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This report reviews and updates the National Research Council report, Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Table of contents

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: Technical Issues for the United States

A4: The treaty will enter into force once 44 specified countries that have nuclear power reactors have ratified it. Many believe that once the United States ratifies the treaty a number of others will follow.

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More than states have signed, and have ratified the treaty, including all those of the European Union and Russia. A5: Although the U. Senate did not ratify the treaty when it was put to a vote in , President Barack Obama recently stated that he would aggressively pursue ratification of the CTBT.

The Department of State, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and the National Academy of Sciences have sponsored a project to review and update a report on technical issues related to the treaty. A recently concluded international scientific study found that the capabilities of the verification system are better than expected by those who designed it. Commissioners opposing the treaty believe that while the United States would not test a device that produces a nuclear yield, other countries with different interpretations of the treaty could conduct tests with hundreds of tons of nuclear yield, allowing them to develop or advance nuclear capabilities.

The five nuclear-weapon states P5 agreed to a zero yield treaty during the negotiations on the treaty, and such large tests would be detected by the IMS. However, critics believe that Russia and possibly China are carrying out low-yield tests; they believe that the United States could fall behind in its capability to deter tactical threats against allies. They believe that a zero-yield ban is unverifiable and that countries could conduct tests without being detected. They also argue that the provisions for on-site inspection are too restrictive and that the absence of testing does not lead to nonproliferation.

Proponents of the treaty believe it will improve U. They believe that without a treaty other potential adversaries could develop and test new or enhanced weapons without limitations. Thus, nuclear programs of other countries could present a greater threat to the United States without a CTBT than with one, as potential violators could only obtain minimal value from a clandestine undetected test. In addition, the provision of on-site inspections would clarify suspicious events.

Advocates believe that the United States obtains enough information from past testing and the Stockpile Stewardship Program which includes experimental, diagnostic, and computation tools to maintain a reliable and secure nuclear weapons stockpile without further testing. The report described the role of nuclear weapons in U. Further, treaty supporters believe that a strong Stockpile Stewardship Program is essential and is able to maintain the safety and reliability of the warheads under a CTBT. If the United States found that it needed to test in order to maintain its warhead safety and reliability, it could withdraw from the treaty.

However, the IMS complements the national monitoring capabilities with additional information, and the treaty creates a norm that would be difficult to break. Critical Questions is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies CSIS , a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. India has conducted no tests since May In a September address to the U. The collapse of his government in April delayed Indian consideration of the treaty until after elections held in September. Vajpayee's party won, and the government reaffirmed that it would maintain a moratorium while trying to build a consensus on the CTBT.

However, Senator Spector, who visited India and Pakistan in January , stated, "In my discussions with officials, it became evident that securing compliance with the CTBT by these two nations without U. Pakistan: Pakistan announced on May 28, , that it had conducted five nuclear tests, and announced a sixth on May Reports placed the yields of the smallest devices between zero and a few kilotons, and between two and 45 kilotons for the largest.

The number of tests is uncertain; seismic evidence points clearly to only two tests on May 28, though signals of smaller simultaneous tests might have been lost in the signals of larger tests. Pakistan made no claims of testing fusion devices. By all accounts, Pakistan's weapons program relies extensively on foreign, especially Chinese, technology.

Pakistan claimed that it tested "ready-to-fire warheads," not experimental devices, and included a warhead for the Ghauri, a missile with a range of miles, and low-yield tactical weapons. It appears that Pakistan will conduct no further tests. In an address to the U. The United States has been lifting various sanctions on India and Pakistan, such as on agricultural, economic, and military-assistance programs.


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On November 8, , Abdul Sattar, the foreign minister of the military government that took power in October , said that his nation would not sign the CTBT unless economic sanctions were lifted, but that "[w]e will not be the first to conduct further nuclear tests. A CIA report of late stated that during talks in April , "North Korea privately threatened to 'transfer' or 'demonstrate' its nuclear weapons.

Many press reports have raised the possibility that that nation, which has not signed the CTBT, might conduct a nuclear test, but as of June no such test had been reported. On May 15, the United States warned that it and other nations would take punitive action if North Korea conducted a nuclear test. The Conference on Disarmament, or CD, calls itself "the sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community. It operates by consensus; each member state can block a decision. That treaty entered into force in It divided the world into nuclear "haves" -- the United States, Soviet Union, Britain, France, and China, the five declared nuclear powers, which are also the permanent five "P5" members of the U.

Security Council -- and nuclear "have-nots. Nonnuclear weapon states saw attainment of a CTBT as the touchstone of good faith on these matters. The NPT provided for reviews every five years; a review in , 25 years after it entered into force, would determine whether to extend the treaty indefinitely or for one or more fixed periods. Extension was accompanied by certain non-binding measures, including a Decision on Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non- Proliferation and Disarmament that set forth goals on universality of the NPT, nuclear weapon free zones, etc.

