The Straits Times (Singapore)
300 spy stations to police nuclear test-ban treaty
By R. Senthilnathan in Vienna
MORE than 300 monitoring stations worldwide will be prepared
in coming months to ensure that no country conducts a secret
underground nuclear test, a United Nations official said here.
Mr Wolfgang Hoffmann, a senior UN disarmament officer, said
the 321 stations -- made up of seismological, radionuclide,
hydroacoustic and infrasound-centre monitors -- would be
connected to their centre in Vienna online, delivering data of any
seismic activity, be they from earthquakes, underground tests,
radioactive fallout or acoustics.
These stations, along with the International Data Centre (IDC) in
Vienna, will be the cornerstone of the Comprehensive Nuclear
Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) which was adopted by the UN last
September with the aim of prohibiting nuclear tests.
While the monitoring stations will collect data, the task of the
IDC will be to analyse what it receives from the stations and
come to conclusions about whether any suspicious nuclear activity
has been conducted by a member country.
The treaty is to be monitored by the CTBT Office to be located
in Vienna. Until the CTBT comes into force, the task of
establishing the network of stations and the IDC has fallen on a
so-called preparatory commission and a provisional technical
secretariat, with the latter headed by Mr Hoffmann.
Both the network and the IDC are expected to be up and running
by the end of next year.
The treaty has so far been signed by 144 nations, but ratified by
only two, Fiji and Qatar.
The CTBT will come into force after all 44 countries with nuclear
facilities -- military or civil -- ratify it, and that is its problem.
Two countries, India and Pakistan -- the so-called threshold
states which have nuclear facilities and are considered to have
nuclear weapons -- are refusing to sign.
Mr Jacob Salebi, South Africa's Ambassador to the UN in
Geneva who heads the preparatory commission, said all measures
of persuasion should be adopted so that those out of the CTBT
After participating at its second week-long session, which ended
on Friday in Vienna, Mr Salebi said no country could exist in
If the treaty does not come into effect by 1999, a high-level
conference is to be held to seek ways of breaking the impasse.
The IDC has not yet been established, but the test-ban treaty
verification experts are currently gathering experience at a
prototype centre in Arlington, US, where data from about 100
stations are gathered.
"We are testing certain components of the verification system,"
Mr Hoffmann said. "They give us a fairly good basis to view what
is going on."
The 321 stations will not be established from scratch. Rather,
they will be existing stations in a number of countries currently
doing work in their respective fields, but for different purposes.
They just have to be inspected and have the necessary hardware
and software installed to monitor the required tasks under the
terms of the CTBT.
Mr Hoffmann said work to upgrade 50 of the existing monitoring
stations would be done this year.
Most of the stations, numbering 170, will be seismological
stations, since underground testing is the standard mode for
testing nuclear devices at present.
Of the 321 stations, about 80 will be in Asia, including Australia,
Iran, Mongolia and New Zealand.
Copyright © 1997 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.