New infrasound and seismic
test-bed and training facility unveiled

Vienna - 18 August 2014

A new ‘hands-on’ facility to train personnel and test equipment for monitoring nuclear explosions, has opened at the headquarters of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna, Austria. CTBTO Executive Secretary, Lassina Zerbo, inaugurated the new infrasound and seismic test facility at a gathering of scientists and diplomats on 18 August 2014, at the grounds of the United Nation’s Vienna complex.

CTBTO Head Lassina Zerbo opens the new seismic and infrasound testing facility

The facility helps us to make sure station operators are well trained. People can also come to see first-hand what our seismic and infrasound stations are like

Seismic and infrasound are known as ‘wave form’ technologies -- two of the tools that nuclear-test-ban monitors use to detect and locate nuclear blasts.  Infrasonic, low-frequency energy waves are produced from nuclear blasts in the atmosphere, while seismology detects energy waves from underground tests that travel through the Earth.

Jacques Pretorius is part of the CTBTO’s maintenance team that built the test facilities.  “The main advantages will be seen when we can ship and install equipment that we know is working properly,” he said. Natalie Brely, CTBTO Chief, Monitoring Facilities and Support section said “this new test facility will answer a strong call for optimising our resources.”

The CTBTO is building and will maintain some 250 waveform stations that are part of the International Monitoring System’s (IMS) global network of stations that monitor the planet for any sign of a nuclear explosion. The stations are so sensitive that they can detect events from halfway around the world. Seismic waves from the nuclear test announced by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in February 2013 were detected by stations in Brazil and in the Antarctic.

People gather to look at the underground seismic vault

We have stations scattered all over the world and trying to maintain these stations to a high data availability level of 98% is not an easy task. Before we ship equipment to any station in a very remote location, we need to be very sure that the equipment is functioning correctly.

The new facility will help the CTBTO’s maintenance team to do exactly that. It is equipped with two boreholes, a seismic pier and a wind noise reduction system, for testing sensors.  A fibre optic cable relays data from the test facility to a workstation inside the CTBTO’s headquarters. The new infrasound and seismic facility is not part of the IMS. Instead it provides a hands-on teaching tool for training station operators in a realistic environment. Plus it will help Jacques and the maintenance unit to ensure that equipment destined for stations as remote as Robinson Crusoe Island leaves in perfect working order. Watch more on this story. The new facility will also be part of future tours of the CTBTO’s facilities.