DEC 29 1997
The Straits Times (Singapore)
Network to keep tabs on nuclear test ban to undergo tests soon
By R. Senthilnathan
A MILESTONE in nuclear disarmament will be reached early
next year when a UN office runs the first trials of the global
system to monitor the nuclear-test ban treaty, the Comprehensive
Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), officials here said.
Mr Wolfgang Hoffmann, head of the Comprehensive
Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), said his office
would begin test runs of the global monitoring network around
April next year.
The trial will include the running of application software at a
Vienna office which will receive, analyse and disseminate data
pertaining to seismic events around the globe.
The office, the International Data Centre, will be the heart of the
whole test-ban treaty-monitoring system, whose second
component will be the 321 mostly seismic, but also radiation and
acoustic monitoring stations around the globe.
The necessary software is being developed and modified in
Arlington, Virginia, where a so-called prototype monitoring
network is collecting and analysing data from about 100 stations
According to officials at the organisation, which will have the
status of a provisional secretariat until the treaty enters into
force, the software is sophisticated enough in the fields of data
acquisition, processing and seismic-event location.
It is also being worked on to improve the data distribution, event
screening and documentation sectors.
Some of the 321 stations are already functioning and the CTBTO
just has to sign the contracts with the respective countries and
install its own software while, in others, everything has to be built
Mr Hoffmann said that work is expected to begin or finish by the
end of next year on 150 of the 321 monitoring stations worldwide.
All work is expected to be completed by 1999 when the future of
the treaty is expected to be determined.
CTBTO officials are upbeat about the financial contributions of
According to Mr Hoffmann, more than three quarters of the
pledged budget for this year has been paid.
The so-called preparatory committee -- the temporary governing
body of the organisation where signatories sit, talk and take
decisions -- has already passed a budget of US$58.4 million (S$96
million) to cover next year's expenses.
Roughly half the money will go towards establishing or upgrading
the 150 stations.
The office has already begun talks with countries where 66 of the
stations will be located and 15 of them are in an advanced stage.
The talks would conclude with the signing of bilateral agreements
allowing the CTBTO to use their territories for the stations.
Of the 321 stations, about 80 will be in Asia, including Australia,
Iran, Mongolia and New Zealand.
India had offered four stations initially but later withdrew its
The CTBTO will ensure the implementation of the CTBT, which
was adopted at the UN General Assembly late last year.
To date, it has 149 signatory states and eight ratifications,
All the five weapons states -- Britain, China, France, Russia and
the United States -- have signed, but none has ratified it.
The treaty will come into force after ratification by all the 44
countries which are either part of the Conference on
Disarmament in Geneva or possess some kind of nuclear facility
in their territory.
Thus, the enforcement of the treaty will depend on the
ratification by India, Israel and Pakistan, but not many here in
Vienna and in New York feel very positive about getting India's
Should the treaty not enter into force by 1999, the CTBT foresees
a conference of all signatories to discuss how to proceed.