Participation in the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty
|Signed||10 September 1996; 21 years ago (1996-09-10)|
|Location||New York City|
|Effective||Not in force|
|Condition||180 days after ratification by |
all 44 Annex 2 countries
|Ratifiers||166 (states that need to take further action for the treaty to enter into force: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, United States)|
|Depositary||Secretary-General of the United Nations|
|Languages||Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish|
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a multilateral treaty that bans all nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996, but has not entered into force, as eight specific states have not ratified the treaty.
The movement for international control of nuclear weapons began in 1945, with a call from Canada and United Kingdom for a conference on the subject. In June 1946, Bernard Baruch, an emissary of President Harry S. Truman, proposed the Baruch Plan before the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, which called for an international system of controls on the production of atomic energy. The plan, which would serve as the basis for United States nuclear policy into the 1950s, was rejected by the Soviet Union as a US ploy to cement its nuclear dominance.
Between the Trinity nuclear test of 16 July 1945 and the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) on 5 August 1963, 499 nuclear tests were conducted. Much of the impetus for the PTBT, the precursor to the CTBT, was rising public concern surrounding the size and resulting nuclear fallout from underwater and atmospheric nuclear tests, particularly tests of powerful thermonuclear weapons (hydrogen bombs). The Castle Bravo test of 1 March 1954, in particular, attracted significant attention as the detonation resulted in fallout that spread over inhabited areas and sickened a group of Japanese fishermen. Between 1945 and 1963, the US conducted 215 atmospheric tests, the Soviet Union conducted 219, the UK conducted 21, and France conducted three.
In 1954, following the Castle Bravo test, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India issued the first appeal for a "standstill agreement" on testing, which was soon echoed by the British Labour Party. Negotiations on a comprehensive test ban, primarily involved the US, UK, and Soviet Union, began in 1955 following a proposal by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Of primary concern throughout the negotiations, which would stretch with some interruptions to July 1963, was the system of verifying compliance with the test ban and detecting illicit tests. On the Western side, there were concerns that the Soviet Union would be able to circumvent any test ban and secretly leap ahead in the nuclear arms race. These fears were amplified following the US Rainier shot of 19 September 1957, which was the first contained underground test of a nuclear weapon. Though the US held a significant advantage in underground testing capabilities, there was worry that the Soviet Union would be able to covertly conduct underground tests during a test ban, as underground detonations were more difficult to detect than above-ground tests. On the Soviet side, conversely, the on-site compliance inspections demanded by the US and UK were seen as amounting to espionage. Disagreement over verification would lead to the Anglo-American and Soviet negotiators abandoning a comprehensive test ban (i.e., a ban on all tests, including those underground) in favor of a partial ban, which would be finalized on 25 July 1963. The PTBT, joined by 123 states following the original three parties, banned detonations for military and civilian purposes underwater, in the atmosphere, and in outer space.
The PTBT had mixed results. On the one hand, enactment of the treaty was followed by a substantial drop in the atmospheric concentration of radioactive particles. On the other hand, nuclear proliferation was not halted entirely (though it may have been slowed) and nuclear testing continued at a rapid clip. Compared to the 499 tests from 1945 to the signing of the PTBT, 436 tests were conducted over the ten years following the PTBT. Furthermore, US and Soviet underground testing continued "venting" radioactive gas into the atmosphere. Additionally, though underground testing was generally safer than above-ground testing, underground tests continued to risk the leaking of radionuclides, including plutonium, into the ground. From 1964 through 1996, the year of the CTBT's adoption, an estimated 1,377 underground nuclear tests were conducted. The final non-underground (atmospheric or underwater) test was conducted by China in 1980.
The PTBT has been seen as a step towards the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968, which directly made reference to the PTBT. Under the NPT, non-nuclear weapon states were prohibited from possessing, manufacturing, and acquiring nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. All signatories, including nuclear weapon states, were committed to the goal of total nuclear disarmament. However, India, Pakistan, and Israel have declined to sign the NPT on grounds that such a treaty is fundamentally discriminatory as it places limitations on states that do not have nuclear weapons while making no efforts to curb weapons development by declared nuclear weapons states.
