CTBTO prepares for large on-site inspection exercise

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For a few days in late October 2007 a military shooting range in central Hungary was transformed into an exercise ground. It was an unusual kind of exercise with groups of people in white protective overalls spread across the terrain to perform different kinds of surveys and measurements. About 60 scientists and experts came together in Hungary to practice detecting a suspected nuclear explosion in an on-site inspection.

The two-week training course organized by the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty Organization (CTBTO) bore particular importance. "This course is an important stage in preparing inspectors for the first comprehensive on-site inspection exercise next year in Kazakhstan," said Boris Kvok, Director of CTBTO's On-Site Inspection Division. Symbolically, the Integrated Field Exercise, or IFE08, will take place at Semipalatinsk, the former nuclear test site of the Soviet Union until 1991 when Kazakhstan became independent.

During the forthcoming exercise in Kazakhstan, the CTBTO will simulate an entire on-site inspection, including all preceding steps and all inspection activities in the field. It will be the first time for the organization to conduct such a large-scale exercise.

The CTBTO is preparing for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). It continues to build up its global alarm system to verify compliance with the ban on nuclear testing. The system will span the entire globe to detect potential clandestine nuclear explosions in all environments.

On-site inspections are the final verification measure and can be invoked once the Treaty has entered into force. By that time all elements of an on-site inspection need to have been developed and tested.

In preparation for the big exercise next year, participants in the training course in Hungary had to follow the scenario for an on-site inspection and carry it out in a concentrated three-day exercise. All elements of an OSI exercise were to be considered and all inspection techniques included. According to Boris Kvok, "the majority of participants in this training course will travel to Kazakhstan in September next year to be inspectors in the IFE08".