle East Zone free of Nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Israel’s ratification of the CTBT would bring that nation closer to the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream and lend encouragement to other states in the region to follow suit. Israel’s stated concerns about the CTBT at this point have to do with the procedures for on-site inspections, but in reality Israel is unwilling to ratify unless other states in the region also indicate they will do so.

Iran was at one time an active participant in the CTBT negotiations and on September 24, 1996 it signed the treaty. Today, Iranian ratification would help reduce concerns that its nuclear program could be used to develop and deploy deliverable nuclear warheads. Iranian ratification could help reinforce the credibility of the Supreme Leader’s fatwa against nuclear weapons and address urgent concerns that Iran may race to build nuclear weapons.

Continued failure by Iran to ratify the CTBT raises further questions about the nature of its sensitive nuclear activities, which remain under investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The member states of the Non-Aligned Movement need to play a stronger leadership role in pressing Iran, the incoming chair of the NAM, to ratify the CTBT.

North Korea

The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests have undermined Asian security and further isolated the country. A third nuclear test explosion would worsen an already tense situation on the Korean peninsula and make it far more difficult for the DPRK to be accepted back into the global community of nations.

The leaders of the DPRK have an opportunity to take a new approach in the years ahead by following through on their February 29 pledge to observe a moratorium on nuclear test explosions as a confidence-building measure and resume action-for-action process for denuclearization and normalization. The Russian Federation and China can play an especially important role in pointing out the benefits of such an approach.

Reinforcing the Test Ban

There are other actions that should be pursued that would reinforce the de facto test moratorium and accelerate CTBT entry into force. Specifically:

  1. Responsible states should provide in full and without delay assessed financial contributions to the CTBTO, fully assist with the completion of the IMS networks, and continuously and without interruption transmit data from the monitoring stations. This will ensure the most robust capabilities to detect and deter clandestine nuclear test explosions. States should also recognize that the Provisional Technical Secretariat to the CTBTO Preparatory Commission is–for all practical purposes–no longer “provisional.” The International Monitoring System and International Data Center are now an essential part of today’s 21st century international security architecture that enables all states to detect and deter nuclear tests;
  2. In order to further reinforce the de facto global taboo against nuclear testing and deter any state from considering nuclear test explosions in the future, the UN Security Council should discuss and outline the penalties that could be imposed in the event that any state breaks this taboo;
  3. Russia and China could join the United States and formally declare they will not pursue new types of nuclear weapons or modify weapons in ways that create new military capabilities. Such policies would reinforce the effect of the CTBT on halting the qualitative improvement of nuclear arsenals;
  4. Nuclear armed states—particularly Russia, China, and the United States—should halt activities at the former sites of nuclear test explosions that might raise concerns about compliance with the CTBT and begin serious technical discussions on confidence building measures that could be undertaken in advance of CTBT entry into force to reinforce the moratorium and the CTBT itself.

None of these steps are simple nor are they easy. Each requires that leaders from key states think creatively and seize the initiative to close the door on nuclear testing forever.

Thank you for your attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Prepared Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association at Moscow Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference in Moscow, Russia on September 6, 2012.

Marking the International Day Against Nuclear Tests

By Daryl G. Kimball, with research support from Daria Medvedev and Wanda Archy Today is the official International Day Against Nuclear Tests , established in 2009 on the anniversary of the closure of the main former Soviet test site of Semipalatinsk, where more than 456 nuclear explosions contaminated the land and its inhabitants. Largely as a result of the courageous efforts of the Kazakh people to close down the Semipalatinsk site, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev declared a nuclear test moratorium on October 5, 1991. This, in turn, prompted a bipartisan coalition of U.S. legislators,...

Nuclear-Weapon States Meet in Washington

Kelsey Davenport

Officials from the five original nuclear-weapon states reaffirmed their “shared goal of nuclear disarmament” in a joint statement issued at the end of a June 27-29 meeting in Washington designed in part to review the progress on commitments made at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

Representatives of the five states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—also exchanged ideas related to “transparency, mutual confidence, and verification, and considered proposals for a standard reporting form” on progress in those areas. This was the third such meeting of the group, sometimes known as the P5 because the countries are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The countries met previously in 2009 in London and 2011 in Paris.

According to their joint statement, the five states “agreed on the work plan for a P5 working group led by China, assigned to develop a glossary of definitions for key nuclear terms that will increase P5 mutual understanding and facilitate further P5 discussions on nuclear matters.”