In 1974, a step towards a comprehensive test ban was made with the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT), ratified by the US and Soviet Union, which banned underground tests with yields above 150 kilotons. In April 1976, the two states reached agreement on the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty (PNET), which concerns nuclear detonations outside the weapons sites discussed in the TTBT. As in the TTBT, the US and Soviet Union agreed to bar peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs) at these other locations with yields above 150 kilotons, as well as group explosions with total yields in excess of 1,500 kilotons. To verify compliance, the PNET requires that states rely on national technical means of verification, share information on explosions, and grant on-site access to counterparties. The TTBT and PNET did not enter into force for the US and Soviet Union until 11 December 1990.
In October 1977, the US, UK, and Soviet Union returned to negotiations over a test ban. The three nuclear powers made notable progress in the late 1970s, agreeing to terms on a ban on all testing, including a temporary prohibition on PNEs, but continued disagreements over the compliance mechanisms led to an end to negotiations ahead of Ronald Reagan's inauguration as President in 1981. In 1985, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev announced a unilateral testing moratorium, and in December 1986, Reagan reaffirmed US commitment to pursue the long-term goal of a comprehensive test ban. In November 1987, negotiations on a test ban restarted, followed by a joint US-Soviet program to research underground-test detection in December 1987.
Given the political situation prevailing in the subsequent decades, little progress was made in nuclear disarmament until the end of the Cold War in 1991. Parties to the PTBT held an amendment conference that year to discuss a proposal to convert the Treaty into an instrument banning all nuclear-weapon tests. With strong support from the UN General Assembly, negotiations for a comprehensive test-ban treaty began in 1993.
Extensive efforts were made over the next three years to draft the Treaty text and its two annexes. However, the Conference on Disarmament, in which negotiations were being held, did not succeed in reaching consensus on the adoption of the text. Under the direction of Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Australia then sent the text to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where it was submitted as a draft resolution. On 10 September 1996, the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was adopted by a large majority, exceeding two-thirds of the General Assembly's Membership.
- Each State Party undertakes not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion, and to prohibit and prevent any such nuclear explosion at any place under its jurisdiction or control.
- Each State Party undertakes, furthermore, to refrain from causing, encouraging, or in any way participating in the carrying out of any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.
Further information: List of parties to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty
The Treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996. It opened for signature in New York on 24 September 1996, when it was signed by 71 States, including five of the eight then nuclear-capable states. As of October 2016, 166 states have ratified the CTBT and another 17 states have signed but not ratified it.
The treaty will enter into force 180 days after the 44 states listed in Annex 2 of the treaty have ratified it. These "Annex 2 states" are states that participated in the CTBT’s negotiations between 1994 and 1996 and possessed nuclear power reactors or research reactors at that time. As of 2016, eight Annex 2 states have not ratified the treaty: China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the United States have signed but not ratified the Treaty; India, North Korea and Pakistan have not signed it.
Geophysical and other technologies are used to monitor for compliance with the Treaty: forensic seismology, hydroacoustics, infrasound, and radionuclide monitoring. The technologies are used to monitor the underground, the waters and the atmosphere for any sign of a nuclear explosion. Statistical theories and methods are integral to CTBT monitoring providing confidence in verification analysis. Once the Treaty enters into force, on-site inspection will be provided for where concerns about compliance arise.
The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), an international organization headquartered in Vienna, Austria, was created to build the verification regime, including establishment and provisional operation of the network of monitoring stations, the creation of an international data centre, and development of the On Site Inspection capability.
The monitoring network consists of 337 facilities located all over the globe. As of May 2012, more than 260 facilities have been certified. The monitoring stations register data that is transmitted to the international data centre in Vienna for processing and analysis. The data are sent to states that have signed the Treaty.
Subsequent nuclear testing
Three countries have tested nuclear weapons since the CTBT opened for signature in 1996. India and Pakistan both carried out two sets of tests in 1998. North Korea carried out six announced tests in 2006, 2009, 2013, two in 2016 and one in 2017. All six North Korean tests were picked up by the International Monitoring System set up by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Commission. A North Korean test is believed to have taken place in January 2016, evidenced by an "artificial earthquake" measured as a magnitude 5.1 by the U.S. Geological Survey. The first successful North Korean hydrogen bomb test supposedly took place September 2017. It was estimated to have an explosive yield of 120 kilotons .
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- ^Delcoigne, G.C. "The Test Ban Treaty"(PDF). IAEA. p. 18. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
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- ^David E. Hoffman (1 November 2011), "Supercomputers offer tools for nuclear testing — and solving nuclear mysteries", The Washington Post; National, retrieved 30 November 2013
In this news article, the number of states ratifying was reported as 154.
