Project News

Five Decades Since JFK's Call for a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

Fifty years ago on Monday, June 10, President John F. Kennedy delivered his eloquent and influential “Strategy of Peace” address on the campus of American University in Washington.

Coming just months after the 1962 Cuban missile crisis drove home the risks of an unbridled nuclear arms race and the dangers of a direct superpower conflict, the speech was intended to send an unambiguous signal to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that the United States sought to “avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating defeat or nuclear war,” as Kennedy phrased it in the speech.

As the essay "JFK's American University Speech Echoes Through Time" in the June issue of Arms Control Today explains, "… the speech offered a revised formula for achieving progress on restricting nuclear weapons testing, a goal that had eluded President Dwight Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Khrushchev for more than six years. Kennedy viewed the nuclear test ban treaty—ideally a comprehensive ban—as an essential first step toward U.S.-Soviet disarmament and a barrier against the spread of nuclear weapons."

Joint Statement by India and Japan Highlights Differences on CTBT

India and Japan released a joint statement May 29 on "strengthening the strategic and global partnership" between the two countries. However, the two states differed significantly in their statements regarding the CTBT. Prime Minister Abe of Japan "stressed the importance of bringing into force the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) at an early date."

However, Prime Minister Singh of India simply reiterated New Delhi's "commitment to its unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing," a statement which notably fails to mention the CTBT, the only legally-binding international instrument that prohibits nuclear testing.

IMS Detects Radioactive Gases From N. Korean Nuclear Test

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) announced on April 23 that its International Monitoring System (IMS) detected radioactive isotopes consistent with the February 12 North Korean nuclear test and announced the discovery on April 23, 2013. The radionuclide station in Takasaki, Japan detected xenon-131m and xenon-133, two radioactive isotopes that are associated with nuclear fission.

The gases detected by the Takasaki station, located approximately 620 miles from the North Korean test site, were produced by a nuclear fission event that occurred at least 50 days before detection. The IMS was able to identify the North Korean test site as a possible source for the noble gases.

Senator Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Lt. Gen. Klotz Urge U.S. Action on CTBT

At an April 11 event hosted by the Arms Control Association, Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz (USAF, ret.) urged U.S. ratification of the CTBT. Shaheen noted that ratification of the CTBT will require a great deal of preparation, "But that just means we should start now to chart a path forward for its eventual consideration."

Klotz reiterated his support for the CTBT, saying "the logic for moving forward and ahead on ratification of the CTBT is inescapable." He went on to say that the United States already abides by the requirements of the treaty and is unlikely to resume nuclear testing. Therefore, the United States should gain the full benefits of the CTBT by ratifying the treaty, which would allow it to "rally international pressure against would-be proliferators" and "constrain regional arms races."

Bipartisan Group of Senators Reintroduce Legislation to Expand Aid to Downwinders

Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico and a bipartisan group of senators reintroduced the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RESA) Amendments of 2013 on Friday, April 19. Representative Ray Lujan of New Mexico introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives the same day.

This legislation would go beyond previous bills by extending compensation to uranium workers who were employed after December 31, 1971. It also makes all claimants eligible for medical benefits and the maximum compensation of $150,000, and funds an epidemiological study of the health effects of uranium workers and their families, as well as residents near uranium production sites. In addition, the RECA Amendments 2013 expands the recognized downwind areas to include Arizona, Colorado, Guam, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah.

Christine Wing Discusses the Role of Civil Society in Nuclear Disarmament

Christine Wing, a Senior Research Fellow at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, sat down with the CTBTO to discuss her experience working on nuclear disarmament during the Cold War and how civil society can advance the cause of disarmament today, and particularly how it can help achieve the entry into force of the CTBT.

Wing stressed the importance of the CTBT's entry into force in stemming proliferation. She stated that a legal ban on nuclear testing would not only prevent horizontal proliferation-the development of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear states-but would also prevent vertical proliferation by inhibiting nuclear-weapon states ability to make qualitative improvements in their nuclear arsenals. Additionally, Wing also pointed to the indirect effects of the CTBT, such as the treaty's ability to deemphasize the role that nuclear weapons play in national security policies.

Former Secretary of State Shultz Reiterates Support for CTBT

At a March 8 event sponsored by the Partnership for a Secure America, President Reagan’s Secretary of State George Shultz underscored once again his support for U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Shultz’s remarks came in response to a question following his talk at an event organized on Friday, March 8 by the Partnership for a Secure America on Capitol Hill.

Shultz was asked for his “personal view on whether the U.S. should ratify the test ban treaty as a way to enhance U.S. security?”

Shultz, who served as President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State from 1982-1989, said: “Yes I clearly think we should ratify that treaty.”

“This issue has kind of lost its attention and we need to get back on the offense. And here’s the way to get back on the offense,” Shultz continued.

“I would say that in some ways a Senator … Senator Nunn might put it this way … a Senator might have been right to vote against against it when it was first put forward and right to vote for it now,” he said.

“Why? Because things have changed. Its now not just an idea that we can detect tests. There is a network that has built out now and has been demonstrated that we can detect all, even small tests.”

Shultz went on to note that the nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship program has also been very successful and in the past nuclear tests were conducted primarily to develop new types of nuclear weapons and so, he said, we have no need to test today.

“I find it hard to see how we would justify going and producing a new nuclear weapon, we have quite an arsenal right now.”

CTBTO's Monitoring Capabilities Continue to Improve

The CTBTO has seen a marked increase in its ability to locate and analyze nuclear test explosions since North Korea's first nuclear test in 2006. This is largely a result of an increase in the number of completed monitoring stations in the CTBTO's International Monitoring System (IMS), combined with increasingly larger nuclear explosions by North Korea. The IMS uses a combination of seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, and radionuclide stations to detect nuclear test explosions.
In October 2006, the IMS was approximately 60% complete, with 99 seismic stations in operation. The organization was able to detect the 4.1 magnitude North Korean test with 22 seismic stations around the world and one radionuclide station located in Yellowknife, Canada. The test explosion was estimated within a location ellipse of 880 square kilometers. 
In May 2009, the IMS was over 70% complete, with 130 operational seismic stations. As a result of the increase in the IMS' sensor network, the organization was able to detect the 4.52 magnitude event with 61 seismic stations, although no radioactive noble gases were detected from the North Korean test tunnel. The explosion was estimated to be within a location ellipse of 265 square kilometers.
At the time of the February 2013 test, the IMS network was over 85% complete with 160 seismic stations reporting to the IMS. The network was able to detect the 4.9 magnitude nuclear test within a location ellipse of 181 square kilometers and with 94 seismic stations. In addition, two infrasound stations were able to register the event for the first time. Again, no radioactive noble gases were detected.