CTBT or Not, Nuclear Test Detection and Monitoring Remains Critical

CTBT or Not, Nuclear Test Detection and Monitoring Remains Critical

On March 30, the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science (NRC) released to the public an important new study on the technical issues raised for the U.S. by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Packed with well-documented data, the 200-page study will surely inform the policies of the next administration, no matter who wins the White House in November, as it considers whether to pursue Senate ratification of the CTBT.

Signed by then-President Bill Clinton signed in 1996, the CTBT failed to win Senate ratification when it was brought to a vote in 1999. The Obama administration announced early in its tenure that it would resubmit the CTBT to the Senate for ratification and has been engaging with senators and their staffs on the issue. Mitt Romney has not taken a position on the CTBT one way or the other, but Republican presidents have a strong record of achievements in arms control, so it would be a mistake to assume that Senate ratification of the CTBT is out of the question should the GOP nominee win in November. Of course, despite the best case put forward by the White House, the Senate might again block ratification.

Nonetheless, in its press release accompanying the report, the NRC wrote, “The United States is now in a better position than at any time in the past to maintain a safe and effective nuclear weapons stockpile without testing and to monitor clandestine nuclear testing abroad.”

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