The Russian Federation's support for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

The Russian Federation's support for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

The Russian Federation is actively involved in the global verification regime that is being established to monitor compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). By hosting 30 facilities that belong to the CTBT’s International Monitoring System (IMS), Russia is a key player in the Treaty that bans all nuclear explosions on Earth by monitoring nuclear testing activities. Russia hosts the second highest number of IMS facilities of any Member State after the United States, and the installation of several monitoring stations has been completed over recent months.

The CTBT uses four inter-linked technologies to verify compliance with the Treaty in all environments: seismology; hydroacoustics; infrasound monitoring and radionuclide monitoring. Seismic technology is used to monitor underground testing of very low yields, hydroacoustic technology monitors the oceans and infrasound monitoring detects atmospheric nuclear tests.

Radionuclide monitoring - the “smoking gun”

Under certain circumstances, seismic and acoustic detection technologies might not provide sufficient unambiguous data to indicate whether a large conventional explosion or small nuclear test has taken place.  The fourth technology, radionuclide monitoring is complementary to the other technologies and can confirm conclusively whether an event was nuclear or not. It does so by detecting minute quantities of "noble" gases, such as xenon, released by underground nuclear explosions as well as radioactive particulates vented by atmospheric tests. It thus provides the “smoking gun” needed to prove a possible violation of the Treaty. With its “forensic proof” of nuclear explosions, radionuclide technology is of crucial importance to the entire verification effort.

Several radionuclide stations certified over recent months

Of the 80 radionuclide stations foreseen by the Treaty negotiators, the Russian Federation is currently hosting eight such stations, of which three have already been certified as meeting defined IMS requirements and specifications. These stations are transmitting data to the International Data Centre (IDC) in Vienna, where the raw data are processed, analyzed, and disseminated to the Member States. The most recent certification took place on 24 September 2008 at radionuclide station RN59 in Zalesovo . The station covers a huge area including the whole of central Siberia and part of the Mongolian plateau. The station has been specially constructed to withstand temperatures which can plummet to minus 50 degrees Celsius.

Signing of Facility Agreement

A Facility Agreement signed by the Russian Federation and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) entered into force on 27 December 2006. This has granted the CTBTO the necessary legal authority to carry out work on all IMS facilities on the territory of the Russian Federation. Since the end of 2006, two primary seismic, an auxiliary seismic and two infrasound stations have been certified in addition to the radionuclide stations.

Installation of more stations completed

Between July and September 2008 the installation of four stations was also completed. These included two primary seismic stations – PS32 in Khabaz and PS37 in Ussuriysk. PS32 is located in an area of relatively high seismic activity and approximately 200 km from the border with Georgia . PS37 is a 10-element seismic array, with sensors distributed in two concentric circles with an approximate aperture of 5 km. Using an array rather than just one sensor to collect signals improves data quality. PS37 is located roughly 200 km to the north of North Korea in an area with very low seismic background noise, enhancing its detection capability . Another 13 stations are now being tested and evaluated for certification, nine are under construction and two more facilities are envisaged for all the Russian stations in the IMS to be completed.

Russian Federation’s close involvement with the CTBT

The Russian Federation has been closely involved with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) even before it opened for signature in 1996. It was one of the 44 countries that participated in the CTBT’s negotiations between 1994 and 1996 and possessed nuclear power reactors or research reactors at that time. These 44 countries are referred to in the Treaty as Annex 2 States and must sign and ratify the CTBT before it can enter into force.

Russia was one of the first countries to sign the Treaty on 24 September 1996 and its subsequent ratification on 30 June 2000 as one of the Annex 2 States was very significant and was followed by 11 more ratifications over the following six months. Russia is one of the five nuclear-weapon States under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). France and the United Kingdom, two of the other nuclear-weapon States, have ratified while the United States and China have yet to do so, although both countries signed the Treaty in September 1996.

Over 2000 nuclear explosions were carried out in the world between 1945 and 1996, of which more than 700 were conducted by the Soviet Union between 1949 and 1990. The Soviet Union was superseded by the Russian Federation in 1991.

By the time the Treaty enters into force, 337 facilities worldwide will monitor the atmosphere, underground and the oceans for any sign of a nuclear explosion. So far, 223 stations have been included in the global alarm system and are sending data on a continuous basis to the IDC in Vienna. An additional 34 stations are sending data to Vienna on a test basis prior to certification.