Next Major Scientific CTBT Conference scheduled
for June 2013

Following the landmark conference ‘CTBT: Science and Technology 2011’ held in Vienna’s Hofburg Palace in June, the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is further consolidating its engagement with the global scientific community. The CTBTO is pleased to announce that the next conference in the series, ‘CTBT Science and Technology 2013’, or S&T2013, is planned to be held in Vienna from 17 to 21 June 2013.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is unique among arms control treaties in the sophistication and scale of its verification provisions. These include a global network of 337 monitoring facilities, the near real-time transmission of data via satellite to the organization’s headquarters in Vienna, the continuous processing and analysis of data at the CTBTO’s International Data Centre (IDC), and a framework for conducting on-site inspections following suspicious events. These components are all heavily reliant on science and technology across a broad front. The rapidly changing technological landscape in fields relevant to the CTBTO poses a particular challenge if the capabilities of verification, both inside the CTBTO and within its Member States, are to be maximized.

The Global Alarm System - click for animation.

The verification regime is well advanced, with the International Monitoring System 85% complete and the IDC operating continuously on a provisional basis. The two nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 2006 and 2009 were detected widely across the global network of stations immediately and precisely.
The range of scientific and technological fields utilized by the CTBTO includes seismology, hydroacoustics, infrasound, and many other geophysical methods (especially for on-site inspections). Equally important is radionuclide monitoring, both of particulates and noble gases. Atmospheric transport modelling (ATM), meteorology, data transmission methods, machine-learning and performance monitoring also have a crucial role to play. National technical means for CTBT verification, such as the different satellite-based methods of observation, extend this range considerably. Some components of the verification regime, such as on-site inspections and procedures to allow an in-depth analysis of potentially suspicious events by the CTBTO, will not be implemented until after the Treaty’s entry into force, but preparations for this crucial milestone require that all components be developed, refined, evaluated and tested in advance.

Location estimates for the 2006 (red) and 2009 (orange) DPRK nuclear tests.

The format of S&T2013 will build on that of the 2011 scientific conference (S&T2011), which welcomed 700 participants from 100 countries. The scientific programme will include both invited and contributed oral and poster presentations. The inclusion of ‘Innovation’ in the title is in recognition of the importance of technology foresight in the longer term planning of future improvements. Presentations on novel methods, equipment and facilities which may gain future importance, will also receive new emphasis. As in the past, the interface between scientific advancements and policy making will be explored in panel discussions, and a number of initiatives are planned to promote interest in the relevant research fields as applied to CTBT verification, and to foster the work of its younger scientists.

The S&T2011 Conference was held from 8 to10 June 2011 at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria.

The CTBTO is mindful of the many other existing and potential applications of the vast body of data being accumulated, for example in the mitigation of natural (tsunamis) or man-made (nuclear accidents) disasters, and in studying the complexity of the Earth’s environment. These also will be explored in depth at the conference.

Although the verification regime has already demonstrated many successes, a number of scientific and technical challenges remain if it is to achieve its full potential to detect and describe potentially relevant seismoacoustic and radionuclide signals in the oceans, in the atmosphere and underground. Other challenges relate to the regime’s progressive enhancement so as to keep abreast of new developments in science and technology. We look forward to the next in our series of scientific conferences as a further step to foster innovation and excellence in research relevant to the detection, location, description and identification of nuclear test explosions.

As background material, the CTBTO has published two reports covering the outcomes of the 2009 International Scientific Studies Conference (ISS09). These are ‘Science for Security’ and ‘ Possible Projects for the CTBTO arising from the 2009 International Scientific Studies Conference, 10-12 June 2009 ’. A report on the achievements of S&T2011 is currently being prepared. Online resources for the S&T2011 are also available in the form of posters, oral presentations, video archive material, and a conference brochure .