Ecuador - breakthrough for Galapagos Islands' stations

The head of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Lassina Zerbo, visited Ecuador from 20 to 23 April 2014. In Quito, he met with Leonardo Arízaga, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility, with María Belén Moncayo, Vice Minister of Knowledge and Human Talent, Cesar Navas Vera, Director at the Ministry for the Coordination of Security.

Leonardo Arízaga, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility (left) with CTBTO head Lassina Zerbo (right)

Ecuador has always supported the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and was one of the first countries to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

Arízaga underlined Ecuador's long-standing policy as a force for peace and disarmament and expressed his gratitude to Zerbo as the first CTBTO Executive Secretary to visit his country. The minister reiterated the support of Ecuador to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and assured of his country's firm commitment to the swift establishment of the two International Monitoring System (IMS) stations planned for Ecuador, infrasound station IS20 and radionuclide station RN24, both to be located on the Galapagos Islands (Santa Cruz Isle).
I warmly welcome the decision by Ecuador and thank Minister Arízaga and Ambassador Pastor Morris for their commitment and engagement in this project.

Zerbo explained the key importance of both stations for enhancing global coverage of the CTBT verification regime. The stations will be located near the Equator, where detection capabilities through infrasound and radionuclide monitoring are relatively lower due to the absence of steadily flowing winds. The two stations will considerably enhance coverage for the Pacific Ocean, where hundreds of nuclear tests were conducted in past decades, see interactive map.

Interview with Ecuador TV. Image credit: Nina Zambrano Díaz, Cancillería - Ecuador.

The CTBTO is a key contributor to global security. The establishment of the two IMS stations in Ecuador will add capacity to the verification system that will benefit Ecuador and the global community.

Zerbo stressed that the CTBTO would work closely together with all national stakeholders involved to ensure that the establishment of the two stations at the Galapagos Islands would be amongst the quickest ever undertaken by the organization, while ensuring the highest environmental protection standards during the stations' installation and operation. The Executive Secretary also expressed his appreciation for the Foreign Ministry's excellent coordination in this regard.

Protection for bird and station alike: Radionuclide station's air intakes covered with nets (here:at the Midway Islands, USA) to prevent birds from entering the system.

Through the near real-time provision of data, the CTBTO's unique global system can save lives during catastrophes such as tsunamis or nuclear accidents. Capacity building in this regard is of key importance for Ecuador.

The Ecuadorian side expressed keen interest in intensifying cooperation with the CTBTO in the area of capacity building, in particular for using CTBTO data for disaster warning and scientific research. Zerbo assured his personal commitment to work with Ecuadorian institutions in this regard.

The infrasound station to be built in the Galapagos will be able to aid regional disaster warning efforts, for example by detecting volcanic eruptions such as that of the Tungurahua volcano in early April 2014. Data generated by both stations can also contribute to research of the atmosphere, storm systems and climate change.

Eruption of Tungurahua Volcano, Ecuador

At the University Universidad Técnica del Norte, Zerbo gave a lecture entitled "Science and Technology as a Basis for International Peace and Security", in which he explained the evolution and current challenges of the nuclear test ban, the pillars of the CTBT verification regime and the organization's vibrant partnership with the broader scientific community. Zerbo also elaborated on the importance of scientific and technical capacity building for developing countries in particular.
Ecuador was one of the first countries to sign the CTBT on 24 September 1996, the day the Treaty opened for signature. It ratified the CTBT in November 2001.
Related media reports (in Spanish):

From left: María de la Portilla, Academic Director, Northern Technical University; Amb. Wilson Pastor of Ecuador; ES Lassina Zerbo; Helena Yanez, Director of the UN System at the MFA; Miguel Naranjo, Chancellor of the Northern Technical University

The lecture at the Universidad Técnica del Norte in Quito, Ecuador, was well attended.