|SPLITTING THE ATOM|
Nuclear Bombs, Non-Proliferation and Test Bans
November 18, 1996
The Nuclear Weapons
Other Forum Topics
Recent efforts to pass a nuclear test ban
What are the benefits of the nuclear test ban treaty to the U.S.?
How are countries making it difficult to obtain nuclear material?
What is the situation in the former Soviet Union?
What type of control of nuclear weapons is there in other countries?
Can the world's nuclear arsenal really be dismantled?
A question from Lisa Kotz of Athens, GA
I am a political science major, and I am wondering what was the most recent treaty dealing with nuclear weapons and how has it made the world safer? How has Clinton's position on this issue differed from Bush's, and what effect has that had on policy?
Kenneth Luongo of the Department of Energy responds:
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was signed by President Clinton at the United Nations in New York City on September 24, 1996, is the most recent treaty dealing with nuclear weapons. To date 133 nations have signed the CTBT. The pursuit of the CTBT was determined by President Clinton to be in the overall interest of U.S. national security. The world is safer because the CTBT effectively ends the nuclear arms race and the ability to develop advanced new types of nuclear weapons.
Near the end of his administration, President Bush signed legislation enacting a moratorium on U.S. nuclear testing for fiscal year 1993 but he did not support a CTBT. Upon his election as President, Mr. Clinton extended that nuclear testing moratorium until Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty negotiations were completed and gave those negotiations strong support. The Department of Energy provided the technical foundation and path breaking science to end nuclear weapons testing and assure the safety and reliability of the remaining weapons arsenal. This no doubt played a strong role in the successful completion of the CTBT this year.
Leonard Spector of the Carnegie Endowment responds:
There are two major treaties of interest, the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was opened for signature on September 24, 1996.
The NPT prohibits parties from acquiring or manufacturing nuclear weapons and requires them to accept inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on all of their nuclear activities, to permit verification that they are not being used for military purposes. The five states that detonated nuclear explosions before January 1, 1967, are classified as Nuclear Weapons States and are exempt from the Treaty's prohibitions and its inspection requirements. With 184 total parties (five Nuclear Weapon States and 179 Non-Nuclear Weapon States) the treaty is nearly universal. India, Israel, and Pakistan, however, are not parties and are thought to have undeclared nuclear weapon capabilities. A key recent development was the decision taken by the treaty's parties in New York in May 1995 to make the treaty permanent. In addition, steps are under way to strengthen the inspection system of the IAEA to detect and deter cheating by Treaty parties whose commitment to the pact is suspect.
The United States has been a key supporter of the Treaty since its inception, and both the Bush and Clinton Administrations supported efforts to make it permanent.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would prohibit all nuclear explosions no matter how small. It will be verified by an international monitoring system operated by a new international organization, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, to be housed in Vienna. The verification system will use seismic, hydroacoustic, radionuclide, and infrasound techniques, augmented by on-site inspections to check out suspected tests.
To come into force, forty-four countries -- members of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament that also possess power or research reactors -- must ratify the pact. This group includes the five Nuclear Weapon States, as well as, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea. India has declared that it will not ratify the pact because it does not contain a "timebound framework" for the elimination of all nuclear weapons, and Pakistan has stated that it will not ratify the treaty until India takes this step.
133 countries have signed (but not yet ratified) the CTBT within the fifty days it has been open for signature, indicating that it has overwhelming support. It is hoped that this strong international consensus for the treaty will create pressure on India and Pakistan to join it and that they will eventually do so. (Israel and North Korea have not voiced strong objections to it, and Israel has signed it). In the meantime, the five Nuclear Weapon States are implementing unilateral moratoria on testing. Of the emerging nuclear states, only India is known to have conducted a test -- a single detonation in 1974. Thus at the current time, no tests are being conducted anywhere in the world and a strong norm against testing is being established.
A test ban will prevent the Nuclear Weapon States from developing new types of nuclear weapons and prevent would-be nuclear powers from moving beyond simple atomic bombs (that is, they would not be able to build thermonuclear, or hydrogen, bombs); the CTBT will also make it more difficult for the latter states to develop nuclear warheads for missiles.
The Bush Administration opposed the CTBT because it feared that the United States would not be able to maintain the reliability of its nuclear deterrent without at least occasional tests. After a careful review, the Clinton Administration determined that the reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent could be maintained through a "science-based stockpile stewardship program," that is, a reliability program based on computer analyses and experiments simulating nuclear tests. The Clinton Administration has become a strong advocate for the CTBT.
Don Gross of the ACDA responds:
The nuclear danger was dramatically reduced September 24 when President Clinton was the first world leader to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The CTBT will help to prevent the nuclear powers from developing more advanced and more dangerous weapons. It will limit the ability of other states to acquire such devices themselves. As President Clinton said in his address to the United Nations General Assembly after signing the CTBT. It points us toward a century in which the roles and risks of nuclear weapons can be further reduced, and ultimately eliminated.
The 134 signatures to date demonstrate that the world community regards nuclear testing as being unacceptable by anyone, anywhere, any time. The CTBT is the fruition of a 40-year effort, revived in 1993 when President Clinton put the United States squarely behind the test ban, and propelled forward last year when he committed us to a "true zero" yield treaty. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is an indispensable step to fulfilling our pledge to renounce the nuclear arms race.
A nine-month moratorium on testing was imposed by Congress beginning under President Bush in October 1992 and extended by President Clinton. President Bush did not support the start of CTBT negotiations.