14 November 2008 - Page 1
Operations and Maintenance Workshop for station operators concludes
What do the Olympic Games and an Operation & Maintenance Workshop for station managers of the International Monitoring System (IMS) have in common? At least more than might be expected at first glance: Both events take place at a quadrennial rhythm – the last one this year - and participants constantly try to excel in a number of pre-determined disciplines.
A total of 173 participants met in Vienna from 10 to 14 November 2008. The gathering included station operators from 47 Member States, equipment providers and staff of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).
The station operators are directly responsible for running the IMS monitoring stations. When completed, the Earth will be monitored continuously to detect nuclear explosions by a worldwide network of 337 sensitive monitoring stations and laboratories that comprise the IMS. Over 230 of these stations are already sending data to the CTBTO’s International Data Centre (IDC) in Vienna on a provisional basis, see interactive map. This unique system is designed to detect nuclear explosions anywhere on the planet – in the oceans, underground, or in the atmosphere. In this way, it will monitor compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans all nuclear explosions on Earth.
The four ‘disciplines’ in which the IMS constantly strives to improve
Four different verification technologies are used in synergy to detect and identify signals from nuclear explosions:
- seismic stations “feeling” the Earth’s mantle for shockwaves caused by nuclear explosions;
- hydroacoustic stations “listening” to the oceans for sound waves;
- infrasound stations “listening” to the atmosphere for infrasound waves that are inaudible to the human ear;
- radionuclide stations “sniffing” for radioactive particles or noble gases emitted from a nuclear explosion.
“Our common purpose is to have the best, and I mean the best global network of monitoring stations in the world (…) with the highest reliability, the best timeliness, the best availability, the best quality.”Lassina Zerbo
Director of the International Data Centre Division
Station operators ensure high-quality data harvesting – under any conditions
As the station operators are at the source of the IMS’s measuring data, the overall level of performance of the verification system greatly depends on their ability to operate and maintain the state-of-the-art equipment. The station operators’ tasks include the prevention or quick remedy of malfunctions in any of the station’s critical components, be it the power supply, the communications system, or the scientific measuring device itself.
For remote stations such as on Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic or in the Antarctica, this can pose a considerable challenge. Some stations are situated in locations frequently affected by natural phenomena such as lightning, flooding or storms, which are likely to cause the station’s system to malfunction. No matter how great the difficulties, the station managers must ensure that their station meets the ambitious benchmark proscribed in the Treaty: data from IMS stations must be available 98% (95% for hydroacoustic stations) of the time. This high quality standard is meant to ensure the CTBTO’s Member States that no clandestine nuclear test goes undetected.