The Salt Lake Tribune recently published its own editorial in favor of the U.S. Senate approving the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This is the treaty that would ban all nuclear test explosions, of which the U.S. conducted over 1,000 during the Cold War.
Nine nations, including the U.S., are needed to ratify the treaty before it takes full effect. If this happens it would finally finish what Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy initiated during some of the most tense years of the Cold War.
Eisenhower believed a test ban treaty was a potentially significant stepping stone to other key agreements related to nuclear disarmament. Kennedy shared the same view. Neither president achieved the comprehensive nuclear test ban they sought. Their efforts did produce a limited treaty banning atmospheric, underwater, and outer space testing. Underground testing would continue through the Cold War.
Research begun during their administrations also built the foundation of the international monitoring system that exists today to detect nuclear test explosions. This type of verification, backed by decades of experience, is necessary to ensure countries adhere to the CTBT.
Dwight Eisenhower announces the first nuclear test ban treaty negotiations in 1958. Listen to announcement here. (courtesy Eisenhower Library)
It was not until 1996 that the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was crafted and opened for signature to all nations. The U.S. signed the treaty under Bill Clinton, but the Senate rejected it in 1999.
President Obama is now pressing for the Senate to pass the treaty. Utah is one of the states where the debate will be centered, particularly in their upcoming Senate election.
The Salt Lake Tribune’s recent editorial highlighted powerful reasons for supporting the treaty, such as the Stockpile Stewardship program that maintains the nuclear arsenal without test explosions. The Tribune cites the JASON Panel's report which states that under Stockpile Stewardship, “the lifetimes to today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence.” Continued investment in Stockpile Stewardship will assure the reliability of the nuclear arsenal without test explosions.
Supporters of resuming nuclear testing want to perfect new nuclear weapons. They cite the importance of strengthening the nuclear deterrent, although the conventional forces the U.S. maintains also offer a powerful, non-nuclear deterrent against potential aggressors.