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- Full text of the treaty
- CTBTO Preparatory Commission — official news and information
- The Test Ban Test: U.S. Rejection has Scuttled the CTBT
- US conducts subcritical nuclear test ABC News, 24 February 2006
- International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, 1991
- Daryl Kimball and Christine Kucia, Arms Control Association, 2002
- General John M. Shalikashvili, Special Advisor to the President and the Secretary of State for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
- Christopher Paine, Senior Researcher with NRDC's Nuclear Program, 1999
- Obama or McCain Can Finish Journey to Nuclear Test Ban Treaty[permanent dead link]
- For the number of nuclear explosions conducted in various parts of the globe from 1954-1998 see — https://web.archive.org/web/20101218010654/http://www.blip.tv/file/1662914
- Introductory note by Thomas Graham, Jr., procedural history note and audiovisual material on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law
- Lecture by Masahiko Asada titled Nuclear Weapons and International Law in the Lecture Series of the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law
- Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Background and Current DevelopmentsCongressional Research Service
- The Woodrow Wilson Center's Nuclear Proliferation International History Project or NPIHP is a global network of individuals and institutions engaged in the study of international nuclear history through archival documents, oral history interviews and other empirical sources.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) – a basic building block in the nuclear is armament process has remained deadlocked for 18 years now. The 1996 treaty has so far been signed by 183 states and ratified by 162 states.
Yet, a structural prerequisite of the treaty has held it hostage from coming into force. Namely, Article XIV of the CTBT, which stipulates that for the treaty to enter into force the signature and ratification by all the 44 states possessing nuclear weapons capabilities and research reactors as listed in Annex 2 is a prerequisite. The treaty thus awaits signature and ratification from India, Pakistan, and North Korea and in addition requires the United States, China, Israel, Iran and Egypt (which have already signed) to formally ratify it.
Even though it is yet to sign the CTBT, India has supported the treaty’s basic principle of banning nuclear explosions by declaring a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. India’s expressed support to the essential requirement of the treaty makes it a de facto member of the CTBT.
When the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the CTBT in September 1996, 2048 nuclear explosions had already been conducted worldwide. 18 years later, the number of explosions has further increased to 2055. Given this, the CTBT has an important role to play in ensuring a world where nuclear weapons tests are barred and thus constrain the development of new nuclear weapons as well as new nuclear weapon countries.
India advocated a test ban years before it came into being. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made the first call for an “immediate standstill” agreement on nuclear testing between the United States and the former Soviet Union as early as 1954. However, this call was sabotaged by the nuclear weapons states (NWS) on the ground that it was “difficult to evolve a fool proof verification system”. Instead, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) in August 1963. However, the PTBT, while banning atmospheric, outer space and underwater tests, permitted underground tests and did not also provide for international verification. And even as superpower nuclear tests went underground, China and France, which refused to join the PTBT, continued to conduct atmospheric tests.
The belief that PTBT would play a crucial role in reversing the intense arms-race among the NWS was essentially flawed. Since it was signed, a total of 1372 underground nuclear explosions have been conducted between 1964 and 2006; this number stands in contrast to the 461 atmospheric and including underwater nuclear tests that were conducted between 1945 and 1963. Failure of the PTBT to prevent further nuclear test explosions was clearly a dampener for the CTBT negotiations. The CTBT, which sought to prohibit underground nuclear testing and discontinue nuclear explosions, lost momentum due to conflicting objectives between the NWS and the non-nuclear weapons states like India. But this did not weaken the Indian resolve against nuclear testing and in favour of nuclear disarmament.
Post the 1964 Chinese nuclear test, an Indian debate began on the pros and cons of advocating a test ban and nuclear disarmament. At the same time, driven by security considerations, a small group of nuclear bomb advocates emerged in the scientific and political communities. Security considerations received a further fillip during the 1965 India-Pakistan War, which saw China extending not only diplomatic support to Pakistan but also threatening India with an attack of its own. These events marked a watershed in India’s nuclear policy. In November 1965, India embarked upon the Subterranean Nuclear Explosion Project (SNEP), designed to carry out a peaceful nuclear explosive test (which was eventually done in 1974) and use that as a foundation for keeping the nuclear weapons option open. Subsequent developments including China’s attainment of ballistic missile capability and America’s attempt to intimidate India during the course of the 1971 War only reinforced Indian security concerns. Yet, India did not abandon its goal of nuclear disarmament.
