CTBTO Working Group B

U.S. Statement

Mr. Chairman:

My delegation is pleased to take the floor under your leadership of the thirty-fifth meeting of Working Group B.  We assure you of our full cooperation and support as this body moves forward to complete the preparations necessary for the effective implementation of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

I would like to thank the Executive-Secretary for his report, and thank in advance the other members of the Provisional Technical Secretariat (PTS) who will be providing us with the information we need for productive deliberations.  I will be brief in highlighting some aspects of the issues concerning this body.

We agree with the point others have made that we must arrive at a definition of the operational level for on-site inspection (OSI) that must be achieved prior to entry into force (EIF).   Of course, we all know what the treaty says about the capability expected at entry into force: “the verification regime SHALL be capable of meeting the verification requirements of the Treaty.”  For OSI this clearly means, that at EIF, the OSI Division must be able to field inspections capable of carrying out the sole purpose of OSI as defined in the treaty, that is, to “clarify whether a nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion has been carried out in violation of Article I, and, to the extent possible, to gather any facts which might assist in identifying any possible violator.”  Achieving this capability will require a multi-step process of answering questions and completing key actions, starting with an assessment of the financial, personnel, and temporal resources required.  We also will need to determine the relationships and linkages these steps and questions have to each other.  Then we have to take a serious look at developing and carrying out a plan of action to carry us through those steps to completion and answering those questions.  It is good and necessary that we grapple with these issues regarding OSI and that we have had good discussions here at this meeting on this matter.

However, many today have also pointed out the need for balance among the International Monitoring System (IMS), International Data Centre (IDC), and OSI.  My delegation has pressed for a similar effort with regards to the IMS and IDC.  The steps needed to go from the current “well-advanced” status to an operational status must be identified and carried out for these verification elements as well.  Here too, we need to understand the resources, needed as well as dependencies involved and move forward with a plan to get from “well-advanced” to operational or, preferably, complete in these important parts of the verification system.
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Implicit there is that we must be prepared to expend the necessary resources to bring all elements up to operational status.  We all have a vested interested in doing this in a cost-efficient and prudent manner.  Some tasks can be completed with relatively little stress to resources if they are begun with sufficient lead time.  Crash projects to complete lengthy and complex tasks tend to be both overly expensive and prone to failure.  Procrastination has its costs, and I am sure none of us want to pay them if we can complete the verification system at a lower cost through careful planning.

Adequate and intelligent testing will be essential to bring the verification system to an operational level.  Without testing we have no way of knowing whether what we are developing here will work under operational conditions.  Look at the more than 800 lessons learned that the OSI IFE08 produced.   The real-world, integrated testing showed us where we had deficiencies, where things did not work quite as we thought sitting in these cozy meeting rooms, as well as where we got things right.  We must learn from these lessons, and retest to make sure that we really have learned.  Similarly, we took away many lessons from the first system-wide performance test (SPT1) of the IMS, global communications infrastructure (GCI), and IDC.  Both systems have evolved significantly since that test, and have integrated solutions from what we learned in SPT1 and elements that were not available for testing during SPT1.

The PTS has been doing excellent work on small-scale, focused testing of elements of the IMS and IDC, and similar focused testing of parts of the OSI elements could also be very beneficial.  This type of testing allows us to identify issues, develop solutions, and retest more rapidly and at less resource cost than with many large-scale, integrated tests.  This work should continue and expand in all elements of the verification regime.

But, we always have to keep in mind that no matter how well the individual small pieces work and how flawless they are, they have to fit together properly so that the whole system works as intended and meets expectations.  The late American musician Johnny Cash sang a song, “One Piece at a Time”, about a man who acquired all the parts he needed to build a Cadillac automobile over decades.  While all of the parts were perfectly good in an individual respect, when he tried to assemble the car once he had everything, he found that many pieces didn’t fit very well with each other.  After much time and effort he managed to cobble together something that worked, but it certainly wasn’t what he had hoped to have when he started his project.  Integrated testing is the only way of being sure that the parts we are developing really fit together into what we expect an operational system to be.

The atmospheric radioxenon background is an illuminating case.  Through long-term continuous monitoring at noble gas measurement facilities, including those in the International Noble Gas Experiment (INGE), we have learned that there is much about the background radioxenon in the atmosphere that we still do not fully understand.  Fortunately, the work that has been done using operating monitoring systems has made the problem clear to us now, before we are at full, post-EIF operations, so that we have time to learn and understand before we rely on the system for verification.  Much good work has been done through INGE, by the PTS, and through the support and efforts of the EU and others.  The United States is pleased to share that we will soon be loaning the PTS a newly constructed Transportable Xenon Laboratory (TXL) for use in the project to determine global noble gas background levels.  The TXL should greatly help facilitate background radioxenon measurements at remote monitoring sites and allow for more reliable measurements of regional and worldwide radioxenon backgrounds.  We are looking for more opportunities to voluntarily contribute U.S. expertise and equipment to PTS projects, and encourage other State Signatories to do likewise.

The noble gas background is only one issue that would not have been identified without the continuing operations and testing of the IMS and IDC.  There will be still others in the future.  This is what testing “as necessary” or “if necessary” means.  It is necessary to identify these issues and find solutions before we hand over to the Conference of States Parties a report affirming that the verification regime systems are operational.   As the regime continues towards completion, testing and active provisional operations are the only path forward..

Mr. Chairman, you, your predecessor Ola Dahlman, your Friends, all those who are now or have served as Program Coordinators and Task Leaders, and the staff of the PTS, and the delegates and experts from Member States, can be justly proud of the Herculean labors we have already completed.  In legend, Sisyphus was condemned to spend all eternity seeing his work undone as the stone he repeatedly labored to push to the top of the hill inevitably rolled back to the bottom.  Unlike him, we can actually achieve something that lasts.  If we keep pushing we will move things from “well advanced” to “complete”, and produce an effective, operational verification regime for an in force CTBT.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman