Nations Consent to Ban All Nuclear Tests

By Monastersky, Richard | Science News, September 21, 1996 | Go to article overview
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Nations Consent to Ban All Nuclear Tests

Monastersky, Richard, Science News

Members of the United Nations' General Assembly voted last week to adopt a treaty barring nuclear detonations of any kind. A goal of negotiators for nearly 40 years, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) extends existing, less stringent agreements limiting the size and location of nuclear weapons tests.

To ensure that nations comply with the prohibition, the treaty provides for the establishment of a globe-girdling network of sensors called the international monitoring system (SN: 5/11/96, p. 298).

In the General Assembly, 158 nations voted to adopt the treaty, with only India, Libya, and Bhutan opposing it. It remains uncertain, however, whether the treaty will become international law. To enter into force, the treaty must be ratified by 44 specific nations-including India-known to have atomic weapons, power plants, or research reactors.

Arundhati Ghose, India's representative to the United Nations in Geneva, said, "India will never sign this unequal treaty. Not now, nor later." India objects to the treaty because it does not include a pledge to eliminate all nuclear weapons.

Diplomats remain hopeful that India will soften its stance. If the treaty has not entered into force within 3 years, states may accelerate the ratification process, possibly by circumventing objecting nations.

During the next few years, the CTBT organization is scheduled to begin setting up the International Data Center in Vienna to serve as the collecting station for data from the international monitoring system.

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