Jeffrey LewisNational Academies CTBT Study

As many of you know, the Obama Administration has tasked the National Academies Committee on International Security and Arms Control (NASCISAC) to prepare a study on technical issues related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The National Academies has released the terms of reference and committee membership.

The main charge to the committee is “to review and update certain of the analysis in the 2002 report, Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.” That report was a model, in my opinion, of the perfect in every way except one — timing. The Clinton Administration didn’t request the report until after the fiasco of the treaty’s defeat in 1999.

This time, the Obama Administration seems intent on doing its homework. The anticipated completion date for the report is Winter 2009/2010 — which would within 6-9 months of the start date. (The project duration is listed as 18 months, however, so perhaps there will be some slippage.)

The Committee, too, is a fine one. Although Garwin and Jeanloz are the only holdovers from the 2002 study, the new committee has some fine additions including former Livermore Director Bruce Tarter, who chaired the AAAS report on the RRW and sat on the Strategic Posture Commission, and Ambassador Linton Brooks, who chaired the Posture Commission’s infrastructure working group and is, generally-speaking, the bee’s knees.


  1. anon

    Dr. Williams, the Chair of this group, also sat on the Strategic Posture Commission.

  2. yousaf

    Not sure why another study is really needed — the 2002 NAS report already concluded:

    “The capabilities to detect and identify nuclear explosions without special efforts at evasion are considerably better than the “one kiloton worldwide” characterization that has often been stated for the IMS. If deemed necessary, these capabilities could be further improved by increasing the number of stations in networks whose data streams are continuously searched for signals.

    Underground explosions can be reliably detected and can be identified as explosions, using IMS data, down to a yield of 0.1 [kiloton] (100 tons) in hard rock if conducted anywhere in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America. In some locations of interest such as Novaya Zemlya, this capability extends down to 0.01 [kiloton] (10 tons) or less.”

    And that the U.S. “has the technical capabilities to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of its existing nuclear-weapon stockpile under [a test ban], provided that adequate resources are made available to the Department of Energy’s nuclear-weapons complex and are properly focused on this task.”

    According to the NAS panel, which included three former lab directors, age-related defects mainly related to non-nuclear components can be expected, but nuclear test explosions “are not needed to discover these problems and…not likely to be needed to address them.”

    More details here

  3. bradley laing (History)

    If it matters, there is a LEP MX peacekeeper sholder patch for the guys working on it. I found the image at a military memoriabilia website.