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UN Presses for Entry into Force of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

By J Nastranis

Photo: Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi and CTBTO Executive Secretary Dr. Robert Floyd during his visit to Astana, Kazakhstan.

NEW YORK (IDN) — As the race for modernisation of cyber and nuclear technologies gains momentum, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) "the centrepiece of global efforts to eliminate nuclear tests once and for all". A statement delivered on his behalf by the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu said this Treaty has the power to protect future generations from the human suffering and environmental catastrophe produced by nuclear tests. [2021-09-09 | 14JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF | KOREAN | SPANISH

The CTBT, according to the UN Chief, is an invaluable contribution to nuclear non-proliferation. "It is a powerful barrier to the development of new weapons, putting a brake on the nuclear arms race."

The statement was issued on September 8 at the high-level plenary session to commemorate and promote the International Day Against Nuclear Tests (IDANT). The UN General Assembly also underlined the crucial role of the CTBT in the international nuclear arms control framework.

The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions everywhere, by everyone, for all time. Adherence to the Treaty, which opened for signature on September 24, 1996, is nearly universal, but it has not yet entered into force. Against this backdrop, Guterres has urged “those States that have not ratified the Treaty to do so without delay".

One hundred and eighty-five countries have signed the Treaty, of which 170 have also ratified it, including three of the nuclear weapon States: France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom. But 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries must sign and ratify before the CTBT can enter into force. Of these, eight are still missing: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the USA. India, North Korea and Pakistan have yet to sign the CTBT. The last Annex 2 State to ratify the Treaty was Indonesia on February 6, 2012.

The CTBT’s unique verification regime includes an International Monitoring System (IMS) based on four key technologies—seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound and radionuclide—to ensure that no nuclear explosion can go undetected. Currently, 302 certified facilities—of a total of 337 when complete—are operating around the world.

Addressing the UN General Assembly for the first time as Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Dr Robert Floyd also pointed to the success of the CTBT in underpinning a near-universal norm against nuclear testing over the 25 years since it opened for signature.

He is the CTBTO’s fourth Executive Secretary, following Zerbo (2013-2021), Ambassador Tibor Tóth of Hungary (2005-2013) and Dr Wolfgang Hoffmann of Germany (1997-2005). He was elected by States Signatories to CTBT in May 2021 and began his term on August 1.

Dr Floyd was previously Director-General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO), Australia’s national authority for implementing various treaties to control weapons of mass destruction, whose mandate includes overseeing operation of 23 facilities in the CTBT’s International Monitoring System (IMS) to detect nuclear explosions.

Marked annually on August 29, IDANT was established in 2009 by the General Assembly to remember the consequences of nuclear tests and express support for the CTBT. The date commemorates both the anniversary of Kazakhstan’s closure of the former Soviet Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in 1991, and the date the first Soviet nuclear test was conducted there in 1949.

In his statement to the High-Level Meeting, Dr Floyd said on September 8: "As we commemorate this important day, it is essential that we continue to listen to the voices of those affected by the tragic consequences of nuclear testing."

He recalled that in "a bold and visionary act", thirty years ago, the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, signed a decree closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, known as the Polygon.

Just two weeks earlier, Dr Floyd stood at one of the ground zeros at Semipalatinsk. "With more than 450 nuclear tests conducted at the Polygon, and a total explosive yield equivalent to 2,500 Hiroshima bombs, the scope of the impacts on human health and the environment may never be fully understood," he said.

"Yet for the communities affected by exposure to nuclear tests, there and at other nuclear test sites around the world, including in my own country, the pain and anguish is representative of the sad legacy of an era of unrestrained nuclear testing."

He added: "But let us also not lose sight of the even greater suffering and loss that would result from a nuclear war, which would tear apart every shred of our collective humanity."

Dr Floyd called for commitment:

  • to making sure that the world never again suffers from the disastrous consequences of nuclear testing;

  • to reducing nuclear risks and preventing nuclear war; and

  • to building a safer and more secure world for future generations by taking concrete actions to advance nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

A joint statement issued by Mr. Mukhtar Tileuberdi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, and CTBTO Executive Secretary Dr. Floyd called on all States to continue to observe the moratoria on nuclear explosions.

The statement added: "We urge those States that have not yet signed and/or ratified the Treaty to do so without delay. We call on the eight remaining Annex 2 States, whose ratifications are required for entry into force of the CTBT, to demonstrate their commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament by taking this important step in support of international peace and security.

"We conclude that it is high time to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty into force to advance nuclear disarmament and create a safer and more secure world for future generations." [IDN-InDepthNews – 09 September 2021]

Photo: Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi and CTBTO Executive Secretary Dr. Robert Floyd during his visit to Astana, Kazakhstan.