The CTBTO has regularly carried out exercises and field experiments to assess the effectiveness of the OSI regime, to make sure that it will be fully operational once the Treaty enters into force. The focus has been on one or more elements of an on-site inspection, testing and taking stock of already developed methods and procedures as well as different kinds of equipment for their on-site inspection suitability.

The CTBTO regularly carries out exercises and field
experiments to assess the effectiveness of the OSI regime.

Major exercises include:


The Integrated Field Exercise IFE14 in Jordan

IFE14 was an Integrated Field Exercise to simulate a near-full on-site inspection (OSI) in Jordan in late 2014. During IFE14 the CTBTO’s inspection team conducted a meticulous search of a clearly defined inspection area for tell-tale signs of a nuclear explosion in response to a technically realistic and stimulating but fictional scenario.


Build-Up Exercises in 2012 and 2013

In preparation for IFE14, the CTBTO’s OSI Division has conducted a series of build-up exercises to test each phase of an OSI within realistic time frames.

The first exercise focused on the launch phase and took place in April 2012. The second exercised the pre- and post-inspection phases and took place in September 2012. In May/June 2013, the CTBTO conducted Build-Up Exercise III, which practiced the inspection phase in Hungary.


2010 Exercise in Jordan

The Directed Exercise 2010 in Jordan was devoted to testing ground-based visual observation techniques and communications infrastructure. Watch the video about the exercise.


2009 Noble Gas Field Operations Test

The field test, held near Stupava in Slovakia, explored the ability to detect significant levels of radioactive noble gases in the soil overlying a suspected underground test site. Read a feature about the field test.


The Integrated Field Exercise IFE08

The Integrated Field Exercise IFE08 was conducted in September 2008 on the former Soviet nuclear testing ground Semipalatinsk, on today's Kazakhstan. It was the first exercise to comprehensively test all aspects of an on-site inspection. See our special report here.

"IFE08, its scope and dimension, was unprecedented. This was, after all, the inspectors’ first opportunity to practice all of the elements of an inspection together, as one continuous and integrated process."

Testing procedures for radiation measurements: Directed exercise, Ukraine, 2007

The exercise in the Ukraine focused on procedures for radioactivity measurements and environmental sampling, both essential for an on-site inspection. Due to the nuclear reactor accident in Ukraine in 1986, the Chernobyl exclusion zone that was established by the authorities after the disaster provided a good simulation area for this exercise.

An exercise in the Chernobyl exclusion zone in Ukraine
in 2007 looked at how to best apply methods, procedures
and operational requirements of radiation measurement

The exercise was less about testing the actual techniques than about how to best apply them in carrying out effective on-site inspections. Participating experts looked at methods, procedures and operational requirements in the application of these specific techniques.


Streamlining logistics:
Directed exercise, Croatia, 2006

The exercise in Croatia looked at on-site inspections as a major logistical undertaking. Within just a few days, a team of inspectors with their equipment needs to be moved to a location which may be entirely devoid of infrastructure.  Considering that the inspection team has to be prepared to establish operations under challenging conditions within only a few days, logistics and infrastructure are essential when ensuring a speedy start for an inspection.

Since an on-site inspection is a large logistical endeavour,
an exercise in Croatia in 2006 tested relevant procedures
of logistics and infrastructure.

In Croatia, experts tested the operational procedures for the set-up of a base of operations which serves as the main hub during an on-site inspection. All on-site inspection activities are planned and managed from this central point. Hence, lessons learned from this exercise are of immense importance for any future exercise and for the continuing preparation of the on-site inspection regime.


Testing overflights and radiation monitoring: Directed exercise, Kazakhstan, 2005

Kazakhstan served again as the location for an OSI exercise in 2005. This exercise examined the on-site inspection techniques of aerial overflights, visual observation, radiation survey and environmental sampling. A facility for contamination monitoring and decontamination was also set up. In addition, activities related to the set-up of a base of operations were tested, including the use of a field information management system for inspection planning and data analysis, as well as communications and operations control.


Refining seismic aftershock monitoring:
Directed exercise, Slovakia, 2004

One of the main results from the 2002 OSI field experiment in Kazakhstan was the perceived need to take a fresh look at the set-up for seismic monitoring. It was found that some adjustments to the methodology, including existing equipment and software, were needed to adequately monitor seismic aftershocks following a small nuclear explosion.

The exercise in Slovakia took these findings into account and showed that the seismic network for monitoring aftershocks needed to be denser than initially anticipated. Issues relating to seismic data processing and software development were also addressed.

Based on findings from an exercise in Kazakhstan in 2002,
an exercise in Slovakia in 2004 showed that a denser
network was needed to monitor seismic aftershocks.

Inspection techniques in synergy: Field experiment, Kazakhstan, 2002

Three years after the first field experiment, Kazakhstan again hosted an OSI field experiment in late 2002. A team of 27 surrogate inspectors spent two weeks in a remote part of the country to simulate and test on-site inspection activities in the initial period.

Realistic conditions were provided by simulating an underground nuclear explosion using 12.5 tons of chemical explosives. For the first time, the experiment tested the synergy between different inspection techniques, including visual observation from the ground and from the air, seismic aftershock monitoring, radiation monitoring and environmental sampling.

A large chemical explosion, instigated in Kazakhstan in
2002, simulated an underground nuclear explosion.
A team of 27 surrogate inspectors could test the synergy
of several inspection techniques.

Ad-hoc OSI experiment: Austrian earthquake 2000

On 11 July 2000, two earthquakes of approximate magnitudes 4 on the Richter scale shook Austria. The epicenter was located near the town of Ebreichsdorf, about 30 km south of Vienna. Earthquakes of this magnitude are a rare occurrence in central Europe. For scientists at the CTBTO, this was a unique opportunity to test some of their procedures and relevant equipment for aftershock measurements.

Two earthquakes in Austria in 2000 provided the opportunity
to carry out some tests of seismic aftershock measuring

On the day following the earthquakes, CTBTO scientists went to the epicentre of the earthquake to carry out several tests.  The benefits were manifold.  The team tested the operation of their Seismic Aftershock Monitoring System, or SAMS, by deploying several seismic field stations.  They tested the functional capabilities of the equipment in detecting and locating aftershocks. As this was in early days of the CTBTO’s existence, the team also gained experience with operational aspects relating to the deployment of staff and equipment in the field.


First field experiment: Kazakhstan, 1999

The first on-site inspection experiment took place at the former Soviet nuclear test site of Semipalatinsk in today’s Kazakhstan. The experiment was based on the explosion of a 100 ton conventional explosive device in an underground tunnel.

The first on-site inspection experiment took place in
Kazakhstan in 1999 and tested various inspection
procedures and a number of inspection techniques.

Apart from applying the relevant inspection techniques, the inspection team also tested various procedures, including the development of an inspection mandate, the sending of an inspection note to the surrogate inspected State Party (which in this case was Kazakhstan), the establishment of an inspection plan, the shipment of equipment, the deployment of the inspection team and the application of prescribed safety measures. 

A 12-member inspection team simulated realistic conditions, including the lack of any prior detailed information about the explosion. Based on data received from the IMS and relevant analysis carried out by the IDC, the team used mainly visual observation and seismic techniques to detect and locate the site of explosion.


Next Chapter: Training