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Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Summary

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty contains a preamble, 17 treaty articles, two annexes, and a protocol on verification.

Preamble
Scope
Implementing Organization
Steps to Carry Out Treaty Obligations
Verification and Compliance
Punitive Measures and Disputes
Amendment Process
Peaceful Nuclear Explosions
Duration and Withdrawal
Miscellaneous Provisions
Entry into Force
Other Provisions
Annexes


Preamble

The preamble puts the treaty into a broader political context. It underlines the need for the continued reduction of nuclear arsenals with the goal of eliminating them. The preamble also notes that the treaty will be an effective measure of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation by "constraining the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons and ending the development of advanced new types of nuclear weapons." It also states that the treaty will be a "meaningful step in the realization of a systematic process to achieve nuclear disarmament."


Scope

Article I states that all parties are prohibited from conducting "any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion." This prohibition is the heart of the treaty, with all other articles relating to it. Yet it is vague. Negotiators carefully avoided trying to define "nuclear weapon" or "test explosion," preferring to rely on the notion that a nuclear test is hard to define but anyone will recognize one if he or she sees one.

The US interpretation of the scope was articulated in President Clinton's "zero-yield" test ban policy announced in August 1995. This policy bans all nuclear tests. Interestingly, the US definition is based not on the size of the explosion (the nuclear yield), but on whether the explosion creates an uncontrolled chain reaction (becomes critical). Thus the United States can conduct any experiment with high explosives and fissile materials as long as the experiment does not achieve criticality, i.e., an uncontrolled chain reaction. One such "subcritical" experiment was conducted in July 1997 and others are planned for the Nevada Test Site in 1997 and 1998. It is not clear whether Russia and China have agreed to this interpretation.


Implementing Organization

Article II establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, which will implement the treaty and provide a forum for consultation and cooperation. This organization will consist of a Conference of States Parties, an executive council, and a technical secretariat. The organization will be located in Vienna to benefit from the information resources of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is also located there.

The Conference of States Parties will act as the overall governing body of the organization and will oversee the treaty's implementation. The conference will meet once a year.

The executive council will act as the treaty's principle decisionmaking body, consisting of 51 members. To distribute membership equally on a geographical basis, the council will include ten states from Africa, seven from Eastern Europe, nine from Latin America and the Caribbean, seven from the Middle East and South Asia, ten from North America and Western Europe, and eight from Southeast Asia, the Pacific and Far East. The members of the council will be elected by the Conference.

The technical secretariat will implement the verification procedures of the treaty. It will supervise the operation of the international monitoring system and receive, process, analyze, and report on the data collected. It will also manage the international data center and be involved in on-site inspections.


Steps to Carry Out Treaty Obligations

Article III requires each state to take necessary steps to carry out its treaty obligations.


Verification and Compliance

Article IV and the verification protocol indicate how compliance with the treaty will be verified. It will consist of four elements: the international monitoring system, consultation and clarification, on-site inspections, and confidence-building measures. The verification process cannot become operational until the treaty enters into force.

International monitoring system. The purpose of the international monitoring system is to detect and identify any activity prohibited under Article I. The monitoring system will include a network of 50 primary and 120 auxiliary seismic stations. These stations will be designed to distinguish between nuclear explosions and natural events such as earthquakes. The monitoring system will also include 80 radionuclide stations and 16 radionuclide laboratories to detect radioactive particles released during a nuclear test. In addition, 60 infrasound and 11 hydroacoustic stations will be used to detect the sound of a nuclear explosion either under ground or under water.

International data center. All the data collected by the monitoring system will be transferred to the international data center for storage and processing. The center will screen out non-nuclear events and provide states with summaries of information picked up by the monitoring system, as well as providing raw and processed data.

Consultation and clarification. The consultation and clarification process encourages states to resolve possible violations before requesting an on-site inspection. Either a state or the executive council can ask for clarification. States asked for such clarification must explain the ambiguous event within 48 hours.

