Movement for Nuke Test Ban Gathers Momentum


Nuclear Abolition News | IDN
By Richard Johnson
IDN-InDepth NewsReport

GENEVA (IDN) - Voluntary moratoriums on nuclear weapon tests are not enough. Member states that have not yet ratified the United Nations-backed Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) should therefore urgently do so.

This was the terse call UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued on August 29 in observance of the International Day against Nuclear Tests that marks the twentieth anniversary of the closure of the nuclear weapons test site at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. The selection of that date in 1991 was made because this was when the now defunct Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear test at the site in 1949.

Over 2000 nuclear tests were carried out between 1945 and 1996 when the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was opened for signature, most by the United States and the Soviet Union, but also by Britain, France and China. Three countries have tested nuclear weapons since 1996: India, Pakistan, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Nuclear explosions produce immediate and delayed destructive effects. Immediate effects from both the blast and thermal radiation cause significant destruction within seconds. Delayed effects from radioactive fallout have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts.

The vital importance of the Treaty's entry into force was reaffirmed at the May 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and included in the agreed action plan. The Treaty's verification regime has proven to be a valuable instrument for international cooperation, Ban said, adding: "I am fully confident of its future ability to provide an independent, reliable and cost-effective means of verifying – and therefore, deterring – any violation of the Treaty's provisions."

"Over the course of the cold war, hundreds of nuclear weapon tests left behind a devastating legacy for local citizens and their natural environment," said Ban in a statement. "Having visited the scene of this dark chapter in human history, I wish to emphasize my support for the Government and people of Kazakhstan as they continue to cope with the aftermath. I commend efforts to ensure that something positive may result from highlighting the horrific effects of these tests."

Out of total listed number of 195 States, 182 have so far signed the CTBT and 154 have ratified it. In fact Ghana became the 154th State to ratify the Treaty on June 15, 2011. "This important and timely step highlights the importance of the CTBT for global, regional and national security," said Tibor Tóth, the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

"Following the entry into force of the Pelindaba Treaty last year (2010), Ghana's ratification of the CTBT further solidifies the resolve of African nations to forever rid the continent and the world of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon testing. I salute the government of Ghana for taking this step and believe it will inspire other non-ratifying States to hasten their own ratification processes," Tóth said.

Ghana signed the CTBT on October 3, 1996 and the Treaty of Pelindaba, which has established a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Africa, on April 11,1996. Also, in February 2010, Ghana commissioned its CTBT National Data Centre so that it can support international efforts to monitor nuclear weapons testing more effectively, Vienna-based CTBTO said in a press release.

CTBTO press release pointed out that "adherence to the CTBT is almost universal, with 182 States having signed the Treaty to date." In Africa, only two countries have yet to sign the Treaty (Mauritius and Somalia), whereas 12 countries have yet to ratify (Angola, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Republic of), Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, the Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Swaziland and Zimbabwe). Among these, ratification by Egypt, an Annex 2 State, is mandatory for the Treaty to enter into force.

The remaining eight Annex 2 States that have yet to ratify are China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States .The other 35 Annex 2 States have ratified the Treaty, including the three nuclear weapon States: France, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom.

The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions. A verification regime is being built to monitor compliance with the Treaty. By the time the Treaty enters into force, 337 facilities will monitor the oceans, underground and the atmosphere for any sign of a nuclear explosion, the CTBTO stated. "264 facilities have been certified to date and are sending data on a continuous basis to the CTBTO's International Data Centre in Vienna."

Commemorating the 20th anniversary, a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan stressed the importance of the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site which witnessed more than 450 nuclear explosions. In December 2009, the UN General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution, put forward by Kazakhstan, to proclaim August 29 as the International Day against Nuclear Tests. "This became a vivid evidence of the recognition by the international community of Kazakhstan's contribution to the global nuclear disarmament process," the statement said.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry pointed out that through all the years of its independence, Kazakhstan, in partnership with other states, "has been actively and consistently" working on strengthening the non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament regime.

"We stand for the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty .We call upon the nine countries, which have either not ratified or not signed this Treaty, and on whose ratification depends the CTBT entry into force, to do so as soon as possible. We are convinced the CTBT will become one of the most concrete and effective instruments of non-proliferation," the statement stressed.

"The example of Kazakhstan, where one of the world's largest nuclear test sites was shut down by the Decree of President Nursultan Nazarbayev and where a historic decision was made to eliminate the world's fourth largest nuclear arsenal, serves as a convincing proof of the real movement towards a world free from the nuclear weapons. We are firmly convinced that, with the political will of the peoples and the heads of all states, such a choice is possible," the Foreign Ministry in Astana said.

UN Secretary-General Ban noted in his statement: "Every day, more and more people are viewing both nuclear tests and nuclear weapons as dangerous relics of the Cold War, long overdue for permanent retirement. We fully share this position and declare our readiness to continue working closely together with all states and the United Nations in building a nuclear weapon free world."

"For these reasons, I urge all States that have not yet signed or ratified the Treaty to do so as a matter of priority. Achieving that goal would further reinforce the growing movement for a nuclear-weapon-free world. Every day, more and more people are viewing both nuclear tests and nuclear weapons as dangerous relics of the cold war, long-overdue for permanent retirement. On this International Day against Nuclear Tests, I call on all States to take a bold step towards a safer and saner world for all," said Ban in an emphatic statement. (IDN-InDepthNews/30.08.2011)


Photo: UN | Peter Drekmeier


2011 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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