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Test Ban Needed More Than Ever in Wake of North Korean Test

Posted by Jill Marie Parillo on May 26, 2009

North Korea stunned the international community with a second nuclear test Monday, but thanks to test ban treaty technology, thorough analyses were provided to our national leaders. The North Korean Central News Agency released a report Monday following the test:

“The Democratic People's Republic of Korea successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on May 25 as part of the measures to bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defense...The current nuclear test was safely conducted on a new higher level in terms of its explosive power and technology…”

In 1999, U.S. Senators rejected ratification of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to internationally outlaw underground testing. These Senators believed test ban technology was not advanced enough to pick up nuclear tests.  Today, the world knows that the CTBT can detect and verify a nuclear explosion. The CTBT establishes a far-reaching International Monitoring System that detects potential nuclear explosions--at over 300 stations throughout the world. An International Data Center in Vienna, Austria collects and analyzes information from the IMS for analysis.

Both the North Korean tests (the 2006 and 2009 tests) were picked up and analyzed by the test ban treaty organization. The test ban’s institution in Vienna analyzed the waveform data and determined where the tests took place in North Korea. Test ban treaty member states then received a detailed analysis from Vienna.  We now know that both the 2006 and the 2009 tests were done in the same location and were of differing yield (2006 was ~300 tons and 2009 was ~1.5 Kilotons).

In 2010 the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will once again hit the floor of the Senate. This time, the Senate should vote to ratify the Treaty, since technology today allows for the test ban treaty organization to verify and analyze nuclear tests.  The test ban organization needs full U.S. support to be able to operate at 100% capacity.  Data gained from the organization will greatly help our leaders make informed decisions on how to react to new nuclear weapon tests and combat the threat they pose to U.S. and international security.   

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