On February 18, 2010 Vice President Biden renewed the administration’s commitment to the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons with these words:
“The spread of nuclear weapons is the greatest threat facing the country and, I would argue, facing humanity. And that is why we’re working both to stop their proliferation and eventually to eliminate them.”
We should keep in mind that our Senators can take steps toward preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, and keeping us safer. The Senate will soon consider two treaties:
- The new START treaty requires both the U.S. and Russia to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in their arsenals.
- The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) prevents other states from conducting the tests that could lead to new and more deadly weapons.
Our Senators have no reason NOT to ratify these treaties. The U.S. gave up testing almost 20 years ago. It is time we ratified the CTBT to put pressure on others, like China, to ratify. The START agreement will ensure there isn’t a new arms race between the U.S. and Russia and will shrink the possibility that loose Russian nukes someday fall into the hands of terrorists and help prevent other accidents that would have devastating consequences.
- Read a transcript of the speech here.Take action!
- Visit www.wandactioncenter.org to send an email to the President, Congress, and your local media.
- Organize a meeting with your Senators and Representative while they are at home. We’ll provide you with plenty of help to do this! For more information, contact Georgia WAND (404) 524-5999.
Now is the Time to Seize the Prize — End nuclear explosions!
The nuclear Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has aptly been called “the longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in the history of arms control. Indeed, people all over the world began to voice concerns about nuclear tests soon after the beginning of the nuclear age in 1945; Eisenhower was the first U.S. President to call for an end to nuclear tests. After many starts and stops over the past 60 years, we now have both an opportunity and an urgent need finally to seize this prize. It is time for the United States to ratify this treaty, permanently ending nuclear test explosions worldwide.
Women Strike for Peace protesting at the Nevada Test Site; the group was founded in 1961 with a call to end nuclear testing.
Today, this treaty is more important than ever. The CTBT would impede the ability of nuclear-armed countries to perfect new and more deadly nuclear bombs, and would help prevent new nuclear weapons programs. U.S. ratification would clearly demonstrate renewed leadership on the world’s most pressing security threats — stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and preventing nuclear terrorism. U.S. ratification of the CTBT would strengthen international support for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the bedrock of all efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. In 1995, the nuclear powers, including the U.S., promised to deliver on the CTBT in exchange for indefinite extension of the NPT. Nations are waiting for the U.S. to ratify the CTBT, and will be looking for progress at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Treaty benefits are clearer as technical advances overcome previous concerns. In 1999, the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the CTBT after a brief debate; many Senators who voted “no” expressed concerns about the ability of the U.S. to maintain its arsenal in the absence of testing, and about the ability to verify compliance with the treaty. Today, many of these concerns have been overcome. We have seen technical advances in global verification measures, as well as demonstrated maintenance of the existing U.S. nuclear arsenal in the absence of testing.
Maintaining Existing Nuclear Weapons: In 1992, President George H.W. Bush halted nuclear testing; the U.S. has not conducted a nuclear weapons test explosion since. However, every year since 1994, each warhead type in the arsenal has undergone a rigorous evaluation and been certified safe and reliable. With the Stockpile Stewardship Program, the U.S. arsenal has been maintained with non-nuclear tests and evaluations along with replacement or remanufacture of components based upon existing design specifications. In 2002, a National Academies of Sciences panel found that the Stockpile Stewardship Program, with adequate resources and proper focus, would continue to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of existing U.S. nuclear weapons. The NAS panel noted that age-related defects mainly related to non-nuclear components can be expected, “but nuclear testing is not needed to discover these problems and is not likely to be needed to address them.”
Monitoring Tests and Verifying Compliance: The U.S. capability to detect and deter possible clandestine nuclear testing by other states would be far better with the CTBT in force. The CTBT would make it possible to do short-notice, on-site inspections, and would maintain long-term political and financial support from other nations for the operation of the CTBT’s International Monitoring System (IMS) and InternationalDataCenter. Although in 1999 some critics claimed that these extensive monitoring systems could only monitor for underground explosions at yields at or above one kiloton TNT equivalent, actual capabilities were much better and have only improved since then. For example, when North Korea conducted a test explosion in October 2006, the IMS easily detected the relatively low-yield (0.6 kiloton) blast. In the March 2009 Scientific American, experts concluded that “detecting a test of a nuclear weapons has become so effective and reliable that no nation could expect to get away with secretly exploding a device having military significance.” This treaty has strong and growing support. The CTBT has been signed by 180 nations, and ratified by 148 including all NATO countries and other key U.S. allies.  An array of bi-partisan military experts and senior statesmen supports the CTBT. In 2007, former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn (GA), called for the Senate to re-examine and ratify the treaty. Former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — including Generals John Shalikashvili, Colin Powell, David Jones and Admiral William Crowe — also support the CTBT. Public support for the nuclear test ban has remained high since the early days of the Cold War. A 2004 public opinion poll found that 87 percent of respondents support U.S. ratification of the CTBT. Finally, the Obama administration has stated its firm commitment to pursue ratification of the CTBT.
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. –President Barack Obama, April 5, 2009
Now is the time to act. The U.S. has no need to resume nuclear tests. Nor is there political support for renewed U.S. nuclear testing. It is in the national security interest to prevent nuclear weapons testing by others. If the Senate fails to fulfill its commitment to ratify the CTBT, U.S. efforts to call on other states to take on additional responsibilities and commitments and sustain the beleaguered nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty will be severely weakened. A number of unwelcome consequences are the likely result of failure to achieve this treaty. For example: countries observing a unilateral moratorium may resume nuclear testing; modernization of China’s nuclear arsenal is more likely and this would likely fuel a broader arms race; nuclear tests and unchecked competition between India and Pakistan could risk nuclear war. In contrast, U.S. leadership to end nuclear testing will strengthen the Nonproliferation Treaty and worldwide efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and lay the foundation for beginning work to achieve a safer world free of nuclear weapons. U.S. ratification of the CTBT requires the support of 67 Senators. Achievement of ratification is more likely as a result of the 2008 elections. Leadership of the President must be joined with a robust and sustained citizens’ campaign.
If you’d like to help with the effort to permanently end nuclear test explosions, contact Georgia WAND at firstname.lastname@example.org
 President Clinton addressing the 52nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, Sept. 22, 1997.  “Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban.” NationalAcademy of Sciences, 2002.  Paul G. Richards and Won-Young Kim “Monitoring for Nuclear Explosions” Scientific American, March 2009.  The latest ratification, Lebanon, was added Nov. 21, 2008. For the latest list see the CTBT Organization website: www.ctbto.org