Test Ban Monitoring: No Place to Hide

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Science  24 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5939, pp. 382-385
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_382

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Although 181 nations have signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and 148 ratified it, the treaty does not ban tests, nor can it use its full arsenal of verification measures until all 44 states with nuclear weapons or reactors have ratified it. Nine have yet to do so, including the United States. But much has changed since the Senate rejected the treaty a decade ago. CTBT's monitoring system, barely begun in 1999, is now nearly 75% complete. And it has been scrutinized over the past year by hundreds of outside researchers. CTBT managers offered them access to data from the network so that they could test its readiness, probe its strengths and weaknesses, and suggest improvements. Last month, those researchers were invited to Vienna for the first conference of this International Scientific Studies program. The reviews were mostly positive: Many lauded CTBT's International Monitoring System for the quality and global coverage of its data, declaring that in many parts of the world the network is more sensitive than the treaty requires. Now supporters of CTBT are returning to the political challenge, trying to persuade holdout nations to come on board.