Read the SIPRI article here.

On 24 September, “the longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in arms control history” marked its 20th birthday, but has yet to come of age.

Tariq Rauf, Programme Director of SIPRI’s Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme, writes about the less-than-happy anniversary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty’s (CTBT) opening for signature. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled that this event is “not a celebration. It is a stark reminder of the work that remains.”

With the official ratification of the CTBT by Swaziland and Myanmar on 21 September, the number of States who have ratified the Treaty rose to 166, out of a total of 183 signatures. But near-universality is not enough for the CTBT to enter into force; for that the 44 States named in Annex 2 have to sign and ratify. Of these, 36 States have already signed and ratified, whereas 5 have not yet ratified: China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the USA; and a further 3: India, North Korea and Pakistan have never signed.


Entry-into-force of the CTBT

Though the US Senate rejected ratification of the CTBT in October 1999, President Obama tabled Resolution 2310 (2016) at the UN Security Council on 23 September of this year. The resolution called upon all States to refrain from conducting any nuclear-weapon test or any other nuclear explosion, urged all States, especially the 8 remaining Annex 2 States, to sign and/or ratify the Treaty “without further delay”, and recognised that “early entry into force of the Treaty will constitute an effective nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation measure that would contribute to the achievement of a world without nuclear weapons”. Particular praise was levelled at the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) and the “unprecedented reach” of its International Monitoring System (IMS).

Of the 15 members of the council, 14 voted in favour, with Egypt abstaining. This resolution, though non-legally binding, together with the Joint Statement on the CTBT made by the NPT nuclear-weapon States on 15 September demonstrate the that political will to bring the CTBT into force still exists after 20 years of campaigning, and constitute welcome steps towards this goal.

If the international community is serious about the CTBT, then then it must act. That political will must be felt. Those countries that have continued to block the entry into force of the Treaty need to hear from their friends and allies that the CTBT is and will continue to be a top priority in the efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and reduce the nuclear threat.

 The entry into force of the CTBT is not just the responsibility of any one group of states. The CTBT represents the culmination of a decades-long endeavour by the international community, both scientific and technical, but also diplomatic and political, to put an end to nuclear testing by anyone, anywhere, for all time. And the world is already reaping the benefits of the Treaty even though it has not yet entered into force.

– Dr Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation, April 2015

Recent tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, while unfortunate, demonstrate the enduring value of the CTBT verification platform offered by the IMS, and serve as a “true testament that multilateral verification is effective, reliable and necessary for moving toward a world free of nuclear weapons.” – Dr Zerbo


But the verification system, a $1 billion investiment, can be used for more than detecting nuclear tests. “The IMS is based on four complementary verification methodologies, utilizing the most modern technology available. Seismic, hydroacoustic and infrasound stations monitor the underground, the large oceans and the atmosphere respectively.” And as Tariq Rauf points out, these technologies have a wide variety of civilian and scientific uses; from picking up earthquakes and helping to issue tsunami warnings, to monitoring climate change, analysing meteor impacts, and tracking the migration of whales.

The CTBT’s 20th birthday is not a happy one, but it has not passed unnoticed or without progress. The UN Security Council resolution and Joint Statement by the NPT nuclear-weapon States bring us ever closer the entry into force, but as Tariq Rauf says, “The CTBT remains ‘unfinished business’ from the legacy of the Cold War. It is time that the business is completed of finally putting an end to all nuclear explosions in all environments for all time and to reap the civilian and scientific benefits for humanity of the IMS, which is the world’s most extensive international verification and monitoring system—by securing the entry-into-force of the CTBT without further delay.”

Let’s finish what we started.


Read more at: Atomic Reporters


In wake of the fifth announced nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on 9 September 2016, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) Lassina Zerbo gave a live interview with South Korean broadcaster Arirang News with details as they arrived.

From its headquarters in Vienna, the CTBTO monitors data from the International Monitoring System – a world-wide network of more than 300 stations designed to detect signs of possible nuclear tests. The initial seismic wave of the North Korean test was picked up by 25 of these stations, with many more contributing readings in the hours that followed to give a detailed scientific picture of the event.

Dr Zerbo outlined the role of the CTBTO in processing all of this information. “What we do; we combine and correlate seismic signals together with potential emission of gas or radioisotopes that would give an indication of the nuclear nature of the event.”

He went on to recall to mind the fact the North Korea’s nuclear programme is “a breach of the already universally accepted norm against nuclear testing”, and stressed the “urgency and necessity” to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force in order to enact a legally-binding and total cessation of nuclear explosions.

Dr Zerbo concluded by highlighting that positive actions taken by individual or groups of governments are always welcome, but no substitute for the binding framework the CTBT offers the international community.

September 15, 2016

The text of the following statement was issued jointly by the Governments of China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Begin Text:

Our commitment to nuclear disarmament extends to efforts to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force at an early date. We welcome that 183 States have signed the treaty and 166 States have ratified the Treaty, including several nuclear weapons States. We pledge to strive for the Treaty’s early ratification and prompt entry into force and urge all states that have not done so to sign and ratify the treaty. We take this opportunity to reaffirm our own moratoria on nuclear weapons test explosions or any other nuclear explosions pending the CTBT’s entry into force, as such moratoria are an example of responsible international behavior that contributes to international peace and stability, while stressing that such moratoria do not have the same permanent legally binding effect as entry into force. We call on other states to do likewise, recognizing that a nuclear-weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion would defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT.

The CTBT constrains the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons and thereby provides an effective disarmament and nonproliferation measure. We further note that our nuclear stockpile maintenance and stewardship programs are consistent with NPT and CTBT objectives. We emphasize the very substantial efforts made in achieving the cessation of the nuclear arms race as called for in Article VI of the NPT and affirm our intention never to engage in such an arms race.

We are working closely with the Preparatory Commission for the CTBT Organization in Vienna on the development of the Treaty’s verification regime, including its International Monitoring System, International Data Centre, and On-Site Inspection, while recognizing the high effectiveness and reliability of this regime to date, the Preparatory Commission is currently operating the IMS and IDC, and their respective means of communication, on a testing and provisional basis. We continue to contribute extensively to the development of the Treaty’s on-site inspection element, supplying personnel, equipment, and research. This has been in addition to our long standing efforts to reinforce the organization’s detection capability through contributions in-kind, equipment transfers, and expert participation in Working Groups. We also call for all signatories to support efforts to complete the necessary preparation for the effective implementation of the CTBT’s verification regime, on its entry into force.

End text.

Link to Statement (US Department of State)

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