High-level group observes IFE14’s field activities

15 November 2014

A group of high-level dignitaries including HRH Prince Feisal Al-Hussein of Jordan, Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources for Jordan, Mohammad Hamed, Minister of State for Media Affairs, Mohammad Al Momani, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Rose Gottemoeller, and UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, congregated in Jordan’s Dead Sea region earlier today. They were there to observe what some have described as the biggest “weapons of mass destruction exercise”  conducted to date.  Just a short distance away from the hotel which hosted the opening ceremony for this special event is a temporary settlement covering an area of 400 square metres, which has sprung up virtually overnight.  This ‘tented village’ is the base of operations for the largest simulated on-site inspection exercise ever undertaken by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) - the Integrated Field Exercise 2014 (IFE14).

HRH Prince Feisal Al-Hussein of Jordan (right) and CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo.

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Hosting IFE14 is testimony to Jordan's dedication to contribute to nuclear disarmament and non- proliferation. Jordan is showing leadership and stability in a crisis-stricken region. IFE14 is a milestone and a key building block in establishing the CTBT verification regime.

Deterring potential CTBT violators

A real on-site inspection (OSI) can only be launched when the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans all nuclear explosions, has entered into force. An OSI aims to establish whether or not a nuclear explosion has been carried out and is therefore a key element in the global alarm system being built by the CTBTO to ensure that all nuclear explosions are detected. During an OSI, facts might also be gathered to identify a possible violator of the CTBT.
The main purpose of the visit on 15 November was to allow the high-level group to observe first-hand some of the field activities being carried out in the inspection area during IFE14. Forty experts from the CTBTO and its Member States are using state-of-the-art techniques during the simulated inspection phase, including instruments to detect traces of relevant radionuclides on and beneath the ground as well as in the air. Other techniques scan the ground in frequencies invisible to the human eye.

Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Mohammad Hamed, addressing dignitaries in the Dead Sea region, Jordan.

In Jordan, Zerbo held bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour (image), Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Mohammad Hamed, as well as the Minister of State for Media Affairs, Mohammad Hussein Al Momani.

IFE14 will demonstrate our capability to detect a hidden nuclear test through an on-site inspection, creating confidence in the CTBT verification regime which will encourage the remaining States to sign and ratify.

Jordan’s commitment to international peace and security

IFE14 is being implemented under the royal patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan. The exercise kicked off on 3 November. Read the press release here. This is the second time that Jordan has hosted an important event within the CTBT verification framework. The OSI Directed Exercise took place there in 2010 to test ground-based visual observation techniques and communications.

CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo addressing dignitaries before visiting the base of operations for IFE14.

IFE14 is a joint success for the CTBTO and Jordan. IFE14 sends a message of peace and stability to other countries in the region, a message that Jordan will take to the Security Council and to the Organization of Islamic States.

Jordan was selected to host IFE14 because of the rich variety of geological features in the country’s Dead Sea area which offer realistic and challenging conditions for such an exercise. In addition, the country has also been able to provide an area of approximately 1000 square metres, which is the maximum size allowed for an OSI.

Executive Secretary Zerbo briefing journalists from the Middle East at a WMD workshop in Amman on 13 November 2014.

Four years of preparation

This huge logistical operation has involved around four years of intense preparation. Within six days of receiving a request from the fictitious State of ‘Aluvia’ on 4 November to conduct an on-site inspection in ‘Maridia’, the CTBTO had to arrange for the transportation of 150 tonnes of equipment and around 200 experts from Austria to Jordan. The fictitious scenario that triggered the on-site inspection request was a seismic signal detected by the CTBTO’s global network of monitoring stations and unexplained detections of a radioactive noble gas.
The CTBTO has carried out a series of build-up exercises in Austria and Hungary to practice specific methods and techniques of an OSI over recent years, pre-IFE14 field tests in Jordan and a workshop in China in 2013 to prepare for the exercise. See IFE14 webpage for more information.

Participants at the high-level event being briefed about IFE14 activities.

Generous support of Member States and the EU

The total cost of IFE14 is around U.S.$ 10 million. The exercise is being supported through a multi-year fund provided by the CTBTO’s Member States. A number of Member States including Canada, the Czech Republic, China, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union (EU) have also made in-kind contributions and provided equipment for the exercise.  Specialized equipment includes a mobile xenon detection system sponsored by the EU and the Chinese-funded Argon system, which is the world’s only mobile Argon radiation detection system. The EU has also funded the development of multispectral and infrared sensors for installation on helicopters or aircraft to capture image data at specific frequencies across the electromagnetic spectrum. This will help the CTBTO identify signs of a nuclear explosion on the ground more efficiently.
IFE14 will continue until 9 December 2014. At the end of the exercise an evaluation will assess the progress made regarding the CTBTO’s operational capacity to conduct an OSI since the first such exercise – IFE08 - was carried out in Kazakhstan in 2008. IFE14 will also identify areas that require further development and training.  
Jordan was selected by consensus by the CTBTO’s 183 Member States, sending a political message that Jordan is a hub of peace and stability.

To date 183 States have signed the CTBT, of which 163 have also ratified. The eight remaining States listed in the Treaty’s Annex 2 that have not yet ratified the Treaty and must do so before it can enter into force are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States.
For more follow our IFE14 Field Blog for updates and read our Frequently Asked Questions . Arabic version here