British Virgin Islands and the EU

Supporting a global ban on nuclear weapons tests

23/09/2021 - 18:33
News stories

Nuclear weapon test explosions and related activities represent a serious threat to international peace and security. Strengthening the international disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control architecture is key to avoid a nuclear arms race.

Nuclear Testing


Today, as part of the United Nations General Assembly High-level events, the Twelfth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) will take place. It is a unique opportunity to draw attention to the importance of the prohibition of nuclear test explosions. The Twelfth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT, also known as “CTBT Article XIV Conference”, aims to assess needs and take stock of the progress made in the universalization process of the Treaty, and to strengthen commitments to its entry into force. 

On this occasion, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, will deliver a statement on behalf of the European Union to express EU’s strong commitment to CTBT.

All European Union Member States have ratified the CTBT and remain strongly committed to pursuing its entry into force and universalisation. To date, the Treaty has been signed by 185 States and ratified by 170. For the CTBT to enter into force, forty-four countries holding specific nuclear technology must sign and ratify it. Only China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the US have not yet ratified the CTBT, while India, North Korea and Pakistan have yet to sign and ratify it. North Korea is the only country to have carried out nuclear tests in the 21st century.

Why is the CTBT so important?

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans nuclear explosions by everyone and everywhere: on the Earth's surface, in the atmosphere, underwater and underground. CTBT is an important element in the global disarmament and non-proliferation architecture that contributes to our collective security and enjoys strong global legitimacy.

Nuclear weapon test explosions represent a serious danger to international peace and security.  As an important part in the process of acquiring nuclear weapon capabilities, nuclear test explosions also undermine the global prohibition of acquiring nuclear weapons, as laid down in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Since its opening for signature in 1996, the CTBT has helped to stop this practice, being an extra safeguard of the NPT and serving as a strong confidence and security building measure.

The CTBT Organisation (CBTO) operates what has become the world’s largest and most sophisticated multilateral verification system. Over 300 stations in 89 countries monitor seismic, infrasound, hydroacoustic and radionuclide signs of nuclear explosions around the globe and around the clock.

The CTBTO responded immediately and effectively to the nuclear tests of the DPRK, demonstrating its ability to provide independent and reliable data, something that no single country could do alone.

While scanning the globe for indications of a nuclear test, the International Monitoring System (IMS) has proven its ability to contribute with critical scientific data on: earthquakes, tsunamis, radioactivity from nuclear reactor accidents, climate change phenomena and meteors.

The annual Science and Technology Conferences organised by CTBTO are a relevant example of the synergies that can be achieved between science and disarmament. Every year, brilliant young researchers present how science has benefitted from the data that the CTBTO collects and makes available.

The European Union will continue to support the CTBT and its Organisation.

The EU is one of the largest providers of voluntary funds to the CTBTO. Since 2006, the European Council has adopted six Decisions in support of the CTBTO: 3 Joint Actions in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and 4 Council Decisions in 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2018, committing over 22 million Euro. This commitment was renewed last year with an additional contribution of 6,3 million Euro for the upcoming three years. Supported activities range from the development of noble gas sampling systems through atmospheric transport modelling (ATM) simulations to enhancing the on-site inspection noble gas processing and detection.

The EU also provides financial support to the CTBTO for training and education activities aimed at building up and maintaining the necessary capacity in the technical, scientific, legal and policy aspects of the Treaty and its verification regime focusing on States that have not signed or ratified the Treaty. States that require this type of capacity building can benefit from such assistance.