CTBTO PrepCom reviews its
first six working months

At its third meeting since starting work on 17 March this year, the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) last week reviewed progress so far and discussed its draft programme and budget for next year. The budget for 1998 will be decided at the Commission's fourth meeting in December. The PrepCom was formally set up, at a meeting of States Signatories on 19 November 1996, to prepare for implementation of the CTBT when it comes into force.

                
                 Treaty.  The Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was drafted through many years of negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament at Geneva. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996. It forbids all nuclear weapon test explosions and any other nuclear explosion anywhere in the world.  A major milestone in arms control, it limits any significant development of nuclear weapons and lays the ground for further advancing nuclear disarmament.  It comes into force when 44 countries (listed in the Treaty) with nuclear facilities ratify it. So far (as at 11 September 1997) 146 States have signed and seven (Czech Republic, Fiji, Japan, Micronesia (Federated States of), Mongolia, Qatar and Uzbekistan) have ratified it.

                 Global verification regime.  To monitor compliance, the Treaty envisages a global verification regime including a worldwide network of monitoring stations, an international data centre and on-site inspections. The International Monitoring System (IMS), to be built up over the next  years, will include 321 stations -- gathering seismic, infrasound, hydroacoustic and radionuclide information -- supported by 16 radionuclide laboratories.

                 The IMS will be capable of detecting and tracking both vibrations (underground, in the seas and in the air) and tell-tale traces of radionuclides released into the atmosphere from a nuclear explosion. The data will be relayed to the International Data Centre in Vienna via a global communications system, analysed, combined and made available to the States Signatories.   Ambiguous events will be subject to consultation and clarification by the countries where they occur.  On-site inspections may be requested, as a final verification measure.

                 Organization.  The Preparatory Commission has a budget (1997) of US$ 27.7 million.  The staff currently numbers 80 from 38 countries.  Its programme of work for this year calls for the survey of 55 sites for stations; and the establishment or upgrading of l8 seismological stations and one hydroacoustic station. During its first six months its subsidiary bodies -- Working Group A (administrative and budgetary matters) and Working Group B (verification issues) -- formulated proposals on the budget and verification issues while the Advisory Group discussed financial regulations and other organizational matters.

                 An on-site inspection workshop discussed the methodology for conducting inspections, phenomena associated with nuclear explosions and radiation measurement. Workshops were also hosted by State Signatories on various aspects of the verification regime and others are planned.  Outlining its completed and ongoing activities, PrepCom Executive Secretary Wolfgang Hoffmann warmly thanked "the Austrian authorities and the international organizations in Vienna and elsewhere for their support and for giving us a flying start."

                 Building on that support, the CTBTO PrepCom is developing synergies with the other organizations based at the Vienna International Centre, Mr Hoffmann said.  For example, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has experience in conducting on-site inspections and getting people on the ground fast. CTBTO might eventually, if requested, be able to provide support to the other organizations.

For further information on the CTBTO, please see www.ctbto.org or contact:
Annika Thunborg, Chief, Public Information  
T    +43 1 26030-6375  
E    annika.thunborgping@ctbtopong.org
M    +43 699 1459 6375       
I    www.ctbto.org