Disaster risk reduction:
The CTBTO's Contribution

The third Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction convened in Geneva, Switzerland, from 8 to 13 May. The aim of the conference was to improve the implementation of disaster risk reduction through better communication and coordination amongst stakeholders. Over 2,000 policy makers and practitioners from government, international organizations, NGOs, academia, and the private sector from both developing and developed countries participated. During the conference, the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Tibor Tóth, outlined the CTBTO's potential for contributions to mitigating the consequences of natural disasters.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon (right) with CTBTO Executive Secretary Tibor Tóth. Click for video

As a result of global climate change, weather-related hazards are on the rise. Nuclear safety and the threat of multiple hazards add an even greater sense of urgency...as countries invest more in early warning and preparedness, mortality risk from floods and cyclones is trending down.

Tsunami waves

The CTBTO can assist with disaster early warning by providing information on major earthquakes in real-time to tsunami warning centres. The CTBTO is currently providing data for tsunami warning purposes from its seismic and hydroacoustic stations to nine countries, mainly bordering the Pacific or Indian Ocean. In the case of the devastating 11 March earthquake in Japan, national authorities confirmed that CTBTO data helped them issue tsunami warnings within a few minutes of the earthquake, thus allowing many people to escape to higher ground before the tsunami wave hit.

Click for video on tsunami warning.

Volcanic eruptions

Another aspect of the CTBTO’s potential for disaster early warning is related to civil aviation. Large ash plumes caused by the eruption of one of the world’s 600 active volcanoes can make jet engines malfunction or even stall completely. Here again, the CTBTO’s network of monitoring stations - infrasound stations in this case - can provide warning in real-time.

Large parts of Europe’s airspace were affected by the eruption at Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland, in 2010.

The CTBTO stands ready to further cooperate with and provide expert advice to the IAEA and other relevant organizations and for its global monitoring system to continue contributing to disaster prevention and mitigation.

Nuclear accidents

A special roundtable session titled "Strengthening Preparedness for Nuclear Accidents" was chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Examining lessons learnt from nuclear accidents in Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima, the discussion focussed on ways to further strengthen cooperation on an international and regional basis in the area of emergency preparedness and response to nuclear incidents and emergencies. Also present at the session were the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as national representatives from Japan and Russia.

Tóth highlighted the potential of the CTBTO's radionuclide stations, designed to detect even the faintest radioactive tell-tale signs of a nuclear explosion, to help chart the dispersal of radioactivity from a damaged nuclear facility. In the case of the Fukushima power plant, the CTBTO's monitoring stations detected radioactive particles and noble gases as they spread first eastwards and later around the entire globe. Read more on the CTBTO's Fukushima-related measurements. Following an initiative by the UN Secretary-General in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, the CTBTO has intensified its cooperation with relevant international organization. Read more in our 25 March press release.

Atmospheric Transport Modeling can predict the dispersion of radioactivity.