Scientists Advance Case for CTBT Ratification
By David Culp on 03/30/2012 @ 04:30 PM
A panel of eminent nuclear weapons scientists today provided the administration and Congress with powerful new support for ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. While we at FCNL don't expect the Senate to act on ratification this year, we do hope to work for ratification in the next Congress.
The National Academy of Sciences report on technical issues related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) effectively rebuts two of the main arguments advanced by opponents of Senate ratification. The panel, which had access to both classified and unclassified U.S. government information, states that the United States has the technical capability to detect clandestine nuclear explosions "underground, underwater, in the atmosphere and in space."
The scientists acknowledged that the United States cannot "with absolute certainty" prevent another country from secretly building nuclear weapons. But they argue that if the CTBT treaty was ratified and entered into force it would help "reduce the risk" of clandestine nuclear weapons activity.
While these conclusions might seem not all that important to many of us who have long argued for ratification of the CTBT, the new study by the National Academy of Sciences will be important to our efforts to secure Senate ratification. The National Academy is a congressionally chartered private, nonprofit institution that provides expert advice to the administration and Congress.
Opponents of CTBT defeated an effort to ratify the treaty in 1999 in part by using the argument that the United States could not effectively monitor compliance with a nuclear test ban. In addition, many of these same opponents of ratification argued that the U.S. needs to test its own nuclear weapons in order to guarantee their effectiveness.
The National Academy of Sciences report states unequivocally that the United States does not need nuclear tests to maintain its arsenal of weapons. And although the scientists argue they their study is not an attempt to make an argument for ratification of the CTBT, they go on to note that the only reason the United States would need to begin testing nuclear weapons again is if another nuclear weapons power began to develop a new type of nuclear weapon. The way to avoid that, of course, is for the United States and seven other countries to ratify the treaty so it can come into force.
Here at FCNL, we have been working for a world free of nuclear weapons since the dawn of the nuclear era. FCNL worked for ratification of the CTBT in 1999 and we have continued to have ratification on our agenda for the last decade. In the last decade, ratification of CTBT has been endorsed by former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, by almost every former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and by an impressive array of political leaders.
The National Academy of Sciences report will help these efforts. In the next week, we at FCNL encourage you to use the release of this report as another opportunity to contact senators to urge them to speak out in favor of CTBT ratification. In particular, we are encouraging senators to use the release of the report as an opportunity to offer short speeches on the Senate floor in favor of ratification. We look forward to working with all of you on this effort.