Page 2:1994-96: Debating the basic issues

Basic obligations cont.

Although there was no solid definition of what constituted a nuclear explosion, delegates agreed that the Treaty would contribute to the international efforts toward nuclear non-proliferation.

Taking the idea a step further, the Islamic Republic of Iran submitted a paper calling for the destruction of equipment specifically designed for nuclear testing and the closure of all test sites. Brazil argued that all equipment designed for purposes that would be banned under the Treaty should be destroyed. 

However, it was clear that most NWS found these provisions unacceptable. The Russian Federation stated that the test sites would be experimental and research centres would be for purposes not associated with nuclear weapons. The United States announced its endorsement of a zero yield ban conditional on several factors. These included the maintenance of nuclear weapon laboratories, the ability to resume testing if required and the interpretation of “supreme national interest”, which would allow the United States to withdraw from the Treaty if the U.S. nuclear deterrent could not be maintained without testing.

After extensive discussions, it was determined that the CTBT would be a zero yield test ban.

Banning nuclear test explosions

Other fiercely debated issues included “subcritical” testing; in other words, the testing of non-nuclear components of weapons that would not result in a sustained nuclear chain reaction. India supported a zero yield ban, but felt the language in the text only banning nuclear explosions provided a loophole with which NWS with adequate technology could continue to improve their arsenals with subcritical testing. For this reason, Indonesia proposed the exclusion of the word “explosion” from the Treaty text, leaving only nuclear test, which would have prohibited computer simulations, hydrodynamic experiments and inertial confinement fusion experiments.

All of these activities might allow NWS to modernize their existing nuclear weapons without explosive testing. However, the United States insisted that subcritical testing using small amounts of uranium or plutonium with conventional high explosives would not produce a self-sustaining chain reaction. Indonesia withdrew its objection to the term explosion provided there was no threshold to the prohibition by the CTBT. In other words, the CTBT would be a zero yield test ban.

Pakistan expressed its concern that the emerging Treaty would achieve little in terms of disarmament. Australia, also advocating a world free of nuclear weapons, stressed that banning all nuclear weapon testing would require a different Treaty, with different verification methods, and different commitments from the NWS. Australia argued that even if the Treaty did not eliminate nuclear weapons, the CTBT would halt the qualitative arms race.

Although there was no solid definition of what constituted a nuclear explosion, delegates agreed that the Treaty would contribute to the international efforts toward nuclear non-proliferation. Furthermore, the Treaty would certainly inhibit the future development of nuclear weapons.

 

Next chapter: 1994-96: Creating the organization