The independent resource on global security

18. The comprehensive nuclear test ban




1994 was the first year of serious negotiations on a CTB treaty in more than a
decade and the first year ever of purposeful CTB negotiations in the CD. It was
not possible to conclude the CTB treaty before the 1995 NPT Review Conference,
and the approach of presidential elections in France (held in May 1995) meant
that the French delegation was unable to allow movement on some key issues. The
issue of the scope of the treaty was unresolved at the end of the year. Even so
there was considerable progress. A working draft of the treaty was in existence
when the 1994 session of the CD closed.

All states participating agree that all nuclear tests should be banned without
a nuclear yield threshold, but one complex issue that is far from resolution is
the question whether hydronuclear experiments (HNEs) should be allowed. An HNE
involves the detonation of nuclear devices with a fission yield much lower than
that of a full nuclear test. The UK, USA and USSR are known to have conducted
HNEs. All five permanent members of the UN Security Council are concerned to
keep open the option of conducting HNEs. Either allowing underground HNEs or
banning them above-ground would make for difficulties of verification. The five
permanent members of the UN Security Council have been unable to arrive at an
agreed position on the question. France, moreover, may conduct as many as 20
tests before the CTB treaty enters into force and it stops its testing
programme. This means that France may not be prepared to sign a treaty unless
either the treaty permits tests with yields up to 200 tonnes or it
completes its testing first.

Although there is no agreement on specific verification measures, general
agreement has emerged that an authority will be set up to verify compliance
with the Treaty through a network of seismic monitoring stations and some or
all of atmospheric monitoring and hydro-acoustic and infrasound stations,
backed up by national means. Most of the facilities that will be involved are
wholly or partly owned by the NATO countries. There is disagreement about the
relationship of the authority to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The start-up costs of the authority have been estimated at $100 million, and
running costs thereafter at $60-80 million per year.

Russia and the Group of 21 have called for agreement on the CTB during 1995,
before the US election campaign reaches its height and before the prospect of
presidential elections in Russia once again makes resolution of key issues
difficult. Others agree that it should open for signature in 1996. The earliest
date at which a CTB treaty could come into force is 1997.

During 1994 France, Russia and the USA continued to observe their moratoria on
nuclear tests, and the UK was still unable to test because it is dependent on
the US Nevada Test Site. China conducted two nuclear tests in 1994.


Appendix 18A. Nuclear explosions, 1945–94


Appendix 18A provides data on nuclear explosions from
1945 to 1994.