Originally featured on Reuters on 5 October 2017, the video report demonstrates how CTBTO is using its world-wide array of monitoring stations to authenticate possible nuclear explosions. 

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North Korea’s triumphant announcement on September 3rd saying they’ve successfully conducted their largest nuclear test to date. Authenticating such reports is down to experts from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

The Vienna-based nuclear proliferation watchdog has 289 certified technology stations world-wide, with more planned. As well as seismic, hydroacoustic and infrasound sensors; radionuclide detectors like this sample the air for minute traces of nuclear particles.

Watch the full video on Reuters.com.

Originally aired on 9News on 2 October 2017, the video segment and news report feature the CTBTO IMS station in Warramunga, Australia, where a group of researchers from Australian National University in cooperation with CTBTO monitor the earth for nuclear explosions. Watch the full video on 9News.com.au.

 

They’re a long way from North Korea, but from inside an isolated tin shed in the Australian outback, a group of Australian National University researchers are keeping a close eye on the rogue nation.

As tensions rise on the Korean Peninsula, the researchers know exactly where and when Kim Jong Un has tested nuclear weapons – and just how big the explosions are getting.

The team at Warramunga Station, located in the central Northern Territory, are part of a global network, detecting and monitoring nuclear tests around the world.

The monitoring station is located in the central Northern Territory. (9NEWS)

The monitoring station is located in the central Northern Territory. (9NEWS)

They are fulfilling Australia’s commitment to the United Nations Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), which aims to stop nuclear experiments.

“The whole point of having international monitoring is to have instruments distributed around the globe, so big countries cannot hide an explosion,” ANU’s Head of Seismology, Associate Professor Hrvoje Tkalcic, told 9NEWS.

“No one could hide one at this point, I would say.”

The station’s seismometers are spread across 20 kilometres of land near Tennant Creek, and are used to detect explosions on the ground.

It’s also equipped with infrasound sensors, which pick up atmospheric waves from blasts in the air.

“When we’re recording nuclear blasts from a long distance away…the explosion will create waves that will travel out from that explosion,” Dr Michelle Salmon, from ANU’s School of Earth Sciences, said.

“You’ll actually see the ground move up and down, or sideways. That’s what we’re recording.”

The equipment is sensitive enough to detect nuclear explosions, earthquakes and storms, from the other side of the world.

The data it records appears on monitors inside the station, before it’s bounced by satellite to United Nations scientists in Vienna. There, scientists analyse it, along with data recorded by other detecting stations. Warramunga Station detected all six of North Korea’s nuclear tests.

The first, which took place in 2006, recorded a magnitude of 4.3. The most recent, which happened just weeks ago, on September 3, recorded a magnitude 6.3.

“That makes it approximately 100 times larger,” Associate Professor Tkalcic said.

“The tests are getting bigger and bigger.”

The United Nations nuclear watchdog said North Korea’s most recent test shows the country has made rapid progress.

“This is a new threat and this is a global threat,” International Atomic Energy Agency director general Yukiya Amano warned.

Which means the work that happens at Warramunga – and other detecting stations around the world – is arguably more crucial than ever.

“It’s getting close to some event that could actually kill hundreds of people, due to the damage,” Assoc. Prof. Tkalcic said.

Watch the full video on 9News.com.au.

reynders-aljafari-zerboThe joint op-ed by Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, Ibrahim Al-Jafari, Foreign Minister of Iraq and Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) was published on 15 September 2017 in Le Soir (in French), and on 17 September in IDN-InDepthNews (in English). Ahead of the tenth Article XIV Conference to be held 20 September at the United Nations in New York, the two chairs of the 2017 Article XIV conference,  the Foreign Ministers of Belgium and Iraq, jointly stress with CTBTO’s Dr Zerbo, why banning nuclear tests matters. For the next two years, Belgium and Iraq will lead the process to promote the CTBT’s entry into force until the next Article XIV conference in 2019.

The Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans nuclear testing on the Earth’s surface, in the atmosphere, underwater, and underground. It was adopted by the United Nations in 1996, has been signed by 183 countries, and ratified by 166. Yet after more than twenty years, the future of the test ban remains in jeopardy. This is because there are eight States must still ratify the Treaty before it becomes legally binding international law. These are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, the United States, and the DPRK.

On 20 September, CTBT States Signatories will convene in New York to attend a conference (the so-called Article XIV Conference, the tenth of its kind) under the co-presidency of Belgium and Iraq. Its objective is to provide impetus to facilitating the Treaty’s long overdue entry into force.

In the face of the current political deadlock, the track record of the CTBT is clear: since the Treaty opened for signature only three countries have conducted nuclear test explosions, and only the DPRK has detonated a nuclear device this century. As a legal instrument, even before entering into force, the CTBT has reinforced an international norm against nuclear testing to the extent that any violation is now met with universal condemnation.

On the technical side, at about 90% complete, the Treaty’s verification regime is already so advanced that its detection capability is greater than negotiators had even thought possible. When nuclear tests take place, even in the most remote areas of the world, the CTBT is capable to disseminate timely, accurate, and trusted data to its Member States on the nature of the event.

The CTBT’s verification regime is an indispensable tool at the disposal of the international community. It is also a platform for international technical cooperation to address one of the most severe global security threats.

Although there are no easy solutions, meaningful steps can be taken to get us moving in the right direction. One of the most practical and effective ways is to bring the Treaty into force.

This is no small thing. By addressing the unfinished business of the CTBT, the international community would demonstrate beyond a doubt that effective, multilaterally verifiable nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament measures are indeed possible. As a confidence building measure it could unite countries in unwrapping other difficult security issues, including the crisis on the Korean peninsula. The CTBT is a critical step forward in this joint endeavour, and one which all of us should all consider to be within reach. We are ready to do our part.

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