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Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
Signed 10 September 1996
Location New York City
Effective Not in force
Condition 180 days after it is ratified by
Signatories 183
Ratifiers 161 (states that need to take further action for the treaty to enter into force: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, United States)
Depositary Secretary-General of the United Nations
Languages Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish

Participation in the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

  Annex 2, signed and ratified
  Annex 2, signed
  Annex 2, non-signatory

  Not Annex 2, signed and ratified
  Not Annex 2, signed
  Not Annex 2, non-signatory

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a multilateral treaty by which states agree to ban all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996[1] but it has not entered into force due to the non-ratification of eight specific states.


To date, over 2,000 nuclear tests have been carried out at different locations all over the world.[2] Arms control advocates had campaigned for the adoption of a treaty banning all nuclear explosions since the early 1950s, when public concern was aroused as a result of radioactive fall-out from atmospheric nuclear tests and the escalating arms race. Over 50 nuclear explosions were registered between 16 July 1945, when the first nuclear explosive test was conducted by the United States at White Sands Missile Range near Alamogordo, New Mexico, and 31 December 1953. Prime Minister Nehru of India voiced the heightened international concern in 1954, when he proposed the elimination of all nuclear test explosions worldwide. However, within the context of the Cold War, skepticism about the capability to verify compliance with a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty posed a major obstacle to any agreement.

Partial Test Ban Treaty

Limited success was achieved with the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963, which banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater and in space, but not underground. Neither France nor China signed the PTBT. However, the treaty was still ratified by the United States after a 80 to 19 vote in the United States Senate.[3] While the PTBT reduced atmospheric fallout, underground nuclear testing can also vent radioactivity into the atmosphere, and radioactivity released underground may seep into the ground water. Moreover, the PTBT had no restraining effects on the further development of nuclear warheads.[4]

Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty

A major step towards non-proliferation of nuclear weapons came with the signing of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968. Under the NPT, non-nuclear weapon states were prohibited from, among other things, possessing, manufacturing or acquiring nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. All signatories, including nuclear weapon states, were committed to the goal of total nuclear disarmament. However, India, Pakistan and Israel have declined to sign the NPT on grounds that such a treaty is fundamentally discriminatory as it places limitations on states that do not have nuclear weapons while making no efforts to curb weapons development by declared nuclear weapons states.

Negotiations for the CTBT

Given the political situation prevailing in the subsequent decades, little progress was made in nuclear disarmament until the end of the Cold War in 1991. Parties to the PTBT held an amendment conference that year to discuss a proposal to convert the Treaty into an instrument banning all nuclear-weapon tests; with strong support from the UN General Assembly, negotiations for a comprehensive test-ban treaty began in 1993.

Adoption of the CTBT

Intensive efforts were made over the next three years to draft the Treaty text and its two annexes. However, the Conference on Disarmament, in which negotiations were being held, did not succeed in reaching consensus on the adoption of the text. Under the direction of Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Australia[citation needed] then sent the text to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where it was submitted as a draft resolution.[5] On 10 September 1996, the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was adopted by a large majority, exceeding two-thirds of the General Assembly's Membership.[1]


(Article I):[6]

  1. Each State Party undertakes not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion, and to prohibit and prevent any such nuclear explosion at any place under its jurisdiction or control.
  2. Each State Party undertakes, furthermore, to refrain from causing, encouraging, or in any way participating in the carrying out of any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.


The Treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996.[7] It opened for signature in New York on 24 September 1996,[7] when it was signed by 71 States, including five of the eight then nuclear-capable states. As of September 2013, 161 states have ratified the CTBT and another 24 states have signed but not ratified it.[8][9]

The treaty will enter into force 180 days after the 44 states listed in Annex 2 of the treaty have ratified it. These "Annex 2 states" are states that participated in the CTBT’s negotiations between 1994 and 1996 and possessed nuclear power reactors or research reactors at that time.[10] As of 2013, eight Annex 2 states have not ratified the treaty: China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the United States have signed but not ratified the Treaty; India, North Korea and Pakistan have not signed it. In 1998, India said it would only sign the treaty if the United States presented a schedule for eliminating its nuclear stockpile, a condition the United States rejected.[11]

US ratification of the CTBT

The US has signed the CTBT, but not ratified it. There is ongoing debate whether or not the US should ratify the CTBT. The United States has stated that its ratification of the CTBT is conditional upon:

A: The conduct of a Science Based Stockpile Stewardship Program to ensure a high level of confidence in the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons in the active stockpile, including the conduct of a broad range of effective and continuing experimental programs.
B: The maintenance of modern nuclear laboratory facilities and programs in theoretical and exploratory nuclear technology which will attract, retain, and ensure the continued application of our human scientific resources to those programs on which continued progress in nuclear technology depends.
C:The maintenance of the basic capability to resume nuclear test activities prohibited by the CTBT should the United States cease to be bound to adhere to this treaty.
D: Continuation of a comprehensive research and development program to improve our treaty monitoring capabilities and operations.
E: The continuing development of a broad range of intelligence gathering and analytical capabilities and operations to ensure accurate and comprehensive information on worldwide nuclear arsenals, nuclear weapons development programs, and related nuclear programs.
F: The understanding that if the President of the United States is informed by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Energy (DOE) – advised by the Nuclear Weapons Council, the Directors of DOE's nuclear weapons laboratories and the Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command – that a high level of confidence in the safety or reliability of a nuclear weapon type which the two Secretaries consider to be critical to the U.S. nuclear deterrent could no longer be certified, the President, in consultation with Congress, would be prepared to withdraw from the CTBT under the standard "supreme national interests" clause in order to conduct whatever testing might be required.[12]

