Ministerial Briefings at CTBTO Top the Agenda

High-level briefings were in focus this week, with visits by Ministers from Argentina, Iraq, Morocco, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United States to the CTBTO’s Vienna headquarters.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz met with the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Tibor Tóth, and Executive Secretary-elect Lassina Zerbo on 2 July 2013 and was updated on the latest scientific developments to strengthen the network that monitors the globe for nuclear explosions.

U.S. delegation headed by Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz is briefed at the CTBTO.

President Obama remains very committed [to ratifying the CTBT].

In 2009, the Obama administration said it was in favour of ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). “President Obama remains very committed and I personally am too,” Moniz said. U.S. ratification of the Treaty requires a two-third majority Senate vote. “If we look at what it will take: on the one hand, we need to continue to maintain a reliable stockpile and, on the other, to ensure a low threshold [for detecting tests],” he said.

The worldwide network designed to detect all nuclear explosions is over 85% operational. It recorded the nuclear test announced by North Korea in February this year quickly and accurately, as well as previous tests in 2009 and 2006 on which Moniz was briefed.

Executive Secretary Tóth briefs the visiting U.S. delegation.

When complete, the International Monitoring System will comprise 337 facilities that encompass the globe, ready to expose a nuclear explosion. The stations send data in near real-time to Vienna for analysis. That in turn is shared, along with all the raw data, with member countries. A defining feature of this billion dollar network is that the data are collectively gathered in some 90 countries, ensuring that the data cannot be doctored, Moniz was told.

For more on the United States and the CTBT: country profile

Netherland's Foreign Affairs Minister, Frans Timmermans (right), with Lassina Zerbo.

A tour of the radionuclide and noble gas test facilities on the roof of the CTBTO’s headquarters was given by Zerbo as part of the briefing to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Morocco, Saad-dine El Othmain, and his delegation. The Foreign Minister reiterated Morocco’s commitment to disarmament and to the CTBT.

For more on Morocco and the CTBT: country profile

The Moroccan delegation at a radionuclide test facility on the roof of the CTBTO’s headquarters.

Radionuclide monitoring is one of the four technologies the CTBTO uses to detect nuclear explosions. Around the clock, the global network collects miniscule particles and gases that can help scientists pinpoint if a blast was nuclear.
South Africa's ratification in 1999 carries the signature of Mandela, a passionate supporter of the Treaty.

During the visit by South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the Minister said that much had been achieved to build-up the monitoring system and the International Data Centre since Nelson Mandela signed the CTBT on the day it was adopted in 1996. The country’s ratification in 1999 carries the signature of Mandela, a passionate supporter of the Treaty.

For more on South Africa and the CTBT: country profile

South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (right), with Lassina Zerbo.

Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, also met Tóth earlier this week. He said that the Iraqi government had taken several steps to meet its obligations related to disarmament and non-proliferation, and called for the CTBTO to continue its specialized training and capacity development programmes.
For more on Iraq and the CTBT: country profile

Executive Secretary Tóth (lower left) meets with the visiting Iraqi delegation headed by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari (lower right).

At Monday’s briefing with Argentina's Minister of Foreign Relations, Héctor Timerman, and Zerbo, the Foreign Minister said he was looking forward to working with the CTBTO to advance the objectives of the Treaty. He said that Argentina supports the CTBTO and its entry into force, but acknowledged difficulties due to the lack of ratification by the remaining eight States.
For more on Argentina and the CTBT: country profile