Nuclear weapons will continue to pose a risk to humanity unless countries fully adhere to the treaty that prohibits their testing, a senior UN official has said.
Journalists were briefed by Robert Floyd, Executive Secretary of the body that oversees the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which opened for signature 25 years ago but has yet to enter into force because it requires ratification by a handful of key countries, which have nuclear capabilities.
“Once in force, the CTBT will serve as an essential element of a nuclear weapons-free world. In order to achieve this world, we all aspire to, a universal and effectively verifiable prohibition on nuclear testing is a fundamental necessity,” he said.
Floyd was speaking against the backdrop of the latest nuclear nonproliferation conference, which took place at the UN Headquarters after two years of pandemic-related delays. Countries are reviewing progress towards implementing the 50-yearold Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. At the opening of the conference, UN SecretaryGeneral António Guterres warned that the world was “just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation, away from nuclear annihilation”.
Floyd said, “Until we have full adherence to the CTBT, nuclear testing and the proliferation of nuclear weapons will continue to pose unacceptable risk to humanity.” The CTBT complements the non-proliferation treaty, said Floyd, and it has already made a difference in the world. “We’ve gone from over 2,000 nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1996, to fewer than 12 tests since the treaty opened for signature,” he said. “Only one country has tested this millennium, “ he added
The treaty has also received near-universal support. So far, 186 countries have signed the CTBT, and 174 have ratified it, four in the last six months alone. However, entry into force requires that the treaty must be signed and ratified by 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries; eight of which have yet to ratify it: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Pakistan and the United States.
Asked about these countries, Floyd replied “they have their own calculus and strategic objectives and geopolitical considerations as to whether they feel free to move forward”, adding that they all support the CTBT and its objectives. The CTBTO, as it has known, has built a state-of-the-art verification system to detect nuclear explosions, capable of 24/7 monitoring. Staff also trains inspectors from Member States so that they are ready to conduct on-site verifications once the treaty enters into force.