Jonathan Medalia Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy
ban on all nuclear tests is the oldest item on the nuclear arms control agenda.
Three treaties that entered into force between 1963 and 1990 limit, but do
not ban, such tests. In 1996, the United Nations General Assembly adopted
the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would ban all nuclear
explosions. In 1997, President Clinton sent the CTBT to the Senate, which rejected
it in October 1999. In a speech in Prague in April 2009, President Obama said, “My administration
will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test
Ban Treaty.” However, the Administration focused its efforts in 2010 on
securing Senate advice and consent to ratification of the New Strategic
Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The Administration has indicated it
wants to begin a CTBT “education” campaign with a goal of securing Senate
advice and consent to ratification, but there were no hearings on the treaty in
the 111th or 112th Congresses. As of December 2012, 183 states had signed the CTBT
and 157, including Russia, had ratified it. However, entry into force
requires ratification by 44 states specified in the treaty, of which 41
had signed the treaty and 36 had ratified. Seven conferences have been
held to facilitate entry into force, most recently on September 23, 2011.
Nuclear testing has a long history, beginning in 1945. The Natural Resources
Defense Council states that the United States conducted 1,030 nuclear
tests, the Soviet Union 715, the United Kingdom 45, France 210, and China
45. (Of the U.K. tests, 24 were held jointly with the United States and
are not included in the foregoing U.S. total.) The last U.S. test was held in
1992; Russia claims it has not tested since 1990. In 1998, India and
Pakistan announced several nuclear tests. Each declared a test moratorium;
neither has signed the CTBT. North Korea announced that it conducted
nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. Since 1997, the United States has held 27 “subcritical
experiments” at the Nevada National Security Site, most recently in December
2012, to study how plutonium behaves under pressures generated by
explosives. It asserts these experiments do not violate the CTBT because
they cannot produce a self-sustaining chain reaction. Russia reportedly
held some such experiments since 1998.
The Stockpile Stewardship Program seeks to maintain confidence in the safety,
security, and reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons without nuclear testing.
Its budget is listed as “Weapons Activities” within the request of the
National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous component of
the Department of Energy. Congress addresses nuclear weapon issues in the
annual National Defense Authorization Act and the Energy and Water
Development Appropriations Act. The FY2012 appropriation for Weapons
Activities was $7.214 billion. The FY2013 request is $7.577 billion; P.L.
112-175, making continuing appropriations for FY2013, provided funds at that
rate through March 27, 2013. Congress also considers a U.S. contribution to a
global system to monitor possible nuclear tests, operated by the CTBT
Organization Preparatory Commission. The FY2013 request for that
contribution is $33.0 million, plus $3.5 million as a special contribution
to the organization. P.L. 112-175 provided funds for these contributions as
This report will be updated occasionally. This update reflects a U.N.
resolution on the treaty, FY2013 continuing appropriations, and stockpile
stewardship experiments. CRS Report RL34394, Comprehensive
Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Issues and Arguments, by Jonathan Medalia, presents
pros and cons in detail. CRS Report R40612, Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban
Treaty: Updated “Safeguards” and Net Assessments, by Jonathan Medalia,
discusses safeguards— unilateral steps to maintain U.S. nuclear security
consistent with nuclear testing treaties—and their relationship to the
CTBT. CRS Report R42498, Energy and Water Development: FY2013 Appropriations,
coordinated by Carl E. Behrens, provides details on stockpile stewardship.
Date of Report: January 2, 2013
Number of Pages: 64 Order Number: RL33548 Price: $29.95
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