Project News

Australia and New Zealand Sign Nuclear Detection Cooperation Agreement

Australia and New Zealand recently announced an agreement to increase scientific cooperation between the countries' nuclear detection networks. Under the terms of the memorandum of understanding, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and Geoscience Australia will work with New Zealand's Institute of Environmental Science to enhance the two states' ability to detect nuclear test explosions. The Institute of Environmental Science and Research plays a key role in the CTBTO's nuclear detection network by managing six radionuclide-monitoring stations in the Pacific southwest, with two locations in New Zealand-one of which is the National Radiation Laboratory (NRL).

The two countries will exchange scientific and technical knowledge on radionuclide detection. According to NRL program director Wim Nijhof, "working more closely and sharing expertise with our Australian counterparts, will mean better planning and protection in the event that a nuclear incident is detected by our monitoring and analysis."

Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO Elects New Executive Secretary

Lassina Zerbo of Burkina Faso was chosen as the next executive secretary of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission on October 23. Mr. Zerbo who is currently the director of the CTBTO's International Data Center, will succeed Tibor Toth as the head of the organization on August 1, 2013. For a complete description of the election and the five candidates, please see the full article in Arms Control Today.

Zerbo's February 29, 2012 presentation on "Progress to Date with the International Monitoring System" is available in the new ACA conference report "CTBT at 15: Status and Prospects."

Special Rapporteur Delivers Report on the Marshall Islands after U.S. Nuclear Tests

The Report of the Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights effects of U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands was recently released to the public.  The report addresses lingering health and human rights effects from the 67 atmospheric nuclear test explosions that were detonated from 1946 to 1958 by the United States in the Pacific islands.  One of the central conclusions of the report was that "the nuclear testing resulted in both immediate and continuing effects on the human rights of the Marshallese."

The Special Rapporteur noted that the prevalence of thyroid cancer in the Marshall Islands is associated with an increase in intake of radioactive iodine.  The report also documents a range of reproductive problems in women from the Rongelap Atoll; however, a link between these reproductive issues and nuclear testing cannot not be definitively established due to a lack of scientific data from that period, according to the report.  The report notes the lingering psychological effects among the Marshallese population resulting from the extensive nuclear testing, noting that a significant portion of the population believes that radiation continues to contaminate the land and affect the health of the local population. 

Foreign Ministers Call for Action on the CTBT

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and state foreign ministers met in New York on Sept. 27 at the UN headquarters to publicly advocate for the entry into force of the CTBT. The foreign ministerial gathering on the CTBT has been held every 2 years since 2002. The statements from the Secretary-General and the foreign ministers were especially poignant given the widespread references to Iranian nuclear activities in speeches given at the UN General Debate.

In the Joint Ministerial Statement, the leaders noted the significant progress made by the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO on the verification infrastructure of the International Monitoring System and the International Data Centre. The ministers also stressed the importance of the CTBT in promoting eventual nuclear disarmament "by constraining [nuclear weapons] development and qualitative improvement," which would "strengthen the international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime."

International Day Against Nuclear Tests

On September 6, the General Assembly convened an informal session to observe the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, which was established by the UN General Assembly in 2009 and is officially recognized on August 29 of every year.  Much of the meeting was dedicated towards remembering the victims of nuclear testing, particularly those living near the Semipalatinsk test site.  Additionally, there were numerous statements of support for CTBT entry into force, as well as calls for nuclear weapons states to maintain the de facto moratorium on nuclear testing.

The meeting began with a recorded address from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who reiterated his support, and the international community’s need, for entry into force of the CTBT.  He attempted to address concerns about the CTBTO’s technical capabilities when he said, “I reiterate my standing offer to visit the capital of any State that remains unconvinced about the reliability of the Treaty’s monitoring and inspection systems to answer questions and resolve their concerns.”

Prospects for Realizing the Full Potential of the CTBT

Presentation by Daryl G. Kimball
Executive Director, Arms Control Association
Moscow Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference
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.

Marking the International Day Against Nuclear Tests

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, including Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Oregon), George Mitchell (D-Maine), Rep. Mike Kopetski (D-Oregon) and Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri) to introduce legislation for a 1-year nuclear test moratorium legislation.

With strong popular support in the United States, the legislation gathered momentum and was later modified to mandate a 9-month U.S. testing halt and negotiations on a CTBT. The legislation was approved by strong majorities in the House and Senate in September 1992. The last U.S. nuclear test explosion was conducted at the Nevada Test Site on September 23, 1992.

The following year, after an intensive policy review, President Clinton extended the U.S. test moratorium and launched multilateral negotiations for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). With the help of international protests over French and Chinese nuclear testing in 1995 and 1996, governments agreed to adopt a “zero-yield” test ban, and the CTBT was opened for signature on September 24, 1996.

Nuclear Testing Index, August 29, 2012

Nuclear Testing Index, August 29, 2012

2,045: Total number of nuclear weapons tests before the CTBT was opened for signature in September 1996.
9.14 days: Average time between nuclear blasts.

7: Total number of nuclear weapons test explosions after the CTBT was opened for signature in September 1996.
831.4 days: Average time between nuclear blasts.

1,054: Total number of U.S. nuclear weapons tests, involving 1,148 detonations.
928: Number of nuclear weapons tests conducted in Nevada.
15 megatons: Total yield of the largest U.S. explosion, codenamed Bravo.

715: Total number of Soviet/Russian nuclear weapons test explosions.
456:Number of nuclear weapons tests conducted in Kazakhstan.
50 megatons: Approximate total yield of the Soviet Union’s Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear explosion to ever take place.