August CTBT Update

By Meri Lugo

The latest from ACA’s Project for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

I. ACA Issue Brief on Modernization

Last week, ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball published an Issue Brief responding to lingering questions and doubts regarding the United States’ ability to maintain its nuclear stockpile into the indefinite future.

Daryl refutes the standard treaty-skeptic talking points, positing that the “existing strategy for warhead life extensions can continue to maintain the effectiveness of the arsenal indefinitely; a long-term, robust nuclear weapons ‘modernization’ plan is in place; [and] the administration’s long-term stockpile stewardship and management plan pledges more than enough resources to sustain the effort.”

Since 1994, the U.S. national laboratories have certified every type of nuclear warhead through a technically rigorous certification process. The 2009 JASON study concluded that the “lifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence,” and that there is “no evidence that accumulation of changes incurred from aging and LEPs have increased risk to certification of today’s deployed nuclear warheads.”

Skeptics who charge that the United States should resort to nuclear testing or new design warheads to maintain a reliable deterrent are misguided.  Daryl reiterates, “nuclear explosive testing has never been relied upon to check the reliability of proven U.S. nuclear warhead designs and is not needed to do so in the future.”

Click here to read the full Issue Brief.

II. U.S. CTBT Ratification: What Russia Can Do To Help

Former CTBT deputy chief negotiator for Russia, Victor Slipchenko  has written an especially useful VERTIC Occasional Paper on the challenges facing U.S. ratification of the test ban, and considers what Russia could do to help its prospects. If you haven’t done so already, it’s worth a read.

“The Obama administration will need as much help as it can get from other CTBT supporters – Russia in particular – if entry into force is ever to become reality,” he writes.
Slipchenko identifies two criticisms of the treaty that are especially prominent in light of U.S.-Russian relations: that Russia does not fully understand or intend to abide by the zero-yield limit of nuclear test explosions under the CTBT, and that the United States would not be able to detect Russian hydronuclear tests if Russia decides not to abide by the zero-yield limit.

Slipchenko presents the well-established evidence to the contrary, including the former U.S. head CTBT negotiator Ambassador Stephen Ledogar’s 1999 testimony in which he stated that Russia is committed to the comprehensiveness of the treaty, as well as several Russian comments to the same effect. He suggests however, that, ” Given these circumstances, Russia-for whom US ratification of the CTBT is clearly in the national interest-might be well-advised to reaffirm at a higher political level similar statements made during CTBT ratification hearings the Russian Duma in 2000 [on the comprehensiveness of the treaty.]”

He also suggests that Russia offer to install bilateral transparency and confidence building measures at testing sites, thereby reducing ambiguity on both sides. Given the national security value it holds for both states and the foundation of transparency and verification established by START, the proposal’s feasibility is high. If New START is ratified, it would enhance the trust and continue the progress needed to carry out these important clarifying steps to assuage American CTBT skeptics. To read Slipchenko’s full piece, click here for the PDF.  For more of VERTIC’s Occasional Papers on the CTBT, click here.

III. Generous EU contribution to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)

The European Union Council provided a contribution of €280,000 as part of their EU Strategy against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the CTBTO announced last week. The contribution marks the largest ever voluntary contribution by the EU to the CTBTO, and is €5 million over the EU Member States assessed annual contribution. A CTBTO press release states that the EU contribution will directly fund work related to the CTBTO auxiliary seismic station, strengthening on site inspections and the monitoring of noble gases and providing technical assistant to African, Latin American and Caribbean countries to facilitate their full participation in the CTBT’s verification regime.

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