Government of Slovakia hosts On-Site Inspection Field Experiment and Equipment Testing Exercise

An agreement signed with the Government of Slovakia in August this year has allowed the CTBTO Preparatory Commission to further develop capabilities in conducting effective on-site inspections (OSIs). OSIs are the final verification measure under the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Once the Treaty enters into force, States Parties can request an on-site inspection to establish if a nuclear explosion has been carried out in violation of the Treaty, and to gather facts which might assist in identifying any possible violator.

Inspection experiences of other international organizations have proven that it is necessary to test and develop inspection procedures and their supporting infrastructure through realistic in-field exercises. The CTBTO Preparatory Commission, building on the lessons learned during its first field experiment in Kazakhstan in 1999, is currently testing elements of an OSI. These include the launching of the exercise at Commission headquarters in Vienna, equipment check-out and other functions at a Point of Entry, and testing the ability of certain passive seismometer array configurations to detect low-level, simulated aftershocks.

The current exercise has been launched by Secretariat staff at headquarters in Vienna, undertaking the same OSI launching activities as would be necessary for a genuine OSI. Launching activities include the preparation of multi-source maps to provide inputs to inspection planning. In this particular case, the maps are used to locate placements for the Seismic Aftershock Monitoring System (SAMS) seismometers to assure uninterrupted line-of-sight between each seismometer and the central receiving station. Other activities include issuance of travel tickets o some participants, and obtaining necessary visas and customs documents.

The Government of Slovakia is hosting the field experiment and equipment testing exercise on its territory. Point of Entry (POE) activities - activities which would take place upon entering the territory or jurisdiction of an inspected State Party - are being tested at M.R. Stefanik Airport at Bratislava. In addition, the Slovak hosts will provide equipment storage and checkout facilities at the airport, similar to those that might be encountered during the POE activities of a real inspection team en route to an inspection area.

Seismic Aftershock Monitoring System (SAMS) seismometers procured by the Commission Secretariat will also be field-tested, at a site in the Bratislava-Stupava area. The Slovak Government will detonate a number of small chemical explosions, which will simulate the kind of seismic aftershocks which might follow a nuclear explosion or other OSI-triggering event.

Individuals with extensive experience in either seismic testing or escorting inspection teams have been selected from State nominees to serve as both surrogate inspection team seismologists and Inspected State Party hosts, and as evaluators of the field experiment and seismic testing activities.

Several opportunities will also be provided for some observers from States Signatories to see both the POE and seismic testing phases of the field experiment. Additionally, in cooperation with the Government of Slovakia, some representatives of the press have been invited to observe the seismic testing at Bratislava-Stupava.

This year's field experiment and equipment testing in Slovakia is a logical step in a continuing programme of OSI methodology development - a programme which will help the CTBTO acquire the capability to launch, support and conduct effective On-Site Inspections after the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty enters into force.