Last month, Christopher Paine, the NRDC Nuclear Program Director, and Thomas Cochran, the Program's Senior Scientist, travelled to Moscow, where they participated in the "2010 Moscow Nonproliferation Conference: Nuclear Energy, Disarmament, and Nonproliferation.
delivered a presentation on one of the most important elements in the fight against nuclear proliferation: U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
noted that the record shows that "Russia has a clear understanding of its basic obligation under the CTBT that matches the U.S. understanding" of "zero yield" -- the fissile material in any test or experiment must remain subcritical.
went on to explain that the main diplomatic challenge presented by the treaty is not a conflicting interpretation of the basic obligation, but verification that each side is observing it in the course of conducting experiments with fissile materials and chemical explosives.
To minimize the potential for misidentification of small nearby earthquakes as prohibited nuclear test explosions (an error that the U.S. intelligence community has committed repeatedly since the treaty was concluded in 1996) Mr. Paine
recommended installing high performance seismic monitoring stations at the Novaya Zemlya test site in Russia and the Nevada test site in the U.S.
also recommended increased cooperation between U.S. and Russian weapons scientists, and gave examples of cooperative verification measures that would increase confidence that each sides nuclear experiments are indeed remaining "subcritical," i.e. with no nuclear yield produced by means of a self-sustaining chain reaction with fast neutrons.
Such efforts, he
concluded, "will build the mutual confidence in compliance needed to achieve U.S. ratification of the CTBT.
PDFs of Chris'
and Tom's presentations are available on the NRDC
Nuclear Program website.
Special thanks to Chris
, who provided me with some historical and technical clarification as I prepared this posting.