In 1996 President Bill Clinton became the first world leader to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. In 1999 Bill Clinton suffered a major defeat when the U.S. Senate rejected this treaty’s ratification. Not since just after World War I when the Senate refused to ratify the treaty setting up the League of Nations had the Senate balked at ratifying a major arms treaty. Although both Clinton and Obama have sought ratification in the interim, the Senate continues to block ratification of this treaty.
This is after we have overcome the two main objections to this treaty that bans all nuclear test blasts including those conducted underground. In October 2015 a group headed by Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz, the head of the NNSA Frank Klotz, directors of the main nuclear weapons labs at Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia National Laboratories, former Deputy Energy Secretary Charles Curtis and others stated emphatically that the ‘stockpile stewardship program’ that was initiated in place of ratification of this treaty was an unbridled success.
NNSA head Klotz stated, “Today we have a more detailed understanding of how a nuclear weapon works than was possible under nuclear testing.” He gave credit to the development of supercomputers and our modeling skills to have replaced the needs for more actual nuclear tests.
With the implementation of the worldwide seismic monitoring network that consists of 170 seismic monitoring stations in 73 countries we now have a system that can tell us if others have tested an underground nuclear weapon. Not only can we now detect an underground explosion using seismic waves but also we can use an additional 11 monitors to detect an undersea explosion or 60 monitors detecting frequency waves in the open atmosphere or 80 detectors measuring radioactive particles in the air.
For this reason, we have now measured and verified all of the tests of nuclear blasts by North Korea. Our network of monitors is so pervasive and sensitive that we can normally measure a sub-one megaton explosion or any other low-yield event.
With these principal restraints now gone, scientists, nuclear pundits and world leaders are suggesting this is the time to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. For example, only eight nuclear-capable states must ratify the treaty for it to become effective – China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States. Fully 183 countries have signed the treaty. Of these 164 states have ratified the agreements. Russia, the other large nuclear weapons power, has signed and ratified the agreement.
As an example, Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization suggested a sort of domino effect. If both Israel, that has never acknowledged having nuclear weapons and Iran, who has just signed an agreement to not develop a weapon for 15 to 20 years both ratify the treaty, this would initiate a domino effect. This would apply pressure to Egypt to begin the establishment of a nuclear free zone in the Middle East.
A January 29, 2016 article in the International Business Times by Himanshu Goenka quotes Zerbo as saying, “Iran and Israel ratifying CTBT would provide momentum for Egypt to do so as well, which in turn would put pressure on the U.S. to ratify it as well. China would not ratify the treaty before the U.S., India wouldn’t do so before China and Pakistan wouldn’t ratify it before India, therefore making the U.S. action crucial.”
The article continued by saying that Zerbo added that North Korea was the least likely to ratify the CTBT. He said the international community needed to change the way it dealt with the East Asian country. It is the only country in the world to have tested nuclear weapons in the 21st century. It should be the target of worldwide condemnation and the subject of more sanctions.
The U.S. Senate should ratify the treaty in any case since its two main objections have been resolved. We should ratify because our worldwide sensor network serves as verification that countries either have or have not adhered to the treaty. We also have gained far more from supercomputer modeling that we could ever learn from additional test blasts.
Unfortunately the U.S. is not going to ratify the treaty in the Senate until one political party, probably the Democrats, dominates Congress. We are subject to a political stalemate. Once Congress is willing, the U.S. should ratify the treaty.
While this treaty does not eliminate nuclear weapons it does ban any further blast testing. This means the weapons will eventually age into obsolescence and we will age out of our nuclear weapons.
While all countries ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty are only a single step that does not accomplish the ultimate goal, it is a step in the right direction. We should settle for half measures if we cannot accomplish a full forbidding of all weapons.
Ultimately we should continue to impose harsh sanctions on North Korea in an effort to get them to sign and ratify this treaty. In the meantime other negotiations that continue to reduce the size of our arsenals should continue. We, at the bottom line, should not care how the world rids itself of the nuclear menace. We should just end it anyway we can.
Use the following links to find out more information or access the original documents used to prepare this article.