Project News

North Korea Pledges to Refrain from Further Nuclear Tests and Halt Other Nuclear, Missile Activities

On February 29, the U.S. State Department announced that the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) has agreed to implement a moratorium on nuclear weapon test explosions, long-range missile launches and other nuclear activities, including enrichment at its Yongbyon nuclear complex and to allow U.N. nuclear watchdog inspectors in to ensure compliance.

North Korea is the only country that has conducted nuclear test explosions in the past decade, with tests in 2006 and 2009.

The State Department also said that the United States had agreed to finalize details of a proposed food aid package and to take other steps to improve bilateral ties. According to the State Department statement, the United States reaffirmed that the United States “… does not have hostile intent toward the DPRK and is prepared to take steps to improve our bilateral relationship in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality.”

"The United States still has profound concerns regarding North Korean behavior across a wide range of areas, but today’s announcement reflects important, if limited, progress in addressing some of these,” said the Department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland in the Feb. 29 statement.

Concerns still remain, but the news, which follows a Feb. 23-24 round of exploratory U.S.-DPRK bilateral talks in Beijing, is clearly a very welcome and important development.

As CTBTO Marks 15th Year, Test Monitoring Capabilities Exceed Earlier Expectations

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) celebrated its 15th anniversary February 17, 2012. Established in 1997 following the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the organization has matured and its global monitoring capabilities have improved, particularly in the paste decade.

Speaking at an event marking the anniversary at the CTBTO’s headquarters in Vienna, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged all countries, particularly those whose ratifications are necessary for entry into force, to sign and/or ratify the Treaty without delay.

To date, 157 countries have ratified the CTBT. China, the North Korea, Egypt, India, Israel, Iran, Pakistan and the United States all need to ratify the treaty before it carries the weight of international law. Ban Ki-moon committed to meeting with the leaders of these countries to discuss their concerns in his speech.

The Secretary General, who chaired the CTBT preparatory commission in 1999, also said that “there is no good reason to avoid signing or ratifying this treaty” and that an end to nuclear testing is “essential to eradicating nuclear arms.”

Study Alleges DPRK N-Tests in 2010; Findings Questioned

A paper in the March issue of the journal Science & Global Security titled "Radionuclide Evidence for Low-Yield Nuclear Testing in North Korea" by Lars-Erik De Geer, Research Director at the Swedish Defence Research Agency claims that North Korea may have carried out a very low-yield nuclear weapon test explosion in May 2010. North Korea is known to have conducted a nuclear test explosion in 2006 and again in 2009.

The paper says that radionuclide data collected between 14 and 23 May 2010 at stations in South Korea, Japan and Russia suggest that North Korea carried out a very low-yield underground nuclear test on 11 May 2010.

If there was a nuclear explosion in May 2010, it was not detected by any seismic station or network. This leads De Geer to argue that if there was a nuclear detonation, it "must therefore have been quite low-yield..." according to a prepublication draft of the article.

De Geer also notes that if such an event was "still detected by another technology in the currently evolving CTBT verification system as well as by a national control post [it] suggests that there are fewer and fewer ground for countries to refuse ratifying  the CTBT by questioning the effectiveness of its verification regime. It also shows that the CTBT verification system sometimes is capable of detecting underground nuclear tests of significantly lower yields than what was anticipated when the treaty was opened for signature 15 years ago."

De Geer speculates that North Korea is trying to build a more powerful, tritium-boosted nuclear bomb through low-yield tests.

Nuclear Test Downwinders Recognized

Today is the first annual National Downwinders Day, recognizing the many people across the United States--but especially in the Mountain West-who were affected by radiation exposure from nuclear test explosions in Nevada. Last year the US Senate voted unanimously to honor downwinders with a special day of recognition.

Today is also the 61st anniversary of the nuclear test code-named "Able," the first of 928 nuclear test explosions in Nevada.

