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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, NGO Statement 6, 1999

NGO Statement 6

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delgates, permit me to thank you for giving the NGOs who work for nuclear disarmament the opportunity to present their remarks. I will present some observations regarding nuclear testing in the laboratory.

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We believe that the NPT Review Conference of the year 2000 is confronted with the following challenge: The NPT can only become universal if all its aspects mark substantial advances, including the one about continuing and accelerating nuclear disarmament, as stated in Article 6.

In this respect, we believe that experiments envisaged in projects such as the NIF (national ignition facility) or the megajoule laser by some nuclear powers, in particular the United States and France, are likely to:

  • disturb the 2000 NPT Review Conference by slowing down its universalization and putting obstacles to the last non-signatory countries joining in.
  • stop the complete CTBT ratification in 2000: these illegal programmes in regard to the CTBT may also prevent some nuclear threshhold countries to sign it.
  • give a new boost to unnecessary military spending while socially useful spending should be developed instead.

Given these dangers, we suggest, in the framework of a comprehensive approach to nuclear weapon abolition as early as possible, as stated in article 6 of the NPT, that:

  • nuclear powers be proposed to give international observers free access to facilities and programmes (in the framework of the IAEA), in order to check the stated goals of a mere maintenance of existing stockpiles, set up transparency and confidence-building measures. This could be subject to a recommendation in a CTBT appendix.
  • nuclear powers announce an immediate moratorium on laboratory nuclear experiments, in order to facilitate the ratification and entry into force of the CTBT and universalization of the NPT, until checks are operated and conclusions made.

The previous moratorium on underground tests decided in 1992-94 by Russia, the United States and France greatly helped CTBT negotiations.

This moratorium could come together with information policies, a report on experiences already started vis-à-vis States parties to the various treaties (NPT, CTBT).

Once the complete universalization of NPT is achieved, as well as the CTBT ratification, this moratorium could shift into a definitive halt, depending on the progress of negotiations for a complete ban of nuclear weapons.

Laboratory testing and the NPT: New Weapons

Today, even though the scientific feasibility of so-called "pure fusion weapons" has not been fully proved, if technical obstacles were overcome, the use of nuclear weapons as war instruments could be fundamentally changed. This development would pose completely new proliferation risks, thus radically reducing the chance to achieve complete and lasting nuclear disarmament. According to official documents of the French Programme PALEN (Program to Limit Nuclear Testing) and US plans for the Stockpile Stewardship programme, these projects aim at maintaining and exercising the capacity to design new nuclear weapons.

It is most conceivable that the scientific experts of these programs may at least carry out preliminary investigations to design pure fusion weapons, once the necessary data are available. If one were to believe the US DOE, it is not only necessary to maintain sophisticated facilities to attract and keep scientists in structures of research, it is also necessary to provide them with the opportunity to practice their designing skills. It is worth noting that the American and French governments deny that they intend to design new weapons. Yet, their current technical work would produce such weapons, since it is compatible with the research and development of pure fusion weapons.

Regarding the proliferation of "sensitive" information: the development of research on inertial confinement and pure fusion can result in the circulation of computer codes and information on the physical aspects of thermonuclear explosives, given that most of these facilities include research aspects with no military objective. For example, astro-physical experiments would be conducted at the NIF as well as at the Megajoule in Bordeaux, France, and experiments conducted in these facilities, which are not completely secret, are then replicated in non-nuclear weapon states such as Germany and Japan.

Laboratory experiments and the CTBT

This aspect is addressed in a specific contribution. According to our fact finding, the NIF, the megajoule laser and all other facilities designed to create thermonuclear explosions, even of a few pounds of TNT equivalent, are illegal in the framework of the CTBT. Even their construction is illegal since the CTBT demands both the prevention and banning of explosions. Signatories also have the obligation not to "provoke, encourage, or take part in any way in the smallest nuclear explosion."

Some nuclear powers act as if their projects were legal with respect to the CTBT. Such an interpretation is clearly unacceptable. An official standpoint by the CTBT Review conference, which would define an explosion with respect to the treaty objectives and set up limits on research based on that definition, is necessary indeed. It should take into account the intention clearly stated in the CTBT to limit the development of new weapons.

Consequences related to the cost of research programmes

Because of their high cost, of the necessary technological standard, these experiments are for a small club of wealthy and powerful countries, which maintain and develop a "technological military gap" that can halt the confidence-building atmosphere which should be broadened.

Moreover, this paralyzes resources in work not in conformity with State obligations whereas in these countries, civil research, social needs and education need additional funding.

CONCLUSION

The end of the Cold War has offered humankind a historic opportunity to get rid of nuclear weapons. The question is not only raised in general terms but in a concrete way to speed up the necessary complex elimination process. All development by the nuclear powers of new technological-military nuclear research is antithetical to this process. Declaring moratoria on the work of the American NIF, the French megajoule, and all similar projects would be a sensible proposal and we ask you that you consider it. Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates, for your attention.

CONVENOR: DANIEL DURAND
Le Mouvement de la Paix (French Peace Movement) 139 bd Victor Hugo / F - 93400 ST-OUEN
tel 33.1.4012.0912; fax 33.1.4011.5787 email: ddurand@mail.asi.fr http://www.asi.fr/~ddurand/