1994-96: Monitoring and inspection

The Verification Regime

Peter Marshall, British Ministry of Defense scientist and a member of the GSE since its creation, acted as principal coordinator during the IMS negotiations had participated in the tripartite testing talks between the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union in 1977-1980.

As compared to other highly politicized aspects of the CTBT, negotiations over development of the verification mechanism progressed relatively smoothly. This was thanks in large part to the years of work already completed by the Group of Scientific Experts (GSE) on seismic monitoring.

British Ministry of Defense scientist, Peter Marshall, acted as principal coordinator during the IMS negotiations. Marshall had participated in the tripartite testing talks between the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union in 1977-1980 and had been a member of the GSE since its creation.

Issues that required resolution before the IMS could be agreed upon included: which technologies should be incorporated into the IMS; what costs (both monetary and political) would be involved; what role national intelligence or national technical means should play in the IMS; and how information collected and analyzed by the International Data Centre would be distributed to Signatory States.

Early on in the negotiations, it was clear that the verification system would include a network of seismological stations, though the number and placement of the stations was still up for debate. However, there were numerous views on which other technologies to incorporate into the system.

China and Pakistan insisted that the IMS include satellites as well as monitoring for electromagnetic pulses (EMP). The French also initially supported a satellite system, but acknowledged that the cost might be prohibitive. Russia supported space-based sensors and the maintenance of aircraft to monitor for radionuclide particulates emitted from nuclear explosions. At US$3000 million, many delegates were discouraged by the estimated cost of such a system.

Compromises and cooperation

Late into the negotiations, the Russian Federation announced that because their test site, Novaya Zemlya, would apparently prove easier to monitor than the sites of the other NWS, an additional four seismic stations and radionuclide particulate detectors at test sites used by the NWS needed to be included. The United States managed to resolve this issue by adding a seismic station at the Nevada test site. It was also agreed that a seismic station would be constructed in Kazakhstan, near the Chinese Lop Nor test site.

Compromises and cooperation cont.

The delegates decided to rule out satellite and electromagnetic pulses (EMP) monitoring due to financial restraints, and China withdrew its opposition to radionuclide monitoring. As consensus seemed near, Russia soon withdrew its proposal to use air-born “radionuclide laboratories” in the IMS. India’s withdrawal of its seismic stations from the IMS required some readjustment to the system, but the delegates finally agreed upon a system of remote monitoring stations employing four different technologies to verify the nuclear test ban.

The International Monitoring System (IMS) was designed to detect nuclear explosions anywhere around the globe of at least one-kiloton yield. The delegates clearly stated that the one-kiloton yield was not a threshold but a practical means of monitoring the test ban, which would provide a substantial deterrent to nuclear testing well under a one-kiloton yield while also proving cost effective.

The IMS was conceived to comprise a total of 321 monitoring stations: 120 seismic, 11 hydroacoustic, 60 infrasound and 80 radionuclide stations. Based in some 250 locations in some 90 countries around the world upon completion, operating costs were estimated at US$ 80 million a year.

Relying on four technologies, the IMS was conceived to comprise a total of 321 monitoring stations: 50 primary seismic stations and 120 auxiliary seismic stations; 11 hydroacoustic stations, 5 T-phase; sensors and 6 hydrophones; 60 infrasound; sensors; and 80 radionuclide stations. Based in some 250 locations around the world and operating in around 90 countries, the annual operating costs would be roughly US$80 million a year upon completion.

On-Site inspections

Delegates found it important to include provisions for on-site inspections in the CTBT. However, the debate over the nature of the inspections was fraught with political sensitivities. Some thought that challenge inspections could be abused by adversaries to gain critical foreign intelligence. Others were opposed to using National Technical Means (NTM) outside of the IMS.

In other words, there was disagreement over which evidence could be used to support a challenge inspection. Also at issue was the decision-making process and management of access to suspected nuclear explosion sites.

On-Site inspections cont.

There were two camps divided over the fundamental guidelines for approving an on-site inspection. This debate focused on whether a “green light” or “red light” process was appropriate for initiating an inspection. Those in favor of the green light approach wanted the inspection process to begin only with prior approval of  the Executive Council. Conversely, the red light approach would allow an on-site inspection to occur unless voted down by the Executive Council.

Israel and China were in favor of the green light approach with a two-thirds majority required to initiate an inspection, allowing for a period of consultation within the Executive Council. The United States favored a red light approach with a two-thirds majority vote followed, if necessary, by a second phase dependent on a green light simple majority vote. Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan and the Netherlands supported this proposal while Russia, France and Pakistan supported the Chinese and Israeli approach.

Negotiators eventually agreed to follow the green light approach, but the number of votes required was still unresolved.

It was decided that approval for an on-site inspection would require at least 30 of the 51 Executive Council members’ votes.

Some delegations proposed that the approval for an on-site inspection should only require one-third of the membership of the Executive Council. At the other end of the spectrum, some delegations wanted a three-quarters majority requirement for the authorization of an on-site inspection. It was eventually decided that at least thirty of the 51 members’ votes were needed to approve an on-site inspection.