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Technical Issues Related to Ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
Report, National Academy Press
Author: John P. Holdren, Former Director and Faculty Chair, Science, Technology and Public Policy Program
A National Academy of Sciences panel chaired by John Holdren, Teresa and John Heinz professor of environmental policy, has concluded that the main technical concerns raised about the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) when the Senate refused to ratify it in 1999 are all manageable. The report makes the case that verification capabilities for the treaty are better than generally supposed, U.S. adversaries could not significantly advance their nuclear weapons capabilities through tests below the threshold of detection, and the United States has the technical capabilities to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of its existing weapons stockpile without periodic nuclear tests.
The report was the unanimous conclusion of a panel of senior experts in nuclear weapons design and nuclear test verification, the Committee on Technical Issues Related to Ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The group included former directors of the Los Alamos, Sandia, and Oak Ridge national laboratories and a former commander in chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific.
The report was limited to the technical issues surrounding the CTBT and does not make a judgment on whether or not the U.S. Senate should ratify the treaty. "Answering that question requires taking into account a wider array of issues -- not just the technical ones we addressed but also military and political issues that were outside our mandate," Holdren says. The report does conclude, however, that "the worst-case scenario under a no-CTBT regime poses far bigger threats to U.S. security interests -- sophisticated nuclear-weapons systems in the hands of many more adversaries -- than the worst-case scenario of clandestine testing in a CTBT regime, within the constraints posed by the monitoring system."
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Document Length: 96 pp.