After Ten-Year "Hiatus" Entry Into Force
of Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty an
Achievable Goal

Entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is an achievable goal and it’s time to “walk the talk” and translate wide political support for it into concrete action, Tibor Tóth, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) has told a meeting of its member states.

After a ten-year “political hiatus” the CTBTO is entering “the most defining period of its existence,” he said at the opening of the thirty-third session of the CTBTO PrepCom, the decision- making body of the CTBTO,  in Vienna on Monday. The session was chaired by the Permanent Representative of Australia to the international organizations in Vienna, Ambassador Michael Potts and attended by 104 Member States.
There’s been a “paradigm shift” in support for the Treaty and its parent organization, since US President Obama set out the US agenda for non-proliferation and arms control in Prague in April, followed by his agreement with Russian President Medvedev in London to seek its entry into force. Tóth said.

“We are witnessing a lively debate in favour of the Treaty among politicians and civil society in several of the Annex 2 States,” Tóth said, referring to the nine remaining countries that need to ratify the Treaty so that it can enter into force. “There is a renewed hope that the Treaty in force is no longer a distant vision.”

The 250th facility in the CTBTO’s global International Monitoring System (IMS)
was certified, meeting all the stringent technical requirements of the CTBTO, as the meeting convened. The first stations were certified in the summer of 2000 and transmit seismic, infrasound, hydroacoustic, and radionuclide data to the International Data Centre (IDC) located at the CTBTO headquarters in Vienna. There will be 337 facilities in the IMS when complete.
“There has been a ten-fold increase in the size of the system since 2002,” Tóth said. He underlined that technological development is leading to higher detection capability.

The May 2009 nuclear test explosion announced by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, although regrettable, offered a validation test for the Treaty’s monitoring system, he said. “The system’s May 2009 performance, when compared against its performance in October 2006, was far improved,” Tóth said.

Verification Achievements

In the four monitoring technologies the CTBTO employs, Tóth reported the following.

Based on threshold monitoring, seismic events as small as magnitude 2.75 can now be detected in Europe and Asia. In the northern hemisphere, overall detection threshold is about 3.5. On average the global detection threshold is about four, roughly the equivalent of a one kiloton explosion.
Recent studies have shown that the infrasound network will be capable of detecting and locating atmospheric explosions down to a level of tens of tons of TNT where station coverage is favourable, as in the northern hemisphere.
The network monitors the oceans for any underwater explosion and is significantly more capable than it was ten years ago. In the year 2000 only one station was installed. Since then ten stations have been added and have  exceeded their anticipated performance by being able to locate underwater explosions down to tens of kilograms of TNT.
The overall quality of radionuclide particulate analysis has improved since 2002, and the radionuclide noble gas systems have no problems in meeting the IMS requirements for collection, measurement, acquisition, reporting and Minimum Detectable Concentration (MDC).

On-Site Inspection Development

The meeting agreed to further development of the On-Site Inspection regime based on review and assessment of lessons learned from the Integrated Field Exercise conducted in Kazakhstan in 2008 (IFE08). The exercise was the largest and most complex on-site inspection exercise conducted by the CTBTO since its inception in 1997 involving over 200 participants, 51 tons of equipment, operating for a month in the most remote area.

Support for the Treaty

Among member states addressing the PrepCom meeting, Ambassador Hu Xiaodi, the Permanent Representative of China to the international organizations in Vienna, said that the current international security environment is complex and fluid. “Nuclear proliferation remains a pressing issue and nuclear disarmament a long and arduous task. Under this circumstance, reaffirming the determination to end nuclear weapon test explosion and continuing support of the CTBT and its early entry into force carries meaningful weight to further promote nuclear disarmament and strengthen nuclear non-proliferation mechanism.”

Ambassador Glyn Davies, the Permanent Representative of the United States to the international organizations in Vienna, said that much work remains before successful completion of all the preparations necessary for the Treaty to enter into force. Some monitoring stations awaiting installation are in difficult locations where accessibility and terrain will be a challenge. “We are still coming to grips with the difficulties of maintaining a worldwide network of monitoring stations covering the full spectrum of the world’s climates – from arid deserts to rain forest; from tropical islands to frozen tundra.”  As well IDC analysts are still developing techniques to efficiently and accurately process the IMS data within short timelines, he said.

2010 Budget

The meeting agreed that the budget of the CTBTO for 2010 will be $115,579,600.

The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions.  The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is building a verification regime to monitor the planet for compliance with the Treaty. When complete, 337 facilities worldwide will monitor underground, the oceans and the atmosphere for any sign of a nuclear explosion.  To date, 250 facilities have been certified and send data to the International Data Centre at the CTBTO in Vienna, Austria.

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