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Debate: Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

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Is the CTBT, or any other nuclear test ban treaty, a good idea?

Background and context

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996 but it has not yet entered into force. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)—described as the “longest sought and hardest fought for arms control treaty in history”—was opened for signature in September 1996.
The CTBT obligates countries that sign and ratify “not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.” It provides for an extensive verification regime including an International Monitoring System (IMS) to detect nuclear explosions, a global infrastructure for satellite communications from IMS stations to an International Data Center (IDC) that processes and distributes data to State Parties, and for on-site inspections, which may be requested by any State Party to determine whether suspected cheating has occurred. To implement these verification arrangements, the treaty establishes a Comprehensive Test Ban Organization (CTBTO) located in Vienna. The idea of a nuclear test ban treaty has been met with significant debate. The main questions surrounding the debate include: Can a nuclear test ban help nonproliferation efforts? Does it make it more difficult for countries to develop nuclear weapons? Can the international community effectively enforce a ban on nuclear weapons testing? Is technology sufficient for the detection of nuclear tests? And, even if detection is possible, is this sufficient to prevent countries from testing and developing nuclear weapons? Is it important to the environment? Is it important to human health and safety? Can nuclear deterrence be maintained sufficiently with a nuclear test ban in place? Can rogue powers be contained and deterred from developing nuclear weapons? Overall, is a nuclear test ban a good idea?

See Wikipedia's article on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and Nuclear weapons testing

Contents

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Nonproliferation: Would the NTBT help with non-proliferation efforts?

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Pro

  • Test ban halts R&D and development of nuclear weapons "A Case against Virtual Nuclear Testing." Scientific American Magazine. September 1999: "By barring explosive tests, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty severely constrains the way nations have traditionally evaluated changes in bomb designs and confirmed the performance of weapons to be stockpiled for military use. A ban on test explosions cannot alone prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, but it does pose a significant barrier to the development of weapons that rely on fusion reactions, including lighter, more compact and more powerful missile-borne nuclear warhead designs, such as those China has allegedly acquired from the U.S. through espionage and intelligence-gathering."
  • Test ban is a key step toward nuclear disarmmaent Daryl G. Kimball of the Arms Control Association, said in a speech delivered September 22, 2005:[1] "The de facto global nuclear test moratorium and CTBT’s entry into force are crucial barriers to help prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states and are essential to the future viability of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). They are the first two of the 13 practical steps for systematic and progressive nuclear disarmament that were unanimously adopted in the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference. In fact, the nuclear weapon states' commitment to the CTBT was vital in securing the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995."
  • Test ban helps prevent nuclear arms race Daryl G. Kimball of the Arms Control Association wrote on September 22, 2005: "The CTBT is an essential step towards nuclear disarmament because it helps to discourage dangerous nuclear competition and block new nuclear threats from emerging.Given the series of crises with grave nuclear overtones that have shaken the South Asian sub-continent since the 1998 nuclear explosions, it should be self-evident that another round of tit-for-tat testing would adversely affect regional and international security."[2]
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Con

  • Nuclear Test Ban Treaty does not help nuclear disarmament. A test ban treaty does not directly ban nuclear weapons nor their production. It only limits the testing of these new or existing stockpiles. A ban, therefore, does not make much progress toward nuclear disarmament. If this is the goal, it provides little assistance toward achieving disarmament.
  • Nuclear test ban lacks commitment to nuclear disarmament Commenting on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in September 1996, India's former Minister for External Affairs, IK Gujral, said" "It is not a ‘comprehensive treaty,’ (as) it permits the nuclear weapon states to continue their weapons related research and development activity using non-explosive technologies; it lacks any meaningful commitment to nuclear disarmament and instead of being the definitive first step of the nuclear disarmament process, it only serves to perpetuate the existing discriminatory status quo.” This was the keystone of India’s stand on the CTBT in the 1990s."[3]
  • Test ban ties hands of good states, while rogue states ignore it Mikhail Gorbachev said on April 17, 2009: "There is no way to unmake nuclear weapons. Like guns, restrictions on them never seem to deter the rogues we fear but only tie the hands of the responsible citizens of the world. While we can certainly try to avoid producing unnecessary numbers of them and pointing them at each other threateningly, we will never see a world rid of them until and unless some new technology makes them obsolete. That is why a functional missile defense system has to be a priority for the US."[4]
  • Test ban, as a means to abolishing nuclear weapons, is unrealistic Many see a test ban treaty as a good means to abolishing nuclear weapons. Yet, the objective of abolishing nuclear weapons is not realistic, primarily due to the constant uncertainty among nations as to whether other nations, and particularly rogue nations, will abide by such a ban on nukes. Fears will likely cause countries to keep some nukes "just in case". Therefore, a test ban, in so far as it is seen as a means to abolishing nuclear weapons, is unrealistic.
  • Fear will cause nuclear proliferation, despite testing ban. The Utopian model suggested by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that it will prevent nuclear war and hazards by stopping nuclear testing is fallacious, primarily because fear of nuclear arsenals will continue, which may lead to wars similar to the War in Iraq, just to see whether a country has nuclear weapons or not. Such fears of countries' nuclear capabilities will continue to cause conflict, even if nations are unable to test their nuclear capabilities.
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Enforcement: Can a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty be effectively enforced?

