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Nuclear Weapons: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

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Congressional rept.

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A comprehensive test ban treaty, or CTBT, is the oldest item on the nuclear arms control agenda. Three treaties currently limit testing to underground only, with a maximum force equal to 150,000 tons of TNT. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the United States has conducted 1,030 nuclear tests, the Soviet Union 715, the United Kingdom 45, France 210, and China 45. The last U.S. test was held in 1992 Russia claims it has not conducted nuclear tests since 1990. North Korea announced in October 2006 that it will conduct a nuclear test in the future. Since 1997, the United States has held 23 subcritical experiments at the Nevada Test Site, most recently on August 30, 2006, to study how plutonium behaves under pressures generated by explosives. It asserts these experiments do not violate the CTBT because they cannot produce a self-sustaining chain reaction. Russia has reportedly held some since 1998, including several in 2000. The U.N. General Assembly adopted the CTBT in 1996. As of October 11, 2006, 176 states had signed it 135, including Russia, had ratified 41 of the 44 that must ratify the treaty for it to enter into force had signed and 34 of the 44 had ratified. Four conferences have been held to facilitate its entry into force, most recently in 2005. In 1997, President Clinton transmitted the CTBT to the Senate. On October 13, 1999, the Senate rejected the treaty, 48 for, 51 against, 1 present. It is now on the Senate Foreign Relations Committees calendar. It would require a two-thirds Senate vote to send the treaty back to the President for disposal or to give advice and consent for ratification few see either event as likely. In 1998, India and Pakistan announced several nuclear tests and declared that they were nuclear weapon states. Each declared a moratorium on further tests, but each said in 2000 that the time was not right to sign the CTBT.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law
  • Nuclear Weapons

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