Post May 1998, India continued to adopt a flexible position on the CTBT and indicated its willingness to discuss a “de jure formalization” of its voluntary moratorium on future nuclear testing. Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Brajesh Mishra stated that “India would be prepared to consider being an adherent to some of the undertakings in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” However, India remained firm that its support to the CTBT cannot be expected in any “vacuum” and that it “depended on a series of reciprocal activities” particularly from the NWS.
Despite its reservations on the CTBT, India met the basic requirements of the treaty by stating in May 1998 that it “will now observe a voluntary moratorium and refrain from conducting underground nuclear test explosions.” At the same time, it also indicated its willingness to move towards a de jure formalisation of this declaration. The basic obligation of the CTBT was thus met; to refrain from undertaking nuclear test explosions. This voluntary declaration was intended to convey to the international community the seriousness of India’s intent for meaningful engagement. The government maintained that “subsequent decisions will be taken after assuring ourselves of the security needs of the country.”
India’s commitment to the conclusion of the CTBT was further evident from Prime Minster Vajpayee’s September 1998 statement in Parliament.
Further, the Indian position on the CTBT is not in defiance of the objectives of nuclear disarmament. This was evident from Prime Minister Vajpayee’s statement in the UNGA. This stand marked a new beginning in the CTBT debate. From a position of “not now, not ever” stated in 1996 when India emphasized that it will not accept the obligations of an “unequal” test ban treaty, it committed itself on not blocking the CTBT from coming into force.
In August 2009, K. Santhanam, Project Leader during the Pokhran-II nuclear tests, declared that the thermonuclear bomb test had been a fizzle and questioned its yield. He cast doubt on the 1974 test result as well, which was used as a baseline for the 1998 nuclear explosions. In the light of this he suggested that India must refrain from signing the CTBT: “Based upon the seismic measurements and expert opinion from world over, it is clear that the yield in the thermonuclear device test was much lower than what was claimed. I think it is well documented and that is why I assert that India should not rush into signing the CTBT.”
Santhanam’s observations received considerable attention from within sections of India’s strategic and political communities. In essence, it implied that India should not sign the CTBT and keep the option open for more nuclear tests in future. Yet, India has remained supportive of a non-discriminatory CTBT that is adhered to by other countries as specified in Article XIV of the treaty. India continues to abide by a voluntary and unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests. This position has been upheld consistently in several national and international forums. Ahead of the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, for instance, India reiterated its commitment to a voluntary unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. And as the Indian Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament stated, it is India’s commitment to nuclear disarmament that has led to its adherence to a voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing till date.
A criticism that is levelled against India is that by linking the CTBT to the nuclear disarmament issue, New Delhi has prevented the treaty from coming into force. But this ignores the fact that the CTBT is an integral part of the nuclear disarmament process and it is a superfluous effort to de-link the two. The purpose of the CTBT is to steer the world towards a stage where nuclear weapons capable states refrain from nuclear explosions and move towards global zero. This goal can be realized only when all nuclear weapons capable countries champion the real essence of the CTBT. At the same time, it would also provide the much-needed impetus for the re-start of the FMCT negotiations that remains deadlocked at the Conference on Disarmament.
Undeniably, the CTBT is an important element of the nuclear disarmament process. Apart from its primary objective of preventing future nuclear explosions, its importance in scientific and civilian applications is widely acknowledged. The Preparatory Commission for the test ban treaty – the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) – is designed to play a significant role in mitigating disasters by detecting earthquakes and tsunamis. This was demonstrated by its role during the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident in March 2011. The critical role played by the CTBTO has influenced several countries including Pakistan into becoming a CTBTO observer State even though it has not signed the Treaty.
India is already in de facto observance of the spirit of the Treaty by maintaining its unilateral moratorium on nuclear explosive testing. By committing to the Indo-US nuclear agreement, India has further expressed its principled support to the test-ban treaty. The deal, which took more than three years of intense diplomatic bargaining and the investment of huge political capital to reverse years of technology denial, has provided enormous benefits to India. These include India’s acceptability as a state with advanced nuclear capability and international standing as a responsible nuclear weapon power. The deal has opened up vistas for nuclear commerce as well.
It is noteworthy that in September 2009 a former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India, Anil Kakodkar, stated that “the 1998 tests were fully successful and had achieved in toto their scientific objectives and the capability to build fission and thermonuclear weapons with yields up to 200 kt.” This indicates that there is no need for additional nuclear tests by India unless of course there is a significant deterioration in its security environment. If that be so, then India could well reconsider its current position on signing the CTBT.