Proponents of ratification claim that it would:

  1. Establish an international norm that would push other nuclear-capable countries like North Korea, Pakistan, and India to sign.
  2. Constrain worldwide nuclear proliferation by vastly limiting a country's ability to make nuclear advancements that only testing can ensure.
  3. Not compromise US national security because the Science Based Stockpile Stewardship Program serves as a means for maintaining current US nuclear capabilities without physical detonation.[13]

Opponents of ratification claim that:

  1. The treaty is unverifiable and that other nations could easily cheat.
  2. The ability to enforce the treaty was dubious
  3. The U.S. nuclear stockpile would not be as safe or reliable in the absence of testing.
  4. The benefit to nuclear nonproliferation was minimal.[14]

On 13 October 1999, the United States Senate rejected ratification of the CTBT. During his 2008 presidential election campaign Barack Obama said that "As president, I will reach out to the Senate to secure the ratification of the CTBT at the earliest practical date."[15] In his speech in Prague on 5 April 2009, he announced that “[To] achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned.”[16]

An article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists describes how a North Korean underground nuclear test on 25 May 2009 was detected and the source located by GPS satellites. The authors suggest that the effectiveness of GPS satellites for detecting nuclear explosions enhances the ability to verify compliance to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, giving the United States more reason to ratify it.[17]

Monitoring of the CTBT

Geophysical and other technologies are used to monitor for compliance with the Treaty: forensic seismology, hydroacoustics, infrasound, and radionuclide monitoring. The technologies are used to monitor the underground, the waters and the atmosphere for any sign of a nuclear explosion. Statistical theories and methods are integral to CTBT monitoring providing confidence in verification analysis. Once the Treaty enters into force, on site inspection will be provided for where concerns about compliance arise.

The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), an international organization headquartered in Vienna, Austria, was created to build the verification regime, including establishment and provisional operation of the network of monitoring stations, the creation of an international data centre, and development of the On Site Inspection capability.

The monitoring network consists of 337 facilities located all over the globe. As of May 2012, more than 260 facilities have been certified. The monitoring stations register data that is transmitted to the international data centre in Vienna for processing and analysis. The data are sent to states that have signed the Treaty.[18]

Nuclear testing after CTBT adoption

Three countries have tested nuclear weapons since the CTBT opened for signature in 1996. India and Pakistan both carried out two sets of tests in 1998. North Korea carried out three announced tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013. All three North Korean tests were picked up by the International Monitoring System set up by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Commission.[19][20]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Resolution adopted by the general assembly:50/245. Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty". United Nations. 17 September 1996. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  2. "Nuclear testing world overview". Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
  3. "1963 Year In Review". 1963. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  4. Daryl Kimball and Wade Boese (June 2009). "Limited Test Ban Treaty Turns 40". Arms Control Association. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
  5. "Comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty: draft resolution". United Nations. 6 September 1996.!396802~!33&ri=1&aspect=power&menu=search&source=~!horizon#focus. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  6. "Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty CTBTO". CTBTO Preparatory Commission. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 United Nations Treaty Collection (2009). "Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty". Retrieved 23 August 2009.
  8. "Status of Signature and Ratification". Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. 2011. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  9. David E. Hoffman (1 November 2011). "Supercomputers offer tools for nuclear testing — and solving nuclear mysteries". National. Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
    In this news article, the number of states ratifying was reported as 154.
  10. "The Russian Federation's support for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty". CTBTO Preparatory Commission. 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  11. Enver, Masud. "Rebuffed by U.S., India, Pakistan Storm Nuclear Club". The Wisdom Fund. Retrieved 8 January 2012. 
  12. Jonathan Medalia (2 June 2005). "Nuclear Weapons: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty". Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress (US). Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  13. "Press Release: U.S. Stockpile Security and International Monitoring Capabilities Strengthened, Says New Report on Technical Issues Behind the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty". National Research Council of the National Academies. 30 March 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
  14. Kathleen Bailey and Robert Barker, “Why the United States Should Unsign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and Resume Nuclear Testing,” Comparative Strategy 22 (2003): 131
  15. "Nuclear Testing Is an Acceptable Risk for Arms Control". Scientific American. March 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  16. "Remarks by President Barack Obama, Hradcany Square, Prague, Czech Republic". The White House. 5 April 2005. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
  17. Park, J., Grejner-Brzezinska, D., von Frese, R. (18 August 2011). "A new way to detect secret nuclear tests: GPS". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 
  18. "US nuclear security administrator dagostino visits the CTBTO". CTBTO Preparatory Commission. 15 September 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  19. "Highlight 2007: The CTBT Verification Regime Put to the Test – The Event in the DPRK on 9 October 2006". Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
  20. "Press Release June 2009: Experts Sure About Nature of the DPRK Event". Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 

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