The United States briefed the other four countries on activities being undertaken at the Nevada National Security Site, the former U.S. nuclear testing site, “with a view to demonstrate ideas for additional approaches to transparency.” A tour of the U.S. Nuclear Risk Reduction Center also was offered, to allow officials to observe the communications center that enables the United States to “simultaneously implement notification regimes,” such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, according to the joint statement. The United Kingdom highlighted advances made in disarmament verification from a project it undertook jointly with Norway.

The five states “reiterated their commitment to promote and ensure the swift entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and its universalization” and discussed ways to achieve a global fissile material cutoff treaty and support the planned 2012 conference on a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction.

The five countries agreed to hold a fourth conference in the “context of the next NPT Preparatory Committee,” which is scheduled for April 22-May 3, 2013, and to continue to meet at “all appropriate levels on nuclear issues.”

Officials from the five original nuclear-weapon states reaffirmed their “shared goal of nuclear disarmament” in a joint statement issued at the end of a June 27-29 meeting in Washington designed in part to review the progress on commitments made at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

Op-Ed: New evidence for the nuclear test-ban treaty

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By Hazel O’Leary

The article below was originally published by the Union Tribune on Thursday, April 19, 2012.

More than 50 world leaders met recently in South Korea to address the challenges posed by the buildup and spread of nuclear weapons. As President Barack Obama noted, success depends on a multilayered strategy, including implementation of a global, verifiable treaty banning nuclear weapons testing.

By banning the bang, a treaty would constrain the ability of other states to develop new and more deadly nuclear warheads and establish a global monitoring system to detect and deter possible testing.

The United States halted test explosions in 1992 and led the way for the negotiation of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. The United States was able to confidently sign the treaty in 1996 because it has the most sophisticated and thoroughly tested nuclear arsenal – 1,030 nuclear tests. That’s more than all other nations combined.

Unfortunately, the Senate did not approve the treaty when it briefly considered it in 1999. Many senators who voted “no” expressed concerns about the ability of the United States to maintain its arsenal in the absence of testing and to verify compliance with the treaty.

That was then and this is now. A new and authoritative study by a panel of senior technical and military experts assembled by the National Academy of Sciences documents significant advances that resolve earlier concerns about the treaty.

The panel concludes that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship program – launched under my watch in the mid-1990s  – “has been more successful than was anticipated.” The study finds that if sufficient resources are dedicated to the task, our weapons labs have the ability to maintain a reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons “into the foreseeable future.”

Today, weapons labs have more resources and better scientific tools than ever. Since 2009, funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration stockpile stewardship program has increased by 13 percent. The Obama administration’s $7.6 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013 would boost funding by 5 percent – even as other federal programs are being cut.

We must be vigilant in maintaining the nation’s nuclear stockpile, but doing so does not depend on resuming nuclear test explosions.

No country contemplating secret testing can be confident that it would not be detected. According to the panel of experts, “the status of U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999” for all technologies to detect nuclear test explosions – seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, radionuclide and satellite monitoring.

The international system of 337 monitoring stations, which did not exist in 1999, is more than 80 percent complete and will only improve over time. This international system augments U.S. capabilities and provides a baseline for confronting possible violations.

The report concludes that “states intent on acquiring and deploying modern, two-stage thermonuclear weapons would not be able to have confidence in their performance without multi-kiloton testing. Such tests would likely be detectable even with evasion measures.”

In other words, the global test ban would make it harder for China, India and Pakistan to perfect the more compact warhead designs that would allow them to field missiles armed with multiple warheads. Without nuclear test explosions, Iran could not perfect sophisticated two-stage thermonuclear warheads that can be delivered on long-range ballistic missiles.

But the full benefits of the test ban can only be achieved with U.S. ratification, which would prompt the remaining holdout states to follow suit.

Obama has expressed his commitment to secure Senate approval for the test ban treaty, but he and his team must provide stronger leadership to ensure that the Senate’s questions are addressed and to build bipartisan support for a successful vote.

Senators must also weigh the merits of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty in light of the new scientific findings and not rush to judgment on the basis of old information.

The test-ban treaty is key to a successful U.S. strategy to reduce nuclear dangers. The longer we delay its entry into force, the tougher the nuclear weapons challenge becomes. It’s time for the Senate to take another look.

O’Leary is the president of Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. She served as U.S. secretary of energy from 1993 to 1997 and is a member of the board of directors of the independent Arms Control Association.

 

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More than 50 world leaders met recently in South Korea to address the challenges posed by the buildup and spread of nuclear weapons. As President Barack Obama noted, success depends on a multilayered strategy, including implementation of a global, verifiable treaty banning nuclear weapons testing.