They saw progress on winding down the arms race as inadequate. They assailed the NPT as discriminatory because it divides the world into nuclear and nonnuclear states, and argued for a regime in which no nation has nuclear weapons. The CTBT, in their view, symbolized this regime because, unlike the NPT, the P5 would give up something tangible, the ability to develop new sophisticated warheads.

Other nonnuclear states felt that the NPT was in the interests of all but would-be proliferators, that anything less than indefinite extension would undermine the security of most nations, and that the NPT was too important to put at risk as a means of pressuring the P5 for a CTBT. The CD reached a draft treaty in August India argued that the CTBT "should be securely anchored in the global disarmament context and be linked through treaty language to the elimination of all nuclear weapons in a time-bound framework.

The draft treaty did not meet these conditions, which the nuclear weapon states rejected, so India vetoed it at the CD on August 20, barring it from going to the U.

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General Assembly as a CD document. As an alternate way to open the treaty for signing, Australia on August 23 asked the General Assembly to consider a resolution to adopt the draft CTBT text and for the Secretary-General to open it for signing so it could be adopted by a simple majority, or by the two-thirds majority that India sought, avoiding the need for consensus.

A potential pitfall was that the resolution the treaty text was subject to amendment, yet the nuclear weapon states viewed amendments as unacceptable. India did not raise obstacles to the vote, which was held September 10, with nations in favor, 3 against India, Bhutan, and Libya , 5 abstentions, and 19 not voting. However, some contentious issues were ironed out, some were avoided, and concessions were made. For example, a joint statement by the P5 to the conference on May 1 said, "No effort should be spared to make sure that the CTBT is a universal and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty and to secure its earliest entry into force.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO): Official Statement

The document included a step Nuclear Disarmament Plan of Action, the first two elements of which were, "The importance and urgency of signatures and ratifications According to a press report, the committee called for more nations to ratify the CTBT and issued a report that concluded the treaty must enter into force as soon as possible. The balance of this section summarizes key CTBT provisions.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

Scope Article I : The heart of the treaty is the obligation "not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion. Three groups are under this Organization. The Conference of States Parties, composed of a representative from each member state, shall meet in annual and special sessions to consider and decide issues within the scope of the treaty and oversee the work of the other groups.

An Executive Council with 51 member States shall, among other things, take action on requests for on-site inspection, and may request a special session of the Conference. A Technical Secretariat shall carry out verification functions, including operating an International Data Center, processing and reporting on data from an International Monitoring System, and receiving and processing requests for on-site inspections. Verification Article IV : The treaty establishes a verification regime. It provides for collection and dissemination of information, permits States Party to use national technical means of verification, and specifies verification responsibilities of the Technical Secretariat.

It establishes an International Monitoring System IMS with stations in 90 countries, provides for consultation on "possible non-compliance," and provides for on-site inspections. As of November , site surveys had been completed. As of December 31, , stations had been certified, and had been completed or fully upgraded to specifications.

Review of the Treaty Article VIII : The treaty provides for a conference ten years after entry into force unless a majority of States Party decide not to hold such a conference to review the treaty's operation and effectiveness. Further review conferences may be held at subsequent intervals of ten years or less. Entry into force Article XIV : The treaty shall enter into force days after 44 states named in Annex 2 have deposited instruments of ratification, but not less than two years after the treaty is opened for signature.

If the treaty has not entered into force three years after being opened for signature, and if a majority of states that have deposited instruments of ratification so desire, a conference of these states shall be held to decide how to accelerate ratification. Unless otherwise decided, subsequent conferences of this type shall be held annually until entry into force occurs.

The 44 states are the ones with nuclear reactors that participated in the work of the CD's session and were CD members as of June 18, This formulation includes nuclear-capable states and nuclear threshold states in particular Israel, which, along with other States, joined the CD on June 17, , and excludes Yugoslavia. Of the 44, three states -- India, North Korea, and Pakistan -- had not signed the treaty and 11 had not ratified it as of March Annex 1 to the Protocol lists International Monitoring System facilities: seismic stations, radionuclide stations and laboratories, hydroacoustic stations, and infrasound stations.

Annex 2 provides a list of variables that, among others, may be used in analyzing data from these stations to screen for possible explosions. The PrepCom states that its main task "is to establish the global verification regime foreseen in the Treaty so that it will be operational by the time the Treaty enters into force. There have been 23 such meetings, the next is scheduled for June , CTBTO also holds training sessions, workshops, etc.