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Debate: Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

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Is the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty or any other kind of ban on nuclear testing, a good idea?

Background and context

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996 but it has not yet entered into force.[1]

See Wikipedia's article on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

Is the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and any ban on nuclear testing, a good idea?


  • CTBT is a critical building block in the architecture of the global nuclear nonproliferation systemDaryl G. Kimball of the Arms Control Association,Delivered 22 September 2005"The de facto global nuclear test moratorium and CTBT’s entry into force are crucial barriers to help prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states and are essential to the future viability of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). They are the first two of the 13 practical steps for systematic and progressive nuclear disarmament that were unanimously adopted in the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference. In fact, the nuclear weapon states' commitment to the CTBT was vital in securing the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995."
  • CTBT blocks new nuclear threats from emerging:Daryl G. Kimball of the Arms Control Association,Delivered 22 September 2005"The CTBT is an essential step towards nuclear disarmament because it helps to discourage dangerous nuclear competition and block new nuclear threats from emerging.Given the series of crises with grave nuclear overtones that have shaken the South Asian sub-continent since the 1998 nuclear explosions, it should be self-evident that another round of tit-for-tat testing would adversely affect regional and international security."

  • Nuclear Test Ban Treaty can reduce risks of nuclear fallout. John F.Kennedy's Radio and Television Address to the American People on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Washington, D.C. July 26, 1963: "Our own atmospheric tests last year were conducted under conditions which restricted such fallout to an absolute minimum. But over the years the number and the yield of weapons tested have rapidly increased and so have the radioactive hazards from such testing. Continued unrestricted testing by the nuclear powers, joined in time by other nations which may be less adept in limiting pollution, will increasingly contaminate the air that all of us must breathe Even then, the number of children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs might seem statistically small to some, in comparison with natural health hazards.These tests befoul the air of all men and all nations, the committed and the uncommitted alike, without their knowledge and without their consent. That is why the continuation of atmospheric testing causes so many countries to regard all nuclear powers as equally evil; and we can hope that its prevention will enable those countries to see the world more clearly, while enabling all the world to breathe more easily."
  • Test ban treaty has become increasingly important in recent years. Samuel Berger, Sam Nunn, and William Perry. "Case for ratifying Nuclear Test Ban Treaty". Politico. June 2nd, 2009: "Fast forward 10 years, and nuclear proliferation's perils have only become more apparent. Pakistan, a new nuclear state, is facing an existential threat that could put its arsenal at risk. Terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda are actively seeking weapons of mass destruction and would not hesitate to use them. North Korea and Iran are pursuing dangerous nuclear programs for themselves, underscored by the May 25 North Korean nuclear test. The world is on the precipice of a new and perilous nuclear era. Threat reduction demands urgent action."
  • US diplomacy on disarmament requires that it sign test ban treaty. Published: May 24, 2009 ;NewYork Times by YANDREW ROSENTHAL, Editor: "if Washington has any hope of rallying diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions for constraining Iran’s nuclear ambitions or North Korea’s program, it has to show that it, too, is willing to play by the international rules. For both of those reasons, the Senate needs to ratify the test ban treaty."


  • No way to unmake nuclear weaponsby Mikhail Gorbachev,April 17 2009 "I am reminded of the treaty that established the League of Nations after World War I. The US never ratified the treaty and never joined the League. It suffered nothing by refusing to do so, even as the League quickly proved to be a failure in preventing conflicts.

There is no way to unmake nuclear weapons. Like guns, restrictions on them never seem to deter the rogues we fear but only tie the hands of the responsible citizens of the world. While we can certainly try to avoid producing unnecessary numbers of them and pointing them at each other threateningly, we will never see a world rid of them until and unless some new technology makes them obsolete. That is why a functional missile defense system has to be a priority for the US."

  • Detecting nuclear tests and enforcing ban is very difficult. January 6, 1997-Robert Irion" While the treaty calls for a total ban on nuclear testing, there is a threshold beneath which the seismic network will be unable to detect tiny events, Lay says. However, much of the research by network designers is driven by the U.S. objective of detecting explosions as small as a few kilotons "evasively tested," meaning that the testers devise some way to prevent the explosion from vibrating the surrounding rock as strongly. Suspending the device within a large subterranean cavity is one such technique. To unveil all such explosions, says Lay, "We'd have to be able to look everywhere in the world for a magnitude 2.5 event, detect it, and discriminate between an earthquake, nuclear test, mining blast, or some other event. That's a staggering objective."
Initially at least, the CTBT's International Monitoring System will have as its goal the worldwide detection of all events of magnitude 4 or greater--equivalent to the seismic waves triggered by a one-kiloton device fully coupled with the ground around it. Lay terms this a "major advance" over current capabilities."
  • Nuclear test ban lacks meaningful commitment to nuclear disarmament: Comment of then Minister of External Affairs I K GujralCommenting on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in September 1996, the then Minister for External Affairs, IK Gujral said “It is not a ‘comprehensive treaty,’ (as) it permits the nuclear weapon states to continue their weapons related research and development activity using non-explosive technologies; it lacks any meaningful commitment to nuclear disarmament and instead of being the definitive first step of the nuclear disarmament process, it only serves to perpetuate the existing discriminatory status quo.” This was the keystone of India’s stand on the CTBT in the 1990s.

Pro/con sources



External links

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