Banning nuclear explosions protects
the environment Page 2

When building Infrasound station IS36 in an environmentally protected area on New Zealand’s Chatham Island, construction work was carried out without heavy machinery.

Environmentally friendly station-building

The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, the CTBTO, builds the tools that will monitor compliance with the ban on nuclear testing once the Treaty enters into force. A globe spanning network of over 300 monitoring stations is part of the global verification regime along with an international data centre and on-site inspections to detect nuclear explosions anywhere on the planet.

The environmental impact has been one of the considerations in building the stations. Some are located in national parks or in environmentally protected areas. Special procedures have to be followed when building and running these stations. In such cases, CTBTO has involved national environmental institutions in order to respect and implement relevant regulations.

Some array elements of infrasound station IS36 on New Zealand’s Chatham Island have bent pipe to protect trees.

Wheel barrows and bent pipes

For example, when installing infrasound station IS36 within a protected conservation reserve on the New Zealand Chatham Island, special care was taken to prevent any damage to the forest. Wheel barrows replaced heavy machinery during the installation and some pipes of the infrasound arrays were bent around trees.

Also in the southern hemisphere, at infrasound station IS02 at the southernmost tip of Argentina, the station’s communication setup had to be adjusted to respond to national requirements for environmentally protected areas. Instead of opting for radio communication with a number of radio towers, much less intrusive fiber optic cables were installed.

But even when stations are not built in national parks or protected areas, special care is consistently taken to minimize the potential impact on the environment. Many monitoring stations are located in isolated areas and need an independent fuel supply to run them. At the radionuclide station RN39 on the island Kiritimati (Christmas Island) in the Pacific Island State of Kiribati, special diesel tanks were designed to prevent the possibility of leaks that could contaminate the shallow water table on the island.

Special precaution was taken when installing a diesel tank on Christmas Island, Chile, to prevent contaminating leaks.

Reduction efforts

The CTBTO recognizes that climate change threatens the planet and is committed to doing its share to move towards the goal of a climate-neutral UN. Along with its sister international organizations at the Vienna International Centre, the CTBTO has undertaken initiatives to reduce energy consumption, curtail air travel, and encourage use of mass transit:” Tibor Tóth, Executive Secretary of the CTBTO.

Since June 2007, the CTBTO conducts all job interviews via video-conference, thereby saving more than 200 air trips over the past two years. Office equipment has been replaced with eco-friendly equipment. Copiers have been adjusted to produce double-sided copies by default.

The CTBTO continues to explore additional ways of conducting its work in as sustainable a manner as possible. Examples of good practices in other UN and international organizations are examined to develop similar policies.

Use of data and technologies for civil and scientific benefits

Monitoring data and technologies of the CTBT verification regime have a great potential to be applied in the civil and scientific realms. Many of these opportunities have an environmental benefit, such as: the use of data for the research of the oceans and their biodiversity; climate change research; meteorology and studies of the atmosphere; research of the break-up of ice-shelves and the creation of icebergs.

The CTBTO is sharing its data with tsunami warning centres in the Indo-Pacific region to help protect the public against the dangers from tsunamis. Other possible uses of its technologies remain untapped. Atmospheric transport modeling, used to backtrack or forecast the movement of radioactive substances, can contribute to civil aviation safety by assisting in the monitoring of volcanic ash plumes, a hazard that  recently halted European air traffic.