This Week – Next steps for arms control

It’s a busy week for nuclear non-proliferation advocates. On Thursday, BASIC is hosting a joint briefing with VERTIC (Verification Research, Training and Information Centre) in Washington on the Next Steps after New START with a particular focus on the global nuclear test ban treaty.

Panelists at next Thursday’s event, which targets Congressional staffers, include Pavel Podvig, director of the Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces Project, Edward Ifft, a retired State Department arms control negotiator, and Raymond Willemann, a seismologist who is director of planning for IRIS, a consortium of specialized research institutions. The role that the CTBTO’s (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation) monitoring system played during the Japan earthquake and tsunami has not been lost on Willemann.

The international monitoring system of the Vienna-based CTBTO – used to gauge nuclear weapons test – was able to help warn of possible tsunamis from aftershocks and forecast the possible path of the radiation plume from Japan across the Pacific.

Thursday’s briefing is sponsored by the office of Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The committee is not expected to begin hearings any time soon on CTBT ratification but the Obama administration wants to educate Senators and the public on the strides made in scientific research and nuclear test monitoring since the CTBT was last considered in 1999. The treaty was rejected by the Senate at that time after a campaign led by Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona who remains bitterly opposed to the CTBT.

The administration’s keynote speaker at the first session of the two-day Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference today is Tom Donilon, the National Security Advisor. His words will be carefully monitored at a time when Congressional funding for nuclear non-proliferation is in the balance.

Carnegie has scrambled to add an agenda item at the Washington conference to cover issues raised by the Japan nuclear crisis at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant. Other issues on the conference agenda include the CTBT, prospects for further nuclear weapons reductions, and preparing for a successful 2012 conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Senator Kyl is the keynote speaker tomorrow.

The Carnegie event is expected to attract 800 policy-makers, non-governmental experts and academics.

Anne Penketh

These are the personal views of the author.

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