Intensive Training for National Data Centre Analysts

During a four-week course at the CTBTO’s headquarters in Vienna, representatives from Botswana, Brazil, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Ghana, Senegal and the Solomon Islands learned how to access and make use of the vast amount of data generated daily by the CTBTO’s monitoring stations around the world. When complete the global network of stations – the International Monitoring System (IMS) - will comprise 337 seismic, radionuclide, infrasound and hydroacoustic facilities to detect signs of a nuclear explosion underground, in the atmosphere and in the oceans.

NDC participants with CTBTO trainers

Almost 90 percent of these IMS facilities are already fully operational and sending data to the International Data Centre (IDC) in Vienna for analysis. Both the raw data received at the IDC and the analysed results are then distributed to National Data Centres (NDCs), which are the national technical organizations competent to advise their governments on the verification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Access to this information enables States to assess whether or not a suspicious event has occurred that might constitute a violation of the CTBT.

Belinda Waokahi from the Solomon Islands receiving her certificate.

“This course helps the Member States fulfil their commitments under the Treaty through their National Data Centres (NDCs). It also helps Member States exercise or extract the full benefits of CTBT data by enabling the NDCs – and through the NDCs perhaps other institutions – to make use of CTBTO data not only for monitoring purposes but also for other civil and scientific applications.”

The main objective of the course was to enable Member States to participate more actively in the verification regime that is being established to ensure that no nuclear explosion goes undetected. The training for NDC analysts also aimed to enhance their knowledge of the use of CTBTO monitoring data for disaster mitigation such as for tsunami warning purposes or tracking radiation dispersion after nuclear accidents. The data can also be used for scientific research, such as on climate change, oceans and marine life, or meteors crashing into Earth.

The European Union provided funding for the training course.

“Because our country is in an active seismic zone – located along the convergent boundaries of the Pacific and Australian plates – the tool will help us to analyse events, because we usually have big events.”

Building NDCs’ capacities through the acquisition of new skills

Participants acquired a range of skills which they will be able to share with colleagues upon their return. For example, they received hands-on training in local and regional seismic event analysis techniques, familiarized themselves with some of the civil and scientific applications of hydroacoustic and infrasound data, and learned how to install and use the NDC-in-a-box software. This user-friendly software has been developed by the International Data Centre to enable NDCs to receive, process and analyse monitoring data quickly.

Salomon Cesar Nguemhe Fils receiving his certificate from Randy Bell, Director of the IDC

“I have learned to use a completely new technique to analyse data – now I can differentiate between whether an event is natural, like an earthquake, or not such as a nuclear explosion. The fact that the group was so small with only nine participants allowed us to stop the trainers at any time if we had a question or problem, which was great.”

Around 50 NDC analysts have benefitted from such training since 2012

The course took place at the CTBTO’s headquarters from 4 to 29 November 2013. It was the sixth in a series of one-month intensive hands-on training courses organized by the CTBTO with assistance from the European Union. In order to ensure that participants derive maximum benefits and are fully empowered to operate an NDC, each course caters for a maximum of nine trainees. Around 50 NDC analysts have participated in similar one-month training programmes since 2012, with many more countries having registering their interest in sending representatives to future courses.

Equipped with knowledge about the important role of the NDCs in the verification regime, by the end of the course participants had also gained the necessary know-how to establish an NDC in their respective countries or improve its capabilities.

An NDC development workshop with broad regional representation from Africa will take place in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, from 16 to 19 December 2013.