National Data Centre Capacity Building

A group of 25 experts, mainly from Africa and some from and Middle Eastern countries, gathered for a training course from 7 to 22 May 2012 at the headquarters of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna.

The experts work at National Data Centres (NDC) in their respective home countries. NDCs are the national technical organizations competent to advise their governments on the verification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). They play an important role in the CTBT’s verification architecture (see animation):

1.    The data collected by the over 300 stations of the International Monitoring System (IMS) are sent to the CTBTO in Vienna in real time.

2.    The data are analysed, first automatically and then by analysts, at the International Data Centre (IDC).

3.    The raw data and the analysis results are then distributed to the NDCs for review and consideration.

4.    On this basis, Member States can request that an on-site inspection is launched to fully clarify the event. Such on-site inspections will, however, only be possible once the CTBT has entered into force.

A nuclear explosion is trying to hide in the seismograms on these computer screens – CTBTO’s Misrak Fisseha (standing) explains how to find it.

Paulina Ekua Amponsah from Ghana (sitting) and Misrak Fisseha.

It’s not only coming from one source, it’s coming from dozens of countries. This type of information can’t be challenged since it’s an all inclusive data gathering, all inclusive data processing and all inclusive data distribution.

The course was mainly funded through a voluntary contribution by the European Union (EU CTBTO Joint Action III, which amounted to 2.3 million EUR; see also 2010 CTBTO press release on EU Joint Action IV).

Through the course, the participants were able to fully understand the roles of NDCs in the verification regime and received the necessary know how to build up or improve the capabilities of their respective NDCs. A substantial part of the course was dedicated to hands-on training on accessing and using IMS data and IDC analyses, including spending a full day with the CTBTO’s data analysts.

Fred Tugume from Uganda (left) receives his course certificate from Remmy Phiri. In the back: CTBTO colleagues Martin Kalinowski (left) and John Coyne..”

Thanks to the CTBTO who gave me the chance to participate in this workshop, I’ll go home with newly acquired knowledge and skills such as being able to access the IDC secure website. Now I can train my colleagues at the NDC when I get back.

Locating seismic events more accurately using regional observations

Participants were also informed of the Regional Seismic Travel Time project; the first time this element has been featured in an NDC training course. The travel time of a seismic wave can differ significantly depending on regional characteristics of the Earth’s crust. Reducing the effects of such regional characteristics may be based on seismic events whose location, time and magnitude are well known (so-called ground truth events). Creating better models for computing regional travel times may help improve our ability to detect and locate seismic events.

CTBTO’s Remmy Phiri (standing) was clearly satisfied with the participants’ performance.

It’s been a very interesting programme and has added to my knowledge in assessing IDC products and data. I’ll be returning to Ghana very confident!

Participants were encouraged to take part in the upcoming NDC preparedness exercise. Through these exercises, NDCs from all parts of the world jointly enhance their capability to detect nuclear explosions, based on IMS data, using a natural event in a pre-determined area and timeframe. These exercises, which make use of all four IMS technologies (seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound and radionuclide monitoring), are held annually at the initiative and under the guidance of the German NDC located in Hannover. See here for information on a previous NDC exercise.

Russol Thaer Abdulrahman Al-Dulaimi from Iraq: “This workshop has surpassed my expectations and greatly developed my capabilities! Working closely with the IDC analysts has been an invaluable experience.”