CTBTO enhances cooperation with Pacific States

CTBTO enhances cooperation with Pacific States

The Republic of Palau hosted a two-day workshop on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) on 21 and 22 May 2009 in Melekeok, Palau. The workshop was funded by voluntary contribution from the Government of Austria. Austria's Ambassador to the Philippines, H.E. Herbert Jäger, accredited also to the Republic of Palau, travelled to Melekeok to address the workshop [PDF].

Eight States participated in the workshop: Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji Islands, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Samoa. Representatives of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO/IOC) and the Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretariat attended the workshop as speakers.

"Since 1998 the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) has played an
instrumental role in seeking to promote the CTBT."Ziping Gu, CTBTO, Director Legal and External Relations Division

The workshop's objectives were to enhance awareness of the CTBT and to assist States in obtaining benefits from the work of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in the implementation of the CTBT, see agenda [PDF].

These potential benefits include the use of verification technologies for tsunami warning, the forecasting of volcanic explosions, the location of underwater explosions, the detection of earthquakes and accidental radioactive releases and a host of other applications.

The workshop could build on a series of regional and sub-regional international cooperation workshops such as those in Samoa in May 2008 and the Philippines in June 2007.

"We strongly believe that it is a matter of national security that
all of the Pacific Basin becomes truly 'nuclear free Pacific'."H.E. Ms. Sandra Pierantozzi, Minister of State of the Republic of Palau

Nuclear testing in Pacific Region

As H.E. Ms. Sandra Pierantozzi, Minister of State of the Republic of Palau, stated in her opening address [PDF], the history of nuclear testing in the region has shaped its commitment to a comprehensive nuclear test ban. Between the mid 1940s and the early 1960s, the United States tested over 100 nuclear weapons in the Pacific.The Marshall Islands (known as "the Pacific Proving Grounds") bore the brunt of this testing, with over 40 tests at the Enewetak Atoll and over 20 at the Bikini Atoll Testing in this area included the first underwater nuclear explosion by the United States in 1946, known as Operation Crossroads, its first hydrogen bomb in 1952 at the Enewetak Atoll, and the Castle Bravo test of 1954, which was the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by the United States. Yielding 15 megatons, the Bravo test created the worst radiological disaster in the United States' testing history, with nuclear fallout spread out over a wide area, severely affecting several atolls in the Marshall Islands.

The United Kingdom and France also conducted a number of tests in the region. Christmas Island, Kiribati, was the site of the first British hydrogen detonation in 1957. The United States and the United Kingdom tested over 30 nuclear weapons at Christmas Island. Mururoa and Fangataufa Atolls in French Polynesia were used to test the first French thermonuclear device in 1968. In total, France conducted almost 190 tests in the Pacific between 1966 and 1996.

Nuclear testing by the United Kingdom and the United States in the South Pacific ceased with the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, which prohibited nuclear explosions in the atmosphere, outer space and underwater. France stopped testing in the region when the CTBT was opened for signature on 24 September 1996.