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Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011
The nuclear test ban at 15
As Japan struggles with its nuclear energy policy, the world is struggling with problems surrounding the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Introduced 15 years ago, the CTBT has been signed by 182 countries and ratified by 155.
The treaty prohibits nuclear weapon test explosions anywhere and provides a means to verify any test. The treaty has languished, since many countries known to possess or to be developing nuclear weapons — or suspected of such — have failed to ratify it.
To its credit, Japan was the fourth state to ratify the CTBT and the first of the nuclear-capable states to ratify the treaty. That initial approval did nothing to deter one of the worst nuclear accidents in the world at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station.
Japan continues to help monitor nuclear weapons tests with 10 of the world's 280 monitoring facilities. Those facilities are crucial in helping to monitor testing around the world.
Even while the arms race appears to have slowed in recent years and some countries, like the United States, have refrained from most nuclear testing, a qualitative arms race still continues. The CTBT seeks to slow down this upgrading and modernization of current nuclear weapons as well as the spread of those weapons and the technology to build and deploy them.
Japan should continue to support the treaty and encourage other nations to ratify it as soon as possible.
In addition to the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the current radiation poisoning from the Fukushima plant can only add to the urgency of containing the spread of dangerous nuclear material in any form.
The world needs to stop nuclear testing as an important first step to controlling all nuclear dangers.
Unfortunately, the treaty will go into effect only after ratification by 44 key counties, under the Annex 2 rules of the treaty. Of these crucial so-called Annex 2 states, nine nations — China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the U.S. — have yet to ratify it. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is right to repeatedly urge that the treaty be brought into force by 2012. There is no substitute for a global ban.
With economies around the world in jeopardy, the added expense of building, testing and maintaining nuclear weapons becomes even more unjustifiable. And with so many nations, most recently in North Africa and the Middle East, in a state of transition, and with conflict and confrontation in many parts of the world, safeguarding nuclear weapons and nuclear material becomes even more essential. The time to ratify the CTBT is now.