Posted by: ctbtonewsroom | May 10, 2018

How scientists keep a global watch for nuclear testing

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The Verge science reporter, Rachel Becker, explores the work of the scientists at CTBTO that are responsible for detecting nuclear tests. Woken up at dawn with a phone call along the lines of “We’ve got an interesting event. Can you come up and have a look at the data?”, data analysts were called in to work on 3 September 2017, when North Korea conducted its latest nuclear test. Becker describes in detail the process of analysis and includes seismic graphs received as a result from the test. She also points out that making sure the data is clean and correct is key, as CTBTO sends information to its member states. Indeed, as seismologist Ezekiel Jonathan explains, “If we make a mistake of giving out data or information that is not accurate, it means all our member states are going to come up with the wrong decisions or actions.”

Honing in on CTBTO’s work in general, Becker talks about the origins of the CTBT and discusses the Treaty in the today’s context, saying that “the treaty and the organization hang in limbo, preparing for a day when the world’s nuclear powers all agree to support the test ban”. However, despite not being able to “go out and investigate themselves” in countries that haven’t signed and ratified the treaty, the CTBTO “still find themselves called upon the global stage,” with more and more international actors calling for the treaty to be signed, with particular reference to North Korea.

Read the full article here.

Posted by: ctbtonewsroom | May 9, 2018

Make North Korea’s Nuclear Test Pause Permanent

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In a 38 North Commentary regarding North Korea’s announcement that it will cease nuclear testing, Jon Wolfsthal, director of the Nuclear Crisis Group, calls for the US to use this momentum to urge North Korea to sign the CTBT. In its announcement, North Korea invited US experts and journalists to oversee the closure of Pungyye-ri testing site, and “while welcome, a more appropriate process would be for North Korea or for the UN Security Council to invite [CTBTO]… to oversee this process.”

This puts the CTBT in the spotlight as the goal and cornerstone in North Korea’s future as a nuclear test free nation. As explained in the article, “every effort should be made to ensure that this is not purely focused on the Punggye-ri site, but expanded to provide the basis for banning all future nuclear tests anywhere in North Korea. To achieve this, the United States should encourage North Korea to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)… as part of an initial diplomatic effort to precisely define the current missile and nuclear test freeze and to make it more durable through transparent and legally binding means.”

With the possibility of the test site being shut down, the article highlights the importance to seize the opportunity of DPRK’s newfound willingness and take Kim’s April offer as a starting point in building trust, transparency and barriers to prevent it resuming nuclear activities.

Read the full article here.

In an op-ed in FORTUNESharon Squassoni, a professor at GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs, discusses North Korea’s denuclearisation and the stepping stones towards this goal. She argues that while the denuclearisation process will be slow, “the quickest route would be for North Korea to sign an existing treaty that bans all nuclear tests”- the CTBT. To support this claim, she writes that “signing onto an international test ban would make Kim’s moratorium permanent and break the pattern thus far of taking two steps forward only to fall five steps back.” Therefore, in the negotiation rounds, Squassoni says that the CTBT “shouldn’t be added on top of what is likely a long list of requirements for nuclear disarmament, but instead, constitute its own simple, yet big, diplomatic gesture.” Why? Because, as Squassoni points out, “although the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) hasn’t fully entered into force, it has been functioning as if it has.”

Read the full op-ed here.

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