Technical Study on Test Ban Cites Progress

Daryl G. Kimball

A U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee report reviewing technical issues related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has concluded that the U.S. nuclear weapons Stockpile Stewardship Program “has been more successful than was anticipated in 1999,” when the Senate last considered and voted on the CTBT.

The report, which was released March 30, also said that “the status of U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System [IMS] has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999.”

The study was requested by the Obama administration in 2009 following President Barack Obama’s call for “immediately” pursuing reconsideration and ratification of the treaty, which was signed by President Bill Clinton in September 1996 but has not yet been approved by the Senate. Although the report was completed in early 2011, its release was delayed by an extensive declassification review.

“[P]rovided that sufficient resources and a national commitment to stockpile stewardship are in place…the United States has the technical ability to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without nuclear explosion testing,” says the report, which is by the National Research Council, the operating arm of the NAS.

Stockpile stewardship is the responsibility of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous unit of the Department of Energy. Since 2009, funding for the NNSA nuclear weapons complex has increased by 13 percent. The Obama administration’s $7.6 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013 would boost the funding even more, by 5 percent over the fiscal year 2012 appropriation of $7.2 billion.

The NAS panel, which was chaired by Ellen Williams, a physicist and now chief scientist at BP, was charged with reviewing technical changes related to the U.S. nuclear stockpile and to nuclear explosion test monitoring that have occurred in the 10 years since the NAS’s 2002 report on the subject. The panel’s eight other members include former NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks; Richard Garwin, a veteran weapons designer and adviser to U.S. national laboratories; Adm. Richard Mies, the former head of U.S. Strategic Command; and former Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director Bruce Tarter. A subcommittee of seismological experts supported the panel’s investigation.

The panel’s 200-page report concludes that “[c]onstraints placed on nuclear-explosion testing by the monitoring capabilities of the IMS and…U.S. NTM [national technical means of intelligence] will reduce the likelihood of successful clandestine nuclear-explosion testing, and inhibit the development of new types of strategic nuclear weapons.”

The report finds that “[o]ther states intent on acquiring and deploying modern, two-stage thermonuclear weapons would not be able to have confidence in their performance without multi-kiloton testing. Such tests would likely be detectable (even with evasion measures) by appropriately resourced U.S. national technical means and a completed IMS network.”

The study concluded that an on-site inspection as permitted under the CTBT once it enters into force “would have a high likelihood of detecting evidence of a nuclear explosion with a yield greater than 0.1 kilotons, provided that the event could be located with sufficient precision…and conducted without hindrance.” The panel said on-site inspection “constitutes a deterrent to treaty violation whether or not an inspection actually takes place.”

The report found that “the development of weapons with lower capabilities…is possible with or without the CTBT for countries of different levels of nuclear sophistication, but such development would not require the United States to return to nuclear testing in order to respond because it already has—or could produce—weapons of equal or greater capability based on its own nuclear-explosion test history.” The United States has conducted 1,030 nuclear test explosions, the last of which was in September 1992 when Congress approved legislation mandating a halt to U.S. nuclear explosive testing.

Brooks said last November that “as a practical matter, it is almost certain that the United States will not test again. The political bar against testing is extremely high.”

“I have been in and out of government for a long time,” Brooks said, “and in recent years, I never met anybody who advocated that we seek authorization to return to testing.”

A U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee report reviewing technical issues related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has concluded that the U.S. nuclear weapons Stockpile Stewardship Program “has been more successful than was anticipated in 1999,” when the Senate last considered and voted on the CTBT.

Case for the CTBT Is Stronger Than Ever

Daryl G. Kimball

Preventing the spread and buildup of nuclear weapons remains one of the highest priority international security challenges. Success depends on a multipronged global strategy, including a verifiable ban on nuclear explosive testing to prevent the emergence of new and more deadly nuclear weapons. U.S. leadership is critical.

With its two-decade-long moratorium on testing and its 1996 signature on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the United States already has assumed most CTBT-related responsibilities. The full security benefits of the treaty, however, depend on U.S. ratification, which would trigger ratification by other holdout states, including China, India, and Pakistan.

A new report by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on technical issues related to the CTBT reaffirms that the United States no longer needs and would not benefit from further nuclear testing. The study explains why the treaty would significantly improve U.S. capabilities to detect and deter nuclear test explosions by others.

The detailed report by the NAS panel of senior scientific and military experts documents the significant technical advances over the past decade that should resolve earlier concerns about the treaty. In the weeks and months ahead, senators and their staff need to take a serious look at the merits of the CTBT in light of the new NAS findings and not rush to judgment on the basis of old myths and misconceptions.

