Executive Secretary visits nuclear test site at Novaya Zemlya

The Executive Secretary of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission, Mr Wolfgang Hoffmann, has just carried out an official visit to Russia. The Executive Secretary visited Moscow and the Central Test Site of the Russian Federation at Novaya Zemlya.

While in Moscow from 25 to 27 March, the Executive Secretary visited the Secretariat of the National Authority of the Ministry of Atomic Energy. Representatives from the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were also present there at meetings and at useful discussions on the build up of IMS stations, the draft Facility Agreement, issues regarding the IDC sub-network and OSI activities for 2003. The Executive Secretary was received on 26 March by Deputy Minister Georgy Mamedov of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and held discussions with him on issues including the promotion of signatures and ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) by Eastern European and Asian States. Mr Hoffmann expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to visit the test site at Novaya Zemlya, stressing that it confirmed Russia's openness on nuclear disarmament, as well as its adherence to the CTBT.

Severe weather conditions lifted on 28 March, allowing flights to the Novaya Zemlya test site. Accompanied by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense, the Executive Secretary first visited Arkhangelsk, where he met Mr. Gorin, First Deputy of the Local State Administration. The mission then continued on to the main military base of the test site, Belushia Guba, near where nuclear tests were carried out from 1955 to 1961. The test site commander organized several official meetings and visits, including the showing of a film on the test site, and tours of military accommodation, the local school and the kindergarten.

On 29 March, the Executive Secretary participated in a 2.5 hour helicopter overflight to an area 270 km north of the main military base, where underground nuclear tests were carried out between 1964 and 1990. Sub-critical experiments have been carried out in an underground tunnel at this location between 1998 and 2002. Details of the sub-critical experiments, which do not initiate a chain reaction of fission and are conducted in accordance with the CTBT, were explained. Officials on the overflight also carried out gamma-measurements, showing that the gamma dose rates in the area of the overflight are lower than in Moscow and Vienna. Upon returning to Belushia Guba, the Executive Secretary discussed the build up of International Monitoring System stations in Russia with General Igor Valynkin of the Ministry of Defense.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty bans all nuclear weapon test explosions in any environment. Drafted at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, and opened for signature on 24 September 1996, the Treaty must be ratified by 44 named States before it can enter into force. Russia, one of the 44 named States, ratified the Treaty on 30 June 2000.