The Project for the CTBT supports the work of NGOs and experts to build public and policymaker understanding of the CTBT.

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.

NAS Report Raises Awareness, Underscores Value of CTBT

The March 30 release of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) generated significant media attention, several opeds, and welcoming statements from key senators.

Released at a press briefing late on a Friday afternoon before a two-week Congressional recess, the NAS study -- "The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban - Technical Issues for the United States"-- might easily have been overlooked by the media and members of Congress.

Fortunately, long-awaited report was covered by several prominent news outlets.

Matt's Wald's story "U.S. Has No Need to Test Atomic Arsenal, Report Says" in The New York Times highlighted that the report’s conclusions “run counter to some of the arguments” used by opponents of the CTBT during the failed attempt to ratify the treaty in 1999.

“We’ve done life extension programs, and we’ve shown we’re able to reset the clock on these weapons,” said Marvin L. Adams, a professor of nuclear engineering at Texas A&M University and a co-author of the report said at the NAS report briefing. Judging from the last ten years, he said in The New York Times, “the summary conclusion is that: yup, it’s difficult, but, gosh, we can do it.”

North Korea Poised to Conduct Third Nuclear Test Explosion

No sooner than it had pledged on February 29 to halt long-range ballistic missile tests, nuclear testing, and uranium enrichment at its Yongbyong nuclear facility, the North Korean regime announced it would launch a long-range ballistic missile-ostensibly to lift a satellite into orbit. The April 12 launch failed shortly after liftoff, the fourth such long-range missile test failure.

While North Korea probably cannot miniaturize a nuclear warhead to fit on its missiles yet, a third nuclear test would allow them to make significant progress in that direction.

Now the governments of the United States, China, and other leading nations must focus on the difficult task of preventing North Korea from conducting another nuclear weapon test explosion.

In 2006 and 2009 we saw a cycle of escalation in which North Korea launched a long-range rocket, which drew international rebuke, and then North Korea responded with a nuclear test explosion on each occasion.

Another long-range ballistic missile test launch--even a failed one--is a problem. A ballistic missile test launch followed by another nuclear test explosion, followed by accelerated uranium enrichment activities, is a much more significant problem.

News reports and satellite analysis from experts at the Web site suggest that a North Korean nuclear test explosion could soon be conducted.

Marshall Islands People Still Suffering Decades After U.S. Nuclear Testing

From 1946-1958, the United States conducted a series of 67 atmospheric nuclear test explosions in the South Pacific that devastated the indigenous peoples in the Marshall Islands. During most of that time, the Marshall Islands was a part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands administered by the United States.

According to the preliminary findings of United Nations Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu the communities affected by nuclear testing over sixty years ago in the Marshall Islands have “yet to find durable solutions to the affected population."

“They feel like ‘nomads’ in their own country, and many have suffered long-term health effects,” he said. Georgescu is UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights obligations related to environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste. His is the first mission ever to the Republic of the Marshall Islands by an independent expert of the UN Human Rights Council.

“I have listened to the concerns and stories of affected communities from Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap and Utrik. As a result of the nuclear testing, all of these communities have suffered dislocation, in one form or another, from their indigenous way of life,” he noted.

His report will be finalized and delivered to the UN Human Rights Commission this September.

NAS Report Builds Technical Case for CTBT Approval

Today, the U.S. National Academies of Science released its long-awaited update on technical issues related to the CTBT in Washington.

The independent panel of senior scientific and military experts was charged with reviewing technical changes related to the U.S. nuclear stockpile and to nuclear explosion test monitoring that have occurred in the ten years since the NAS’ 2002 report on the subject.

The study was requested by the Barack Obama administration in 2009 following the President’s call for “immediately” pursuing reconsideration and ratification of the treaty. Although the report was completed in early 2011, its release was delayed by an extensive declassification review lasting some 11 months.

The NAS panel concluded that the NNSA nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship program “has been more successful than was anticipated in 1999,” when the Senate last considered and voted on the CTBT. “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 NAS study found that “provided 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.”

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.

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