Project News

NNSA Sponsors Test Monitoring Symposium

By Shervin Taheran

U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Ernest Moniz and Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization Dr. Lassina Zerbo headlined a Nov. 30 National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) symposium on Capitol Hill, which displayed the increasingly sophisticated array of United States and international nuclear test monitoring equipment and technology. The event also included remarks from a bipartisan collection of congressmen—Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.)—and the Acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Thomas Countryman.

Shortly after this event, Moniz published an op-ed in American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)'s Science journal in which he recommends that the next U.S. administration and the Congress should revisit the CTBT and "work together toward enhanced security through ratification and an international push for entry into force."

Moniz emphasized the consistent security landscape in which voluntary nuclear testing moratoria are the norm, with the sole exception of North Korea, and pointed out the innovation in the United States's science-based Stockpile Stewardship program, using new tools such as supercomputers and lab facilities.

"All indications are that the stockpile will remain safe, secure, and reliable indefinitely without testing, even as the weapons age and are reduced in number," he said.  

More information on the Nov. 30 event, which was co-hosted by the CTBTO, the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of State, and was supported by the AAAS, is available here

The morning after the Capitol Hill event, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center, as a part of the Bipartisan Nuclear Dialogue Project, co-hosted an off-the-record private breakfast discussion with Zerbo and Countryman and Dr. Jay Zucca of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to discuss the technical advances in nuclear test-monitoring and the role of the national laboratories in the support of the CTBTO's International Monitoring System and International Data Center.

UN Security Council Resolution 2310 Adopted

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2310, which reaffirmed the international moratorium on nuclear weapon testing, on Sept. 23. The resolution followed a Sept. 15 statement by the permanent five members of the UN Security Council committing not to defeat “the object and purpose” of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as required under customary international law. It also acknowledged the value of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization’s International Monitoring System.

20 Years Later: United States, Japan, and Kazakhstan Reaffirm Support For The CTBT

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

The Stimson Center and the Arms Control Association hosted a panel discussion about the history and progress of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) 20 years after it was signed on September 24, 1996. To date, 183 states have signed the treaty.

Represented in the panel were senior officials from states that have been strong supporters of the treaty over the past 20 years.

Rose Gottemoeller, the undersecretary for arms control and international security and Adam Scheinman, the special representative of the president of nuclear nonproliferation reiterated the United States’ strong support for the CTBT and its entry into force. Under Secretary Gottemoeller remarked that the United States had been the first nation to sign the CTBT, although it has not yet been ratified by the Senate.

North Korea’s Fifth Nuclear Test

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

North Korea conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 8.

The test was met with international condemnation and calls for increased sanctions on North Korea. Russia issued “the strongest possible condemnation,” and both Japan and the United States condemned the test in “the strongest possible terms” in official statements following the test. The UN Security Council convened on Sept. 9 in an emergency session to discuss the test.

Key Takeaways from the Senate Hearing on the CTBT UNSCR Initiative

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

The first Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing dealing with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in over a decade took place on September 7th. Attendance was high, with Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) presiding, ranking Democrat Senator Cardin (D-Md.), and Senators Risch (R-Idaho), Rubio (R-Fla.), Flake (R-Ariz.), Perdue (R-Ga.), Menendez (D-N.J.), Shaheen (D-N.H.), Murphy (D-Conn.), Udall (D-N.M.), and Markey (D-Mass.) in attendance.

The hearing was convened to discuss the Barack Obama administration’s proposed United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) and P5 statement reaffirming support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and its international monitoring system, which is under discussion and is expected to be finalized in mid-September.

The committee heard testimony from Stephen Rademaker, a former State Department official in the George W. Bush administration, and testimony from Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center.

The hearing provided several key takeaways on the UNSCR initiative and Senate views on the CTBT itself.

The Debate Over Obama’s UNSCR Proposal

U.S. President Barack Obama is seeking approval for a UN Security Council resolution to reinforce the norm against nuclear testing, in a move that would coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which the United States signed in 1996.

The Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin quoted National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price as saying that while the administration would like to see the Senate ratify the CTBT, they are “looking at possible action in the UN Security Council that would call on states not to test and support the CTBT’s objectives. We will continue to explore ways to achieve this goal, being careful to protect the Senate’s constitutional role.”

Republican Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) were quick to respond to the proposed UN Security Council resolution with statements of opposition, alleging that President Obama was "circumventing" Congress by going to the United Nations.

On Aug. 15, former Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)—a lead opposition figure against the CTBT—penned an op-ed with Douglas J. Feith of the Hudson Institute against the UN Security Council resolution initiative.

However, administration officials were quick to note that they "fully respect the Senate's role" toward ratification of the treaty, and that the UN Security Council resolution "is in no way a substitute for entry into force of the CTBT."

Looking Ahead in 2016

August 29: International Day Against Nuclear Tests and the 25th anniversary of the closure of the Soviet Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan.

September 10: 20th anniversary of the special session of the UN General Assembly that overwhelmingly approved the 1996 CTBT by a margin of 158 to 3, with five abstentions, opening the way for signature and ratification.

Pakistan and a Bilateral Non-Testing Agreement With India

On Aug. 12, Pakistan announced at a press briefing that it is "prepared to consider translating its unilateral moratorium [on nuclear testing] into a bilateral arrangement on non-testing with India."

This statement is a variation of Pakistan's views on a regional test moratorium. At the June CTBT Ministerial Meeting in Vienna, Pakistan's ambassador said:

Following the first nuclear test in 1974 in our neighbourhood, Pakistan made several proposals for keeping South Asia free of nuclear weapons and missiles including a proposal for a regional CTBT. None of these proposals met a favourable response.