On-site inspection. If consultation and clarification fails to resolve the ambiguity, each state has the right to request an on-site inspection. The inspection request must be based on information collected from the monitoring system or from some national technical means of verification, such as satellites. It cannot be based on information collected through espionage. The request must be specific in terms of the state to be inspected, the geographical coordinates, the estimated depth, the area to be inspected, and the environment and time of the event. It must also include all evidence on which the request is based, the identity of the observer (if possible), and the results of the consultation and clarification process.

The executive council will decide on the inspection request within 96 hours. The inspection will be authorized if at least 30 of the council's 51 members approve it. An inspection team will arrive at the state in question within six days of the request. The team may request drilling during the inspection, which must be approved by a majority (26) of the council. The inspection should not take longer than 60 days, but may be extended by up to 70 days with council approval if necessary.

If the executive council rejects the inspection request and finds it to be frivolous or abusive, or if the inspection is cancelled for the same reasons, the council may punish the requesting state. Such punishment may include requiring the state to pay costs for inspection preparations and suspending the state's right to request inspections and serve on the council.

Confidence-building measures. To promote compliance, the verification procedure includes confidence-building measures. In order to reduce the number of ambiguous events, each state will voluntarily notify the technical secretariat of any chemical explosion of 300 tons for more. States can also help calibrate monitoring stations.


Punitive Measures and Disputes

Article V empowers the conference to revoke a state's rights and privileges under the treaty, recommend punitive measures such as sanctions, and bring the case to the United Nations. Article VI describes how disputes about the treaty may be settled.


Amendment Process

Article VII indicates that each state has the right to propose amendments to the treaty after entry into force. Such amendments are approved by a majority of states-parties at an amendment conference with no party casting a negative vote.


Peaceful Nuclear Explosions

Under Article VIII, a conference will be held ten years after the treaty enters into force to review the treaty's implementation. At this time, any state may request that the issue of peaceful nuclear explosions be raised. The treaty assumes that such explosions will be banned unless significant obstacles are overcome. First, a unanimous decision that peaceful nuclear explosions may be permitted would be necessary. Then the treaty would have to be amended as outlined in the article. This provision was included to appease China; it is unlikely that peaceful nuclear explosions could ever be approved under these conditions.


Duration and Withdrawal

Article IX states that the treaty will continue indefinitely, and that each state has the right to withdraw if it decides that "extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests." Six months' notice of intent to withdraw must be given.


Miscellaneous Provisions

Under Article X, the treaty's annexes, protocol, and annexes to the protocol are made a formal part of the treaty. Article XI opens the treaty for signature to all states prior to entry into force. Article XII states that each signatory will ratify the treaty according to its own laws. Article XIII specifies that any state that has not signed before entry into force may do so at any time.


Entry into Force

Article XIV states that the treaty will not enter into force until 180 days after it has been ratified by 44 states listed by name. (These states are members of the Conference on Disarmament and have nuclear research facilities or power reactors.) This list includes the five nuclear weapons states and the three threshold states. The treaty is prohibited from entering into force sooner than two years after signature.

If the treaty has not entered into force three years after the anniversary of the date on which it became available for signature (September 1996), the states that have ratified it can hold a conference in September 1999 to decide how to speed up ratification. This conference can meet annually until the treaty enters into force. But because the treaty cannot be amended before it enters into force, this conference cannot change the original 44-state requirement.


Other Provisions

Article XV states that the treaty's provisions are not subject to reservations. Article XVI establishes the UN secretary-general as the treaty's depository. Article XVII designates six authentic treaty languages.


Annexes

Annex 1 lists the six geographical regions (Africa; Eastern Europe; Latin America and the Caribbean; Middle East and South Asia; North America and Western Europe; and South Asia, the Pacific and the Far East) used for the purposes of the treaty and the nations belonging to each region.

Annex 2 lists the 44 states that must ratify before the treaty can enter into force: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, North Korea, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Romania, South Korea, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam, Zaire.

Only India, Pakistan and North Korea have yet to sign.

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