Posted by: ctbtonewsroom | July 14, 2017

Banning nuclear testing

rizwanBy Rizwan Asghar,
CTBTO Youth Group member

Reproduced from The News, originally published on 14 July 2017.



“The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches us this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution, as well.” – Barack Obama

Former US President Barack Obama was right in pointing out that we need to bring our moral progress up to speed with the ongoing scientific revolution. Otherwise, we are doomed to failure. Over the past few decades, mankind has made great progress in the fields of science and technology. We have come a long way since the stone axe. However, this marvellous scientific progress has also given us the ability to blow up our planet many times over in a matter of a few hours.

The human race is hurtling towards nuclear Armageddon. But most of us are awfully unwary of it. Nowhere could this be clearer than our complacent attitude towards the development and use of nuclear weapons.

The efforts to achieve an agreement to ban nuclear tests are nearly as old as nuclear weapons themselves. Shortly after the end of World War II in 1945, the nuclear arms race between the former Soviet Union and the US accelerated the likelihood of proliferation in many other parts of the world. The unrestrained testing of nuclear weapons throughout much of the cold war period helped many countries build a more advanced strategic nuclear weapons force, undermining global security and stability.

In 1954, former Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru proposed a global ban on nuclear testing as a step toward discouraging further proliferation of nuclear technologies. However, efforts to prohibit nuclear testing remained unrewarded due to the bipolar conflict between two superpowers. In 1962, former US president Kennedy made another effort to initiate negotiations with the then Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev on a global nuclear test ban. But an agreement could not be reached on the type and number of on-site inspections.

Article 1 of the CTBT bans “all nuclear weapon test explosions or other nuclear explosions”. This includes the prohibition of all supercritical hydro-nuclear tests with the ability to produce self-sustaining fission chain reaction. Once the treaty comes into force, it will become difficult for nuclear states to go ahead with the qualitative modernisation of nuclear weapons. In addition, a verifiable ban would make the chances of non-nuclear weapons states developing nuclear capability next to impossible.

According to a study conducted by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 2012, nuclear-armed states “are unlikely to be able to deploy new types of strategic nuclear weapons that fall outside the design range of their nuclear-explosion test experience without several multi-kiloton tests. Such multi-kiloton tests would likely be detectable (even with evasion measures) by appropriately resourced US national technical means and a completed IMS network”. As a result, ratifying the CTBT will go a long way to tame the tiger of the nuclear arms race at both regional and global levels.

The Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 stopped short of banning underground nuclear testing owing to the absence of a reliable verification system. Today, however, our scientific capabilities to ensure compliance with the CTBT are stronger than ever before. The CTBT is one of the most widely supported and effectively verifiable treaties. The treaty’s verification regime has achieved global coverage.

In Pakistan, nuclear scholars, working in different think tanks and academic institutions, should at least initiate a discussion about the humanitarian impacts of nuclear tests. Living under the influence of ultra-patriotic forces with vested interests, strategic scholars in South Asia seldom try to question the rationale behind their respective governments’ positions on different nuclear issues. As a result, we do not even have a thorough understanding of our official position on the CTBT.

Both Pakistan and India have been observing a moratorium on nuclear testing since 1998. And it will be impossible for either one of them to renew nuclear testing without being subjected to a tsunami of global condemnation. More importantly, both countries do not even need to continue expanding their nuclear arsenals or fissile material capabilities since their existing nuclear capabilities are sufficient to maintain a credible deterrent.

Against this backdrop, the best course of action for both countries is to ratify the CTBT and send out a message to the global community that we are ready to play our role towards our shared goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The nuclear establishment of Pakistan and India need to enhance their out-of-box thinking skills and understand that ratifying a permanent ban on nuclear testing would, in fact, advance their national security interests.

In order to make real progress towards enforcing the CTBT, the US should be the first country to ratify the treaty. Such a step would not only make it more difficult for the other seven Annex-II states to delay their own ratification processes, but will also rekindle the global nuclear disarmament momentum. As George Shultz, a former US secretary of state, states: “senators might have been right voting against the CTBT some years ago, but they would be right voting for it now”.

The Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program enables the US to ensure the effectiveness of its nuclear arsenal without resorting to nuclear-explosion testing. A treaty that is in force will also decrease military reliance on nuclear weapons and thereby reduce the risk of nuclear war.

The greatest challenge for CTBTO youth members and disarmament activists in the coming months and years is to make nuclear testing a matter of urgent public concern and shape public opinion in favour of the CTBT. We need to drive home the message that it is in the long-term national security interest of all nations to ratify the treaty. With concerted efforts on multiple fronts, we will be able to accomplish this goal.

Rizwan Asghar is a member of the CTBTO Youth Group. He is also a PhD scholar at University of California, Davis. 

Read the original article here.


