Future Inspectors Test Critical Aspects of On-Site Inspections

From 8 to 14 September, over 40 international experts gathered for a simulation of critical phases of an on-site inspection (OSI) near Vienna. An OSI is the final verification measure to establish whether or not a violation of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) - a nuclear explosion - has taken place. OSIs will only be possible once the CTBT has entered into force.


The exercise participants included CTBTO staff as well as experts from CTBT Member States: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) participated as observer.


The CTBTO conducted its first full-fledged on-site inspection simulation at the former Soviet nuclear test site of Semipalatinsk, in Kazakhstan in 2008. In the run-up to the next major exercise, or Integrated Field Exercise, which will take place in 2014 in Jordan, the CTBTO is conducting a series of smaller exercises testing the individual phases of an on-site inspection. The first of this series, the launch phase of an OSI, was simulated in April 2012.


The latest exercise mainly involved setting up the base of operations and interaction with the inspected country. Within the tight timeframe provided by the CTBT, 50 tons of equipment were moved from the CTBTO’s storage facility to the inspection area and the base of operations was set up. The latter involved reconnaissance, a radioactivity survey, the setting up of all-weather tents and installation of inspection and communications equipment. The Austrian Armed Forces provided a military base for the exercise.


The negotiations between the inspection team and the fictional country of Forestia played a prominent role. Forestia’s representatives exercised their rights to check all OSI activities to the fullest extent, from meticulous checking at the entry into the country to when the base was dismantled. This put the inspection team under considerable strain and at times delayed operations. Interaction with the media was also simulated to help establish guidelines for real OSIs.