CTBT course enjoys worldwide interest

CTBT course enjoys worldwide interest

From 5 to 9 September 2011, the course on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) entitled “Strengthening Verification, Enhancing Security: The Science and Significance of the CTBT” was held at the headquarters of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna.


In addition to around 100 participants who attended the course in Vienna, more than 120 participants followed the course online via live-streamed or archived video lectures. Participants from a total of 79 countries took part in the course, including 63 diplomats and 25 United Nations Disarmament Fellows. A number of high-level officials and senior academics attended the opening ceremony, including Professor Helmuth Böck of the Institute of Atomic and Subatomic Physics at the Vienna University of Technology and Professor Götz Bokelmann of Department of Meteorology and Geophysics at the University of Vienna.

Over five days and a series of 17 lectures, participants learned from some of the world’s foremost experts on the CTBT (see agenda). The three main aspects covered by the course were:

  • The political aspects of the Treaty and its contributions to fostering international security and promoting nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation;

  • The technologies underpinning the CTBT verification regime;

  • The civil and scientific applications of CTBT monitoring technologies, including the contribution to the Fukushima crisis response.

The bottom line is, in spite of the fact there are things you
lose by not testing, you lose a lot more by going back to testing.Siegfried Hecker

The world’s leading expert on the North Korean nuclear programme, Siegfried Hecker,  Co-Director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University and emeritus director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, addressed the role of the CTBT in confronting vertical and horizontal proliferation. “The bottom line is, in spite of the fact there are things you lose by not testing, you lose a lot more by going back to testing. Today’s political environment is such that, in my opinion, one gets much more by actually having the Comprehensive Test Ban, ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban, and putting as many barriers as possible for other countries in the world to go back to nuclear testing,” stated Hecker.

The negotiations did not take place in a political vacuum.
There was a synergy and there were a number of factors
coming together.Ambassador Jaap Ramaker

Ambassador Jaap Ramaker, former Chair of the CTBT negotiations and former Special Representative to Promote the CTBT, recalled the special circumstances and challenges of the CTBT negotiations more than 15 years ago: “The negotiations did not take place in a political vacuum. There was a synergy and there were a number of factors coming together. In isolation, it is unlikely that any of these factors would have sufficed to allow the full conclusion of the CTBT, of a Treaty that will ban all nuclear tests forever and everywhere at that particular point of time.”

The CTBT directly underpins the NPT by inhibiting the
development of new nuclear weapons and refinement
of existing ones.Ambassador Glyn Davies, United States

The national perspectives on the CTBT were highlighted through a panel discussion by several Permanent Representatives to the CTBTO, including Irish Ambassador James Brennan, U.S. Ambassador Glyn T. Davies, New Zealand Ambassador Phillip Wallace Griffiths and UK Ambassador Simon Smith.

U.S. Ambassador Davies expressed his country's support: “The CTBT, which has been signed by 182 states and ratified by 154, plays a key role in a global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime. The foundation of that regime is the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty or the NPT, the CTBT directly underpins the NPT by inhibiting the development of new nuclear weapons and refinement of existing ones.”

Our government is absolutely firmly convinced that we have done
the right thing in promoting and supporting and helping this
treaty coming into being…. Sometimes I describe [the CTBT] as a
treaty in action, even though it may not be strictly speaking in
force.Ambassador Simon Smith, United Kingdom

All Ambassadors emphasized the importance of the entry into force of the CTBT and praised the recent advances in test-ban monitoring: “If the DPRK’s provocative nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 could ever be said to have a silver lining, it would have been to demonstrate that the CTBTO’s International Monitoring System showed itself to be an effective and reliable means of ensuring verification in accordance with the previous provisions,” explained Irish Ambassador Brennan.

Participants also toured the radionuclide test station located on the rooftop of the Vienna International Centre, as well as the CTBTO Operations Centre, which receives and processes all information in real-time from the CTBT’s International Monitoring System stations.

The course provided a great picture of the Treaty, its history, the
negotiations, also the verification system and the pillars upon
which it’s based.Teresa Diaz-Morera Ventos, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain

Background: The CTBTO’s Capacity Development Initiative (CDI)

The course is part of the CTBTO’s Capacity Development Initiative, which aims at training the next generation of CTBT experts. The Capacity Development Initiative (CDI) is based on the recognition that building and maintaining the necessary capacity, particularly in the developing world, to tackle the scientific, political, and legal challenges effectively that are facing the multilateral non-proliferation and disarmament regime, is of critical importance.


The CTBTO will be holding an advanced technical course in late 2011 as the next component of the CDI, which will examine in depth the scientific and technical aspects of the Treaty’s verification regime. Similar to the introductory course, the advanced live lecture courses will be live-streamed from Vienna for those who wish to participate virtually, and the lectures will be archived within the online distance-learning platform for later viewing.


Details and registration information will follow soon. Queries can be addressed to Mr Kevin Murray, Tel.: +43 1 26030 6288.