One Step Closer to Global Ban on Nuke Tests

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Nuclear Abolition News | IDN
By Eva Weiler
IDN-InDepth NewsReport

BERLIN (IDN) - Despite several hurdles yet to be overcome, the world has inched one step closer to entry into force of a global treaty banning all nuclear explosions everywhere, by everyone. The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) announced on September 20, 2011 that Guinea had become the 155th State to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). [P] CHINESE SIM TRA | ITALIAN | JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDFSPANISH

Though a poor country, Guinea has abundant natural resources including 25 per cent or more of the world's known bauxite reserves. The West African country with a population of some 10 million also has diamonds, gold, and other metals.

The country has great potential for hydroelectric power. Bauxite and alumina are currently the only major exports. Other industries include processing plants for beer, juices, soft drinks and tobacco. Agriculture employs 80 per cent of the nation's labor force. Under French rule, and at the beginning of independence, Guinea was a major exporter of bananas, pineapples, coffee, peanuts, and palm oil.

Tibor Tóth, the CTBTO Executive Secretary, hailed the ratification as "a step that further consolidates Africa's dedication to end nuclear testing and acts as a powerful beacon for the rest of the world."

The backdrop to this remark is that the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (ANWFZ) was established with the coming into effect of the Treaty of Pelindaba on July 15, 2009. The Treaty is named after Pelindaba, South Africa's main Nuclear Research Centre, run by the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation. It was the location where South Africa's atomic bombs of the 1970s were developed, constructed and subsequently stored. It is situated approximately 33km west of Pretoria.

The Vienna-based CTBTO has launched a campaign to 'Close the Door on Nuclear Testing!' It argues: "Today it's hard to imagine that nuclear bombs exploded all the time in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Yet more than 2,000 nuclear bombs were tested all over the world, contaminating the land and air and affecting people everywhere.

"In 1996, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty put the brakes on this madness. But until all the countries of the world support the Treaty, the threat of further testing and a renewed nuclear arms race looms over us all."

According to the CTBTO, adherence to CTBT is almost universal, with 182 States having signed the Treaty to date; and 155 of them, including the West African state of Guinea, have ratified. In Africa, only two countries have yet to sign the CTBT – Mauritius and Somalia – whereas 11 countries have yet to ratify: Angola, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Republic of), Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, the Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

"Among these, ratification by Egypt is mandatory for the Treaty to enter into force. Ratifications by eight other nuclear technology holder countries are also outstanding and necessary for entry into force: China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States," the CTBTO stated.

"It is building an International Monitoring System (IMS) to make sure that no nuclear explosion goes undetected. There are currently over 280 facilities in 85 countries including 30 in 22 African States. The data registered by the IMS can also be used for disaster mitigation such as earthquake monitoring, tsunami warning, and the tracking of the levels and dispersal of radioactivity from nuclear accidents," the CTBTO said. In 1999, there were no certified IMS stations or facilities in place.

African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone

ANWFZ includes the territory of the continent of Africa, island states that are members of African Union (AU), and all islands considered by its predecessor, Organization of African Unity (OAU) in its resolutions to be part of Africa. "Territory" means the land territory, internal waters, territorial seas and archipelagic waters and the airspace above them as well as the seabed and subsoil beneath.

The African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone covers the entire African continent as well as the following islands: Agalega Island, Bassas da India, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Cargados Carajos Shoals, Chagos Archipelago - Diego Garcia, Comoros, Europa Island, Juan de Nova, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Prince Edward & Marion Islands, São Tomé and Príncipe, Réunion, Rodrigues Island, Seychelles, Tromelin Island, and Zanzibar and Pemba Islands.

This list does not mention the mid-ocean islands of St. Helena 1,900 km west from southern Angola or its dependencies including Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha, Bouvet Island 2,500 km southwest from Cape Town, the Crozet Islands 2,350 km south of Madagascar, Kerguelen, or Île Amsterdam and Île Saint-Paul, which are the only Southern Hemisphere lands not in any of the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones.

The African Nuclear-Weapon-Free ZoneTreaty prohibits the research, development, manufacture, stockpiling, acquisition, testing, possession, control or stationing of nuclear explosive devices in the territory of parties to the Treaty and the dumping of radioactive wastes in the African zone by Treaty parties.

The Treaty also forbids any attack against nuclear installations in the zone by Treaty parties and requires them to maintain the highest standards of physical protection of nuclear material, facilities and equipment, which are to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes.

The quest for a nuclear free Africa began when the OAU formally stated its desire for a Treaty ensuring the denuclearization of Africa at its first Summit in Cairo in July 1964. The Treaty was opened for signature on April 11, 1996 in Cairo, Egypt.

The CTBT observed on August 29, 2011 the twentieth anniversary of the closure of the nuclear weapons test site at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. The selection of that date in 1991 was made because this was when the now defunct Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear test at the site in 1949.

Over 2000 nuclear tests were carried out between 1945 and 1996 when the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was opened for signature, most by the United States and the Soviet Union, but also by Britain, France and China. Three countries have tested nuclear weapons since 1996: India, Pakistan, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The vital importance of the Treaty's overdue entry into force was reaffirmed at the May 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and included in the agreed action plan. The Treaty's verification regime has proven to be a valuable instrument for international cooperation, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, adding: "I am fully confident of its future ability to provide an independent, reliable and cost-effective means of verifying – and therefore, deterring – any violation of the Treaty's provisions." [IDN-InDepthNews - September 20, 2011]

2011 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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