The study finds that maintaining an effective nuclear stockpile will require continued diligence, but it does not require nuclear test explosions. The panel finds that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) nuclear weapons Stockpile Stewardship Program “has been more successful than was anticipated in 1999,” when the Senate last considered the CTBT.

Just as the 2002 NAS report on the CTBT concluded, the new study finds that if sufficient resources are dedicated to the task, the United States has the technical ability to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without nuclear explosive tests.

Today, the nuclear weapons laboratories have more resources and better tools than ever before. Since 2009, funding for the NNSA nuclear weapons complex has increased 13 percent, and the Obama administration’s $7.6 billion request for fiscal year 2013 would boost funding by another 5 percent.

As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) noted at a recent Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, “Regarding nuclear weapons activities, I believe the fiscal year 2013 budget request provides more than sufficient funding to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile.”

Another key conclusion of the NAS panel is that “the status of U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System [IMS] has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999.” The new study documents advances in the capabilities of U.S. national technical means (NTM) and the IMS in all areas: seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, radionuclide, and satellite monitoring.

The new report also confirms that, with the combined capabilities of the nearly completed IMS and even more capable NTM, as well as tens of thousands of civilian seismic monitoring stations, no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of military utility would escape detection.

The panel’s report finds that “[c]onstraints placed on nuclear-explosion testing by the monitoring capabilities of the IMS and…U.S. NTM will reduce the likelihood of successful clandestine nuclear-explosion testing, and inhibit the development of new types of strategic nuclear weapons.” For example, the global test ban would make it far more difficult for China, India, and Pakistan to perfect the more-compact warhead designs that would allow them to field missiles armed with multiple warheads.

The report concludes that “[o]ther states intent on acquiring and deploying modern, two-stage thermonuclear weapons would not be able to have confidence in their performance without multi-kiloton testing. Such tests would likely be detectable (even with evasion measures).” In other words, without nuclear explosive testing, states such as Iran could not perfect sophisticated two-stage thermonuclear warheads that can be delivered on long-range ballistic missiles.

The panel notes that once the treaty enters into force, the possibility of short-notice, on-site challenge inspections “constitutes a deterrent to treaty violation whether or not an inspection actually takes place.” It finds that “the development of weapons with lower capabilities…is possible with or without the CTBT…but such developments would not require the United States to return to nuclear testing in order to respond.”

President Barack Obama has repeatedly expressed his support for U.S. ratification and prompt entry into force of the CTBT. But to realize the promise of the test ban, he must provide stronger leadership to create the necessary support for a successful Senate vote sometime in 2013.

With the CTBT, the United States stands to lose nothing and would gain an important constraint on nuclear weapons proliferation that could pose a threat to its security. It is past time to reconsider and ratify the treaty.

Preventing the spread and buildup of nuclear weapons remains one of the highest priority international security challenges. Success depends on a multipronged global strategy, including a verifiable ban on nuclear explosive testing to prevent the emergence of new and more deadly nuclear weapons. U.S. leadership is critical.

The New NAS Report: The Case is Stronger Than Ever for the Test Ban Treaty

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Volume 3, Issue 5, March 30, 2012

Today, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its long-awaited report on technical issues related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The independent panel of senior scientific and military experts was charged in 2009 with reviewing technical developments related to the U.S. nuclear stockpile and to nuclear explosion test monitoring that have occurred since the 2002 NAS report on the CTBT and the Senate's brief debate and rejection of the treaty in 1999.

The new NAS report, The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Technical Issues for the United States, reaffirms that the United States no longer needs--and would not benefit from--nuclear explosive testing. Renewed nuclear testing would only help improve other nations' nuclear capabilities and reduce U.S. security. And the report documents why U.S. ratification and entry into force of the CTBT would significantly improve our ability to detect and deter nuclear testing by others.

The NAS report lays out a stronger case than ever before for supporting the CTBT:

  • The 2012 NAS report documents that significant technical advances have resolved earlier concerns about the treaty.

The panel concluded that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)'s nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship program "has been more successful than was anticipated in 1999," when the Senate last considered the CTBT. Maintaining an effective nuclear stockpile will require continued diligence, but it does not require nuclear test explosions.

"Similarly," the panel said, "the status of U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999."

The new study cites substantial advances in the U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System capabilities across all of the key verification technologies deployed worldwide to detect and deter nuclear test explosions-seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, radionuclide, and satellite monitoring.

  • More is known today than ever before about the U.S. nuclear arsenal and there is no technical or military reason to resume testing.

