Nuclear Treaties

Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

The Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1970 is undoubtedly the most important nuclear treaty. Here the non nuclear weapon states undertake to further abstain from nuclear weapons. On their part, the nuclear weapon states promise to stop the arms race and work towards disarmament. At the same time, the treaty permits the civilian use of nuclear energy by the non- nuclear weapon states – this under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – as well as the support of the. nuclear weapon states. Today, all countries of the world are members of the NPT with the exception of India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and South Sudan.

Controls of civilian nuclear activities are prescribed in the treaty and are adopted by the IAEA. There is no binding agenda for the disarmament of nuclear arms.

International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV)

In 2014 the USA launched an initiative (International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification IPNDV) that seeks to develop methods by which non-nuclear weapon states are also able to monitor and verify disarmament steps. Naturally such a method must not provide non-nuclear weapon states with any information on the construction of nuclear weapons. Spiez Laboratory participates in the work in the technical working groups of the IPNDV.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

Within the context of the negotiations on the implementation of the NPT held every five years, the parties agreed in 1995 to negotiate a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, CTBT. This treaty prohibits nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, underground and under water. Although it is not in force yet, it has been signed by 183 states (as of Sept. 2015) and is observed by these countries.

Compliance with this treaty has to be verifiable. Therefore, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is elaborating a monitoring system. It includes a world-wide network consisting of 321 monitoring stations. They consist of seismic, radionuclide, infrasound and hydro-acoustic stations as well as 16 radionuclide laboratories that measure the effects of potential nuclear explosions and continuously send the data to Vienna for evaluation. The results are open to all treaty members. The network is conceived in such a way that explosions exceeding 1kT can be detected and localised at any point of the earth. Some 85 -90% of the system have been completed and through some incidents it has shown that it will surpass the required level of sensitivity.

In alleged cases there is also the instrument of on site inspection (OSI) to definitely find out whether a suspicious incident really was a nuclear explosion – the treaty has been violated – and to ascertain the originator of any violation. For this purpose too, the CTBTO procures measuring instruments, trains inspectors and organises exercises.

The verification regime is already well developed. Spiez Laboratory is involved in working out the on-site inspection regime (OSI), on the one hand by co-authoring the OSI handbook, on the other by participating in OSI exercises and workshops with experts for measuring radionuclides.


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