visits the CTBTO
“President Obama has been very clear about his intention with respect to the comprehensive test ban treaty,” said Thomas Paul D’Agostino, Under Secretary for Nuclear Security of the Department of Energy and Administrator for Nuclear Security of the National Nuclear Security Administration of the United States in a press briefing in Vienna on 15 September 2009. He referred to Obama’s promise in Prague in April 2009 to pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) “immediately and aggressively.”
The visit took place on the same day as the White House announced that the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will represent the United States at the forthcoming conference to promote the entry into force of the CTBT to be held on 24 and 25 September 2009 at the UN headquarters in New York. According to a press statement, “U.S. participation in this year’s conference will reaffirm the strong commitment of the Obama Administration to support the CTBT and to work with other nations to map out a comprehensive diplomatic strategy to secure the Treaty’s entry into force... This commitment to realize the promise of the CTBT is part of the President’s comprehensive agenda to prevent nuclear proliferation and to pursue the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”
Visiting the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) for the first time, D’Agostino acquainted himself with the CTBT’s verification regime. “I wanted more information and to dig out the details,” he said.
Tibor Tóth, the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO, stated that the verification regime had been a blue print ten years ago. “By now it is a reality, a reality that has been tried and tested,” Tóth explained, referring to the two nuclear weapon tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 2006 and 2009, the system-wide tests run by the organization and a recent review by international scientists [International Scientific Studies Conference, ISS].
D’Agostino informed the media about the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ study that was commissioned last week to obtain information for policy makers on “what it takes to ratify a comprehensive test ban treaty.” The report would need to provide answers to technical questions raised by the National Academy of Sciences, he said, “and then we can take things from there.” Tóth underlined that the CTBTO had pledged its support to the study and would make all necessary information available.
The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions on Earth. The Treaty is close to universality with 181 signatures and 149 ratifications. Nine remaining States whose ratification is required for the Treaty’s entry into force still need to ratify it. These States are: China, DPRK, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Iran, Pakistan and the United States.
The CTBTO is building a verification regime to monitor the planet for compliance with the Treaty. When complete, 337 facilities worldwide will monitor underground, the oceans and the atmosphere for any sign of a nuclear explosion. To date, close to 250 facilities have been certified and send data to the International Data Centre at the CTBTO in Vienna, Austria.
Photos of the visit and the press briefing are available on flickr.