As former NNSA administrator and NAS panel member Linton Brooks said in Dec. 2011, "as a practical matter, it is almost certain that the United States will not test again ... in recent years I never met anybody who advocated that we seek authorization to return to testing."

Similar to the 2002 NAS report, the new study finds that if sufficient resources are dedicated to the task the United States has the technical ability to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without resuming nuclear test explosions.

The nuclear weapons labs have more resources than ever before to perform core stockpile stewardship work. Since 2009, funding for the NNSA nuclear weapons complex has increased by 13%. The Obama administration's $7.6 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013 would boost NNSA weapons programs funding even more-by 5% over last year's appropriation of $7.2 billion.

As Sen. Dianne Feinstein noted at a March 21, 2012 appropriations committee hearing, "Regarding nuclear weapons activities, I believe the fiscal year 2013 budget request provides more than sufficient funding to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile."

  • National and international test ban monitoring and verification capabilities have improved immensely.

With the combined capabilities of the International Monitoring System (IMS), national technical means (NTM), and civilian seismic networks, no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of any military utility would escape detection.

The panel's detailed report also concludes that "[c]onstraints placed on nuclear-explosion testing by the monitoring capabilities of the IMS and ... U.S. NTM, will reduce the likelihood of successful clandestine nuclear-explosion testing, and inhibit the development of new types of strategic nuclear weapons."

The report found that "[o]ther states intent on acquiring and deploying modern, two-stage thermonuclear weapons would not be able to have confidence in their performance without multi-kiloton testing. Such tests would likely be detectable (even with evasion measures) by appropriately resourced U.S. national technical means and a completed IMS network."

The study noted that on-site inspections as allowed under the treaty once it enters into force, "would have a high likelihood of detecting evidence of a nuclear explosion with a yield greater than 0.1 kilotons, provided that the event could be located with sufficient precision ... and conducted without hindrance." The panel noted that an on-site inspection "constitutes a deterrent to treaty violation whether or not an inspection actually takes place...."

  • The security value of the CTBT is greater than ever.

U.S. ratification and entry into force of the treaty would improve our ability to detect and deter nuclear testing that could allow others to improve their arsenals.

The NAS report documents how the CTBT constrains the ability of the established nuclear-weapon states, including Russia and China, to build new types of more sophisticated nuclear warhead designs.

The report also documents why, without the option of nuclear explosive testing, newer testing nations, including potentially Iran, could not perfect sophisticated two-stage thermonuclear warheads that can be delivered on long-range ballistic missiles.

The report found that "the development of weapons with lower capabilities ... is possible with or without the CTBT for countries of different levels of nuclear sophistication, but such developments would not require the United States to return to nuclear testing in order to respond because it already has-or could produce-weapons of equal or greater capability based on its own nuclear-explosion test history."

The United States has detonated 1,030 nuclear test explosions--more than all other nations combined--the last of which was in September 1992. Russia has conducted 715 nuclear tests; China 45; North Korea 2; Iran 0.

Time for a Thorough, Thoughtful Review

The Senate has not seriously examined these issues in years. In the decade since the Senate last considered the CTBT, 59 Senators have left office; only 41 Senators who debated and voted on the CTBT in 1999 remain.

Good policy depends on good information. Senators and their staff need to take a serious look at the merits of the CTBT in light of the new NAS findings and not rush to judgment on the basis of old information, misconceptions, or partisan politics.

President Obama has repeatedly expressed his commitment to the CTBT, most recently in a March 26 speech in Seoul. But he and his team must provide stronger leadership to ensure the Senate's questions on the CTBT are fully addressed and to create the necessary climate and support for a successful vote in 2013.

The bipartisan approval of New START in 2010 shows that a successful treaty approval process requires months of hearings, answers to thousands of questions, and a serious commitment to building understanding for the national security issues at stake.

U.S. ratification of the CTBT is essential for entry into force and would very likely prompt other states, including China, India, and Pakistan, to follow suit.

The American people expect their leaders to take action to reduce the threats posed by nuclear weapons and proliferation. U.S. ratification of the CTBT would advance American national security interests by helping to reduce nuclear threats and enhancing our ability to detect, deter, and confront proliferators. --DARYL G. KIMBALL

For more information on the CTBT, see:

Description: 

Volume 3, Issue 5, March 30, 2012

Today, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its long-awaited report on technical issues related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The independent panel of senior scientific and military experts was charged in 2009 with reviewing technical developments related to the U.S. nuclear stockpile and to nuclear explosion test monitoring that have occurred since the 2002 NAS report on the CTBT and the Senate's brief debate and rejection of the treaty in 1999.

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