CTBT at 16 Still Has No Wheels

September 24, 2012
Most 16 year olds are worried about tests. Most 16 year olds are worried about being accepted by their friends. Most 16 year olds spend long days agonizing about the promise of a drivers license. However, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which turns 16 today, is not like most 16 year olds. The tests that it is worried about involve massive explosions with dire health and environmental consequences. The group of friends it’s trying to get in with are the 39 countries that still need to ratify it. And on the CTBT’s 16th birthday, we see no signs of movement in the United States or abroad. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was drafted through the United Nations by numerous countries including the United States. It would ban all future nuclear explosions – in tests and in warfare – and would create an international regulatory regime to monitor the testing of nuclear weapons. Sixteen years ago today, the day the treaty was opened for signatures, 66 countries signed it including the United States and the other four nuclear powers of the day (China, France, the UK and Russia). As of last spring when Indonesia submitted its ratification, a total of 183 states had signed onto the treaty and 157 had ratified it. However the treaty will not take full effect until all 44 countries who were involved in its creation have signed and ratified it. The United States was one of those countries, as were India, Israel, China, Iran and North Korea – none of whom have ratified the treaty. The U.S. carried out its 1,030th nuclear test 19 years ago yesterday. Since then we have abstained from nuclear testing and in doing so have been in de facto compliance with the CTBT. But Congress’s continued refusal to ratify the treaty remains an impediment in the process toward full implementation and worldwide regulation of the ban. The consequences of not ratifying the treaty are real and tangible. Since the United States tested its first nuclear bomb in 1945, the total environmental impact of the world’s nuclear tests has done real damage, and the tests conducted by the US have resulted in radiation equivalent to the deployment of 29,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs. This has resulted in serious medical conditions in people close to the blast zones, as well as permanent ecological damage. Finally, the global community’s continued failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty makes nuclear war all the more imminent. Picture Courtesy of Koji Sasahara/AP

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