Wishing for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World on the CTBT's 15th Birthday
As leaders from around the world gather in New York this week to work for global peace, we cannot forget that Saturday marks the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The United States helped draft the treaty in 1996 and signed it on the first day it was opened for signatures, but the U.S. Senate has not ratified it. Until the United States and nine other key countries ratify the CTBT, it will not be in full force.
Although the US has yet to ratify the CTBT, eight months ago the United States and Russia signed the New START treaty, which, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, enhanced the United States' national security and global security. By requiring the United States and Russia to make comparable reductions in their strategic weapons, the START treaty made major progress in promoting nuclear safety; however a necessary step toward a nuclear weapons-free world is U.S. ratification of the CTBT.
The threats that nuclear tests pose to the environment and to the global population are serious. A nuclear test in 1954 created a radius of destruction and damage that reached for 300 miles, resulting in the development of long-term medical conditions in children over 200 kilometers away from the test site. Tuna and shark caught 80 miles from the site were radioactive, and the fishermen working in that area suffered from serious skin blistering.
Ratification of the CTBT would also reduce the likelihood of nuclear proliferation. As Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association explains, "... without additional testing, China cannot perfect the technology to arm its missiles with multiple warheads... ratification by Egypt, Iran, and Israel would reduce nuclear weapons-related security concerns and bring those states further into the nonproliferation mainstream...the Indian-Pakistani rivalry could be eased by converting their unilateral test moratoria into a legally binding commitment...[and] national and international capabilities to detect and deter possible clandestine nuclear testing by other states will be significantly greater."
By banning tests of new weapons, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and international monitoring system can help stop nuclear proliferation, making ratification of the treaty a key first step to an eventual nuclear weapons-free world.
Katharine Nasielski is a 2011-2012 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant.