SnT2015 kicks off

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) Science and Technology 2015 Conference (SnT2015) kicked off today at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria. Over 1,000 participants registered – including scientists from over 70 countries – for the fifth in a series of highly successful multidisciplinary conferences organized by the CTBTO. By exchanging knowledge and sharing advances in monitoring and verification technologies of relevance to the CTBT, scientists will help ensure that the Treaty’s global verification regime remains at the forefront of scientific and technical innovation. 

“SnT2015 is poised to break all records of its predecessors. With over 550 abstracts and poster presentations, it is the largest such conference to date,” said CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo during the opening session. Zerbo went on to outline some of the important developments that have originated from the conference series and are being integrated into the CTBTO’s procedures. They include:
  • Machine learning methods to improve automatic data processing: Network Processing Vertically Integrated Seismic Analysis, (NET-VISA);
  • Self-calibrating infrasound sensors and infrasound network performance monitoring tools;
  • High resolution beta-gamma coincidence spectrometry.
Read CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo's statement [ PDF ]
You will have heard me say again and again that I am passionate about this organization. Today I am not only passionate but very happy to see all of you who share this passion: a passion for science in the service of peace. It gives me hope for the future of our children that the best and brightest scientists of our time congregate to perfect the detection of the bomb instead of working to perfect the bomb itself.

Representing the host country, Austria, Michael Linhart, Secretary-General for Foreign Affairs of the Austrian Federal Ministry, highlighted the fact that: “The verification regime is ready. The CTBT should be the most unequivocal success. It is very disappointing that it has not been brought into legal effect.” Addressing participants, Linhart said: “You represent science for security – or science for human security,” see Austrian government press release
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the conference through a video message, in which he stressed that "Ensuring that the monitoring system remains reliable and sustainable is vital, since it also contributes to scientific research on other global challenges, such as climate change."
With a strong verification regime and its cutting edge technology, there is no excuse for further delaying the CTBT’s entry into force.

Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology, described the CTBT as “a critical multilateral agreement” and pledged South Africa’s support for the Treaty, saying “I like to believe that Africa’s drive for innovation will change the world beyond Africa and will also impact the work of the CTBTO.” Emphasizing the importance of developing intellectual capacities and increasing the number of talented scientists in Africa, Pandor advised participants that “the presence of women in science and technology is absolutely imperative.”

In his keynote address , Ahmet Üzümcü,  Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said that “The CTBTO’s International Monitoring System is widely regarded as a marvel of modern science.” Üzümcü drew a number of parallels between the CTBTO and the OPCW, including the challenges of achieving universality. Highlighting the importance of the OPCW and the CTBTO being at the vanguard of the latest advances in science and technology, he explained that:"The credibility of our verification regimes relies on closely informed partnerships with science. "
The resources that Member States continue to invest in our system secure an immense return on investment. The CTBT’s monitoring facilities, at 90% completion, are already at the service of the international community to support national security needs, foster regional stability and re-enforce non-discriminatory and participatory verification. An even more tangible return on our Member States´ investment: the daily monitoring of an active and evolving Earth, and making the data collected freely available to science to improve understanding on climate change, tsunami warning, disaster mitigation, as well as a wide range of different civil applications.

“The bottom line is that ... [the CTBT] is now one of the world’s most broadly supported arms-control treaties...The CTBT has passed every test it has ever been given and delivered a working global verification system with more than 300 stations in 89 countries that monitor for signs of nuclear tests every minute of the day,” said Des Browne, former UK Secretary of Defence and Vice-Chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, in his statement [PDF] . Calling the verification regime a robust system that has exceeded every expectation, Browne urged those States that have not yet ratified to do so, explaining that “Joining the CTBT doesn’t make countries more vulnerable; it enhances their security,”
Those of us from countries that have signed and ratified have a special obligation and responsibility to work to bring the Treaty into force. If we don't, what does it say about our ability in the future to enter into negotiations of any kind in good faith? As scientists, you can help us make the arguments to move forward.

“We live in a world in which science and policy are inextricably linked,“ said Frank Klotz, Under-Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator, USA.  Outlining the NNSA’s strong support for the work of the CTBTO, Klotz explained that one of the most important areas of collaboration involves developing tools and capabilities for the CTBTO to conduct an on-site inspection. 

Robin Grimes, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK, highlighted the science-based security value of the CTBT even before entry into force, describing the Treaty as “an incredible resource”.  Grimes stated the CTBT has proven extremely valuable that its entry into force is in the UK’s interests.   Flagging the importance of the conference, he informed participants that “The CTBTO must continue to develop scientifically in order to remain relevant.”

The conference will continue until 25 June.  On Friday 26 June the CTBT Academic Forum will take place at the Hofburg Palace. The Academic Forum is part of the CTBTO's integrated capacity building programme, aimed at inspiring the next generation of experts in all aspects of the CTBT.