The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty 

To date, over 2000 nuclear weapon tests have been carried out worldwide. The most recent nuclear test was conducted by North Korea on 3 September 2017. It is therefore all the more urgent for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) to enter into force as soon as possible. The Federal Government is doing its utmost to achieve this end.

Every nuclear test is one too many – more than 2000 such tests have been carried out worldwide since 1945. The large number of tests led to the rapid development of this weapons technology, with the explosive power of a single bomb rising exponentially over the decades. “Tsar Bomba”, for example, detonated by the Soviets in 1961, was around 4000 times more powerful than the two atom bombs that were dropped on Japan in August 1945, claiming thousands of lives and rendering vast tracts of land uninhabitable. The German Government is therefore committed to ensuring that nuclear tests are prohibited around the world and that the tests conducted by North Korea since 2006 remain the last of their kind. This is also the objective of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). 

The CTBT prohibits nuclear weapon test explosions as well as other nuclear explosions underground, under water and in the atmosphere. When the CTBT was being negotiated, Germany insisted that all nuclear experiments, including those involving low-yield explosives, must be banned. A zero-yield test ban, as this is known, also prohibits hydronuclear tests. While hydronuclear tests are genuine nuclear explosions, they release very little nuclear energy.

Ratification status

The Treaty was adopted by UN Resolution 50/245 on 10 September 1996 and opened for signature by all states two weeks later, on 24 September. Since being drawn up, it has been signed by 183 states, 166 of which have ratified it. The CTBT can only enter into force, however, when all 44 of the states listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty have ratified it. Eight of these Annex 2 states have yet to ratify, namely Iran, Israel, Egypt, China, the United States, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The latter three have not yet signed the Treaty. They are also the only three states to have conducted nuclear tests since the CTBT was opened for signature in 1996.

Alongside Australia, Canada, Finland, Japan and the Netherlands, Germany is part of the Friends of the CTBT, a group pushing particularly strongly for the Treaty to be brought into force.

A global monitoring system – for civilian purposes

Established to implement the Treaty, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization or CTBTO is based in Vienna. It operates on a provisional basis pending the Treaty’s entry into force. The CTBT provides for a global monitoring system to verify compliance with the test ban.

Thanks to its International Monitoring System with close to 300 monitoring stations (including 16 laboratories) to record seismic, infrasound and hydroacoustic variables as well as radionuclides, CTBTO is already in a position to detect even small, underground nuclear detonations around the world. Five German monitoring stations are part of this system – two seismological and two infrasound stations operated by the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources as well as a radionuclide station operated by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS). With around 7 million euros, Germany is the fourth-largest contributor to the CTBTO budget after the US, Japan and China.

After the tsunami on 26 December 2004, the stations began to make their data available for civilian and research purposes as well. As in the case of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan, the CTBTO now also routinely transmits its monitoring data to disaster early warning organisations.

Last updated 03.03.2017

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