Posted by: ctbtonewsroom | July 13, 2017

Media Advisory

Vienna, 13 July 2017

In response to recent media reports, the CTBTO confirms that its International Monitoring System (IMS) stations are functioning normally.  The seismic event that was detected in the Sea of Japan on 12 July around 19:48 UTC shows all indications of being a natural event. This is an area of relatively low seismicity South of Vladivostok in the Russian Federation and off the coast of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The event was initially detected by 46 of CTBTO’s stations, including infrasound station IS45 in Ussuriysk (RF) which registered a P-wave seismic signal (not an infrasound wave). It had a calculated magnitude of 5.3 and occurred at a depth of around 550 km.

The CTBTO has established a global network of stations that use four complementary technologies to monitor the globe 24/7 for signs of a clandestine nuclear explosion. For more, please see:


The map shows seismicity in the area of yesterday’s event (black dot) detected by 46 of CTBTO’s monitoring stations.



Infrasound station I45RU, Ussuriysk, detected a P-wave signal and no infrasound related signal.





Posted by: ctbtonewsroom | July 10, 2017

CTBT and the role of youth


By Rizwan Asghar,
CTBTO Youth Group member

Reproduced from Daily Times Pakistan, originally published on 8 July 2017.



The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the most logical next step to prevent the further spread of nuclear arms in both nuclear and non-nuclear states

“Universal ratification of the test ban treaty would be a step toward creating a truly global community of nations, in which all share the responsibility for humankind’s future.” — Mikhail Gorbachev

While writing these lines, I am attending the CTBT Science and Technology 2017 conference at the Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna. If there is one thing I have learned here from my interactions with scientists and scholars from all over the world, it is that nuclear weapons belong to the past. And with gradual but consistent efforts, we can not only achieve the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty but also make sure that we do not ever have testing of nuclear weapons anywhere on the planet.

On the broader non-proliferation agenda, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the most logical next step to prevent the further spread of nuclear arms in both nuclear and non-nuclear states.

In the famous words of the 42nd US President Bill Clinton, the CTBT is “the longest sought, hardest fought prize in arms control history.” As of June 2017, 166 countries have ratified and 183 have signed the treaty. Since the treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996, the rate of nuclear testing has greatly diminished. Although eight states have yet to ratify the treaty, North Korea is the only country that continues to conduct nuclear tests.

Most of the technical and scientific concerns raised two decades ago related to the verification of the CTBT have been resolved. The CTBT has a very effective and intrusive International Monitoring System (IMS), which is above 90% complete now. In addition to the ability to conduct on-site inspections, the CTBT’s International Data Centre (IDC) receives data from monitoring stations in real time and processes it to provide very reliable information regarding whether a nuclear explosion has occurred. It is high time we focused our efforts on gathering political will and power to make the dream of prohibiting the testing of nuclear weapons in all spheres a reality.

I do not want to sound pessimistic but we, CTBTO youth members, will not be able to persuade the decision makers in the remaining eight hold out states only through emotional appeals. What we really need is a great deal of concentrated thinking and the actual ability to take concrete steps towards ratification of the CTBT.

We should rise above the lower levels of narrow nationalism and realise how the continued existence of nuclear weapons anywhere is a threat to human security everywhere

I would suggest that Dr Zerbo or CTBTO team of experts should form a plan to communicate with youth members, from eight hold out states, from time to time, and guide their efforts to influence public opinion on a regular basis. Taking this step will not only make this whole process more constructive but also help ensure that strong words are being followed by strong actions. The CTBTO has spent enormous resources on its youth initiative, and youth members must go beyond voicing their verbal support for the vision of the CTBT. A desirable next step would be to identify stakeholders in all hold out states and device different country-specific strategies to influence official narratives about nuclear testing.

In September 2016, UN Security Council adopted a historical resolution, which called for the early entry into force of the CTBT and reaffirmed the global moratorium on nuclear weapons testing. In addition, two new states, Swaziland and Myanmar, ratified the treaty. These are remarkable achievements but efforts must continue until all 44 CTBT Annex 2 countries ratify the treaty. This is not going to be an easy task but we have a leader, Dr. Zerbo, to guide and keep us focused in this march against nuclear testing. It took the world more than five decades to secure ratification of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons in war, by the United States. Disarmament advocates and CTBTO youth members must be ready to sustain a resolute approach towards achieving our ultimate goal.

More importantly, we should rise above the lower levels of narrow nationalism and realise how the continued existence of nuclear weapons anywhere is a threat to human security everywhere.

Nuclear weapons are a necessary evil, and we must make all possible efforts in the pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons. As a CTBTO youth member, I intend to look at all possible mechanisms to promote CTBT’s entry into force, and highlight the potential value of the treaty for each of the eight hold out states. Dr Zerbo, also known as ‘godfather’ of the CTBTO youth group, is a great source of inspiration and strength for young disarmament activists around the globe. His dream of a global ban on nuclear testing will be fulfilled in our lifetime. We need to let the world know that young people have a very critical role to play in the ongoing struggle toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Rizwan Asghar is one of the original members of the CTBTO Youth Group. He is also a PhD scholar at University of California, Davis. 

Read the original article here.



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