Project News

The CTBTO 2017 Science and Technology Conference: Day 1

Brenna Gautam is a CTBTO Youth Group Member who will be working with the Project to post brief daily updates about the on-goings at the conference as it relates to the CTBTO Youth Group, civil society, and capacity building. She is a student at Georgetown Law School. Shervin Taheran is the program and policy associate at the Arms Control Association.

Day 1: Monday, June 26, 2017

The CTBTO Science and Technology 2017 began with introductory remarks from Executive Secretary of the CTBTO Dr. Lassina Zerbo at the specifically designated morning-long CTBTO Youth Group Orientation Session. The CTBTO Youth Group is a group launched at the 2015 Science and Technology conference which aims to increase the awarenss of, and support for, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), not only in the 8 remaining Annex 2 states whose ratifications are necessary for entry into force, but also in the countries who have ratified to help stave off treaty fatigue as well as encouraging general international support for the treaty. Dr. Zerbo's overarching message for conference participants is that the 2017 conference seeks to enhance the synergy between the fields of science and diplomacy, highlighting how scientific advancements and technological innovations can unite countries in their shared goal of entering the CTBT into force.

This goal of global cooperation is reflected in the diversity of the CTBTO Youth Group: seventy members are present at the conference, representing 54 different countries. CTBTO Policy and Strategy Officer Diana Ballestas de Dietrich challenged Youth Group members to find creative ways to make the technical treaty accessible and relatable for ordinary citizens. “How can we personalize the CTBT in a way that engages people in their daily lives?” she asked.

CTBTO Certifies Final Hydroacoustic Station

By Samantha Pitz

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization released a press release today stating that the CTBTO has successfully certified its eleventh, and final, hydroacoustic station June 19, 2017 on the Crozet Islands (France). The station was installed in December 2016 after many obstacles as part of the International Monitoring System (IMS) network, which monitors 24/7 for nuclear explosions. The relatively low frequency underwater sound produced by a nuclear test can be detected a great distance from their source, requiring only a few hydroacoustic stations around the world. The certification of the Crozet Islands hydroacoustic station brought the IMS network of 337 projected monitoring stations to 90% complete.

DOE's Report Claims "Revolutions" in CTBT-Related Science

By Samantha Pitz

Earlier this week the Los Alamos National Laboratory released a report, “Trends in Nuclear Explosion Monitoring Research and Development -- A Physics Perspective,” assessing current literature relating to explosion monitoring and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) for the years 1993 to 2016. The LANL report claims that "there have been significant technological and scientific revolutions in the fields of seismology, acoustics, and radionuclide sciences as they relate to nuclear explosion monitoring" and the CTBT, and also highlights how the CTBT was necessary to universalize monitoring to more than just nuclear states like the United States and diversify the monitoring capacity and abilities.

CTBTO Funding Included in State FY 2018 Budget Request

By Daryl G. Kimball

The Trump administration's State Department budget request for fiscal year 2018 includes full funding for the United States assessed contribution to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which operates the global monitoring system to detect and deter nuclear explosions and verify compliance with the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT):

"Contributions to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization’s Preparatory Commission (PrepCom) ($31.0 million): PrepCom assistance helps to fund the fielding, operation, and maintenance of the state-of-the-art International Monitoring System (IMS), a global network of 321 seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, and radionuclide sensing stations designed and optimized to detect nuclear explosions worldwide. The U.S. receives the data the IMS provides, which is an important supplement to U.S. National Technical Means to monitor for nuclear explosions (a mission carried out by the U.S. Air Force). A reduction in IMS capability could deprive the U.S. of an irreplaceable source of nuclear explosion monitoring data. [emphasis added] This amount includes funding for projects to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the Treaty’s verification regime, and also funds a tax reimbursement agreement that facilitates the hiring of Americans by the PrepCom.” (pg. 338)

Japan's Special $2.43 million USD Contribution to the CTBTO

By Samantha Pitz

Japan announced its largest, voluntary contribution of $2.43 million (USD) to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Feb. 23 to improve the organizaiton's verification capabilities to detect nuclear explosions around the world. CTBTO Executive Secretary Dr. Lassina Zerbo praised the act, telling Permanent Representative of Japan, Ambassador Mitsuru Kitano, “This generous contribution will further build-up the International Monitoring System’s capacity to improve our radionuclide monitoring technology, which can conclusively establish whether a nuclear test explosion has occurred.”

In a May 2 joint appeal by the Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Kairat Abdrakhmanov, and CTBTO Executive Secretary Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Kishida noted that the contribution provided by Japan increases the capabilities of the International Monitoring System (IMS) that was able to detect all five of the North Korean nuclear explosion tests, but in the last two tests, was unable to confirm radionuclide detection, and furthers Japan's desire to universalize the IMS in order to augment detection capabilities all over the world.

Declassified Films Remind Public of Horror of Nuclear Testing

By Samantha Pitz

Greg Spriggs, a weapon physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and a team made up of film experts, archivists, and software developers have set out to find, preserve, and declassify the 10,000 films made depicting the 210 U.S. atmospheric nuclear tests from between 1945 to 1962. The team has located around 6,500 of the films of which 4,200 have been scanned, 400 to 500 have been reanalyzed and around 750 have been declassified. Because the films have been stored for many years, some of the films are decomposing and need to be digitized as soon as possible.

Congressional Republicans Seek to Cut CTBTO Funds

By Samantha Pitz

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) introduced legislation Feb. 7 to limit all funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), except for its International Monitoring System (IMS). Although the legislation partially protects funds towards the IMS, portions of its overall budget that pay for staff time and the International Data Centre, which processes information given by IMS operations, are supported by the CTBTO. Since the United States provided about a quarter of the CTBTO budget of $128 million in 2016, the possibility of underfunding the organization raises serious questions about the future of global nuclear detection capabilities.

For more information read "Republicans Seek to Cut CTBTO Funds" in the March 2017 issue of Arms Control Today.

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."