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Pro

  • New technologies enable detection and ban of nuclear tests. Paul G. Richards and Won-Young Kim. "Advances in Monitoring Nuclear Weapon Testing". Scientific American. March 2009: "Detecting a test of a nuclear weapon has become so effective and reliable that no nation could expect to get away with secretly exploding a device having military significance.Seismic monitoring can now detect a nuclear explosion with a yield of a kiloton or more anywhere on Earth. In many places, detection is far more sensitive than that.In our view, those concerns about monitoring are groundless—and have been for several years. The scientific and technical community has developed a well-honed ability to monitor militarily significant nuclear test explosions anywhere in the world, above ground or below, and to distinguish them from mine collapses, earthquakes, and other natural or nonnuclear phenomena."
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Con

  • Enforcing a test ban, not detecting tests, is the issue While detection is a problem, even if we assume that detection is possible, the main issue surrounds enforcing the treaty after detecting a test. North Korea, for example, will likely simply ignore the treaty. And, what will the international community do in response? Probably nothing.
  • Enforcing a nuclear test ban is a risky proposition. Under a test ban treat, any sort of testing, whether civil or military in nature, will be - officially - intolerable. But, how is the world to respond to such an "intolerable" threat? Through military action, sanctions, or by other means? It may be forced to respond militarily simply to protect its legitimacy in upholding the ban, yet with great consequences as a result. Or, more likely, aggressive action will not be taken, and the legitimacy of the United Nations will be further undermined. Either outcome would be an unfortunate result of the CTBT.
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Deterrence: Can nuclear powers maintain deterrence under a nuclear test ban?

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Pro


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Con

  • Nuclear deterrence, not test ban, is best for non-proliferation The most important way to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons is through nuclear deterrence. That is, by convincing non-nuclear states that developing a nuclear weapons program is futile in the face of significant nuclear powers. Therefore, in so far as a nuclear test ban will diminish the arsenals of nuclear powers, it will will diminish the power of nuclear deterrence to limit nuclear proliferation.
  • Nuclear warheads cannot simply be shelved, they require testing. Nuclear warheads are complex devices that cannot just be "shelved" for later. Specifically, their radioactive core can affect others parts of the weapon, making testing necessary. Without testing, therefore, is required to maintain weapons and deterrence.
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Diplomacy: What are the diplomatic pros and cons?

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Pro

  • Test ban treaty helps reduce wasteful government spending By the virtue of this treaty if the countries comply to it then the money spent on building new weapons and research development can be reduced and this money can be used in different areas of economic development. The Five important and heavy economic earning GDP who are actively a part in this arms race if they all reduce it the world expenditure can be cut down and the money can be used for things like recovering from the 2008/2009 economic crisis. Estimated expenditure as shown by the various index shows massive amounts spent by countries to develop nuclear arsenals so as to react to any nuclear war by any country.[5]
  • CTBT has gained widespread support; should receive more. The CTBT has been signed by more than 170 countries. It is, therefore, widely popular around the world. This goes in its favor, and countries that oppose it risk alienating themselves in the eyes of the CTBT's supporters.


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Con

  • Monitoring NCBT could further alienate countries. Monitoring a country (an intrinsic part of implementing a test ban), would cause certain countries to feel as though their sovereignty was being unfairly infringed upon. Thus they would feel alienated to a degree, causing unnecessary international tensions. Often the counter argument for this would be something like: "if these countries are opposed to international laws, and monitoring, then why would they agree to them in the first place?" Countries like Iran and North Korea put themselves in these positions quite regularly, and there is no reason that a nuclear test ban treaty would not be an extension of this. Therefore, to the extent that their sovereignty is infringed upon under a test ban treaty, the ban could cause an increase in tension and conflict between these states and the rest of the international system.


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Environment: Does a test ban reduce risks to the environment?

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Pro

  • Nuclear test ban eliminates negative environmental Greenpeace wrote in a background article on the CTBT: "Since 1945, there have been 2,046 tests worldwide, about one nuclear test every nine days for the last fifty-one years. The U.S. has carried out 1,030 nuclear weapon tests; the former Soviet Union has done 715; France, 210; Britain, 45 and China also 45. India has exploded one nuclear device, which it claimed was for peaceful purposes. Wherever nuclear weapons testing has occurred there have been environmental problems. Large areas of land are contaminated as a result of atmospheric tests and the long-term consequences of underground nuclear testing are unknown. Fallout from the peak years of atmospheric nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s, contaminated food, milk and water around the globe."[6] A test ban treaty can, therefore, eliminate these environmental consequences.
  • Test ban helps re-enforce right to nuclear energy. NPT ensures all the signing and ratifying members have a right to nuclear development for peaceful purposes (i.e. nuclear energy). A nuclear test ban helps safeguard this right by reducing some of the suspicions surrounding the development of nuclear energy programs, as it makes it more difficult to switch a peaceful program into a weapons program. This generally helps uphold the right of countries to pursue nuclear energy without suspicion and any subsequent limitation or sanctions. In this sense, it helps re-enforce the Non-proliferation treaty as well as the right to peaceful nuclear energy, and makes the enforcement of these treaties easier. [7][8]
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Con

  • Test ban may actually increase risky waste disposal. If all the nuclear technology possessors comply to the CTBT then weapons that are already there have to be disposed of and the present method used of vitrification is a little bit expensive for developing countries. As, U.S.A has already been found disposing of waste material such as burying it under soil or geologic disposal which will affect land and water in a very bad way creating so many further problems such as pollution and diseases. Proper nuclear waste disposal technique have to be found which are viable and solve the problem of nuclear waste. But, in the meantime, the CTBT may actually increase risky and environmentally harmful waste disposal."[9]



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Nuclear fallout: Does a nuclear test ban treaty reduce risks of nuclear fallout?

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Pro


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Con

  • Certain types of testing eliminate risk of nuclear fallout. Underground and atmospheric testing effectively eliminate any risk of nuclear fallout. A nuclear test ban treaty, therefore, may be excessive in achieving the goal of limiting nuclear fallout risks. It would be sufficient to place restrictions on nuclear tests, limiting them such that the risks of nuclear fallout are low or negligible.
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Pro/con sources

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Con

See also

External links

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