Largest-ever CTBT on-site inspection exercise concludes successfully
Vienna, 9 December 2014
The most sophisticated on-site inspection exercise conducted to date by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) formally concludes this week. The Integrated Field Exercise IFE14 in Jordan started on 3 November and involved four years of preparation, 150 tonnes of specialized equipment and over 200 international experts.
CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo said: “Through this exercise, we have shown the world that it is absolutely hopeless to try to hide a nuclear explosion from us. We’ve now mastered all components of the verification regime, and brought our on-site inspection capabilities to the same high level as the other two components, the 90% complete network of monitoring stations and the International Data Centre.”
During the five-week long exercise, the inspection team searched an inspection area of nearly 1,000 square kilometres using 15 of the 17 techniques permissible under the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Some of these state-of-the-art techniques were used for the first time in an on-site inspection context, including equipment to detect traces of relevant radioactive noble gases on and beneath the ground as well as from the air. Other techniques scanned the ground in frequencies invisible to the human eye. Key pieces of equipment were provided by CTBTO Member States as voluntary and in-kind contributions.
Throughout the inspection, the team narrowed down the regions of interest to one limited area where relevant features including traces of relevant radionuclides were successfully found. Inspection team leader Gregor Malich said: “We started off with the 1,000 square kilometres specified in the inspection request, using all available information provided. We also used satellite imagery and archive information for planning the initial inspection activities. Once in the field, the team conducted overflights, put out a seismic network and undertook wide area ground-based visual observation as well as radiation measurements. This helped us narrow down the areas of interest to more than 20 polygons which we then inspected in more detail. In the end, we detected radionuclides relevant for the on-site inspection and indicative of a nuclear explosion. At this location, the team also applied geophysical methods to find signatures (tell-tale signs) consistent with a recent underground nuclear explosion.”
The exercise also tested the CTBTO’s elaborate logistical system, which features specially developed airfreight-compatible containers that allow for field equipment, sensors or generators to be used straight from the containers. Thanks to a strict safety and security regime, not a single health or security incident occurred throughout the exercise.
“Grateful for Jordan’s outstanding cooperation and hospitality”
The CTBTO’s Executive Secretary said that “Jordan was chosen by CTBTO Member States for its generosity in supporting the exercise and because of the special geological features of the Dead Sea region. By hosting IFE14, Jordan is reconfirming its role as an anchor of peace and stability in the region. I am inspired by the fact that His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan has generously placed the exercise under his royal patronage and grateful for the outstanding cooperation and hospitality from all branches of the Jordanian government.”
Over the coming year, the CTBTO and its Member States will analyse the lessons learnt from IFE14 and identify possible gaps. In a preliminary assessment, the head of the evaluation team, John Walker said: “It’s very clear that on its own terms, the exercise has been successful, and has also clearly shown improvements on IFE08 [the previous Integrated Field Exercise held in Kazakhstan in 2008] as well as the three build up exercises that we’ve run over the two preceding years before we ran this one.”
Free video and image material
Broadcast quality video from the IFE14 exercise in Jordan is available, free of rights, for broadcasters to download.
View the video.
Download the high-res footage.
View the shot-sheet (English and Arabic).
See Fieldblog for a series of video blogs from the exercise and day-to-day updates.
Images available free of rights on the CTBTO FlickR page.
Real on-site inspections only after CTBT entry into force
On-site inspections can only be conducted after the CTBT has entered into force. For this to happen, the CTBT's stringent entry-into-force formula prescribes that 44 particular States need to ratify the Treaty. To date, 36 have done so, while eight remain (map): China, Egypt, India, Israel, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States. On a global scale, 183 countries have signed the Treaty, of which 163 have also ratified.
Arabic version here.