There's a great collection of information on the health effects of the resulting atmospheric fallout from the CTBT Organization online here.

There is more work to be done to end the possibility of nuclear testing by anyone, any place, any time.

Please take a moment today to write or call your Senators and ask them to honor the memory of nuclear test and weapons production victims and survivors by improving the federal compensation program for downwinders and by reconsidering and supporting the CTBT.

See the Project for the CTBT Web site for more details:

For further information, see the story "Nation Recognizes Nuclear Test Downwinders."

Indonesian Ratification of the CTBT Provides New Momentum for Entry Into Force

Today, the Indonesian parliament approved the ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, bringing the number ratifications necessary for entry into force down from 9 to 8.

We hope to “create new momentum so that the other countries in a similar position to Indonesia can also follow suit in beginning their ratification process,” Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said in September 2011.

“We believe that [the] CTBT is one of the main instruments for nuclear disarmament,” he said.

“Indonesia will use its good relations to promote the Treaty in Asia and the Middle East and beyond and at the highest political level,” Hemly Fauzy, the Indonesian Parliament’s coordinator for the CTBT ratification process said during a recent visit by an Indonesian parliamentary delegation to the CTBTO headquarters in Vienna.

“We want our country to be at the vanguard of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,” said Fauzy. “We intend to extend our involvement in the CTBT beyond the Treaty’s ratification.” Support for the CTBT in the Indonesian Parliament was unanimous across its nine parties, he said.

“It is Almost Certain that the U.S. Will Not Test Again,” Says Former NNSA Administrator

Amb. Linton Brooks, the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration during the George W. Bush administration, said there is practically no chance of the United States resuming nuclear testing.

Brooks, speaking at an ACA-sponsored Nov. 28 event on “The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty at 15: a Status Update,” described the political bar to testing as “too high” and stated that testing is not the best use of time or resources.

Brooks expressed his confidence in the NNSA's Science Based Stockpile Stewardship and Management program ability to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear arsenal, saying that it would be “extremely difficult” to conceive of a problem that could not be solved by the program and require a resumption of nuclear testing to substantiate. He noted that in the past eighteen years, no national laboratory director has ever called for a resumption of testing in their annual stockpile report to Congress.

The event, sponsored by the Arms Control Association and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, also included remarks by Marvin Adams from Texas A & M University, Jenifer Mackby of the Center Strategic and International Studies, and Daryl Kimball of ACA.

160+ States Meet Sept. 23 on CTBT Entry Into Force

Fifteen years after the CTBT was opened for signature, more than 160 senior government representatives gathered and 53 spoke at UN Headquarters to highlight the value of the Treaty and call upon the remaining 9 CTBT "hold out" states to sign and/or ratify to facilitate formal entry into force. The gathering is the seventh such Article XIV Conference on Facilitating Entry Into Force, which has been held every other year since 1999.

The final conference declaration “urge[s] all remaining States … to sign and ratify the Treaty without delay” and endorses bilateral, regional, and multilateral initiatives to achieve the treaty’s “earliest entry into force.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon probably summed up the spirit and substance of the meeting best. He noted the growing calls—at the international political level and from the many victims and survivors of nuclear testing—for bringing the treaty into force.

“My message is clear: Do not wait for others move first. Take the initiative. Lead. The time for waiting has passed,” he stated.

“We must make the most of existing—and potentially short-lived—opportunities,” Ban said.

Nuclear Experts Propose Making CTBTO Institutions Permanent

A number of leading nuclear arms control proponents said last week that the international community should act promptly to make key features of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty permanent, despite a widespread view that the pact itself will not be formally implemented for many years to come.

Because it has not yet entered into force, the organizations created to promote the agreement and build its verification regime were labeled temporary from the outset.

"We propose to eliminate [the] words 'provisional' and 'preparatory' from the letterheads" of CTBT-related institutions and from international "lexicon," Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, said at a Thursday event.

For more details, see: