Theodore B. Taylor
PO Box 662, Wellsville, NY 14895
Tel 716-593-3084; Fax 716-593-6347;

September 24, 1996

I join in celebration by what I believe to be a majority of the people aware of the signing today of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty(CTBT) prohibiting any further tests of any nuclear explosive devices.

This is a necessary though not sufficient step towards stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It is also a necessary but not sufficient step towards global abolition of all nuclear weapons.

It will make it more difficult for nations that already have nuclear weapons to develop new ones with confidence. It will make it more difficult for nations that do not yet have nuclear weapons to get them. It will stop further contamination of the environment by the radioactive substances released by nuclear weapon tests. It will stimulate considerable extension of means for verification of international treaties and other agreements related to proliferation of nuclear weapons.

I also have some cautionary thoughts related to the treaty.

As I understand it, several governments, including my own, have negotiated an exception to the complete ban on all nuclear explosions of any size or type. The exception would allow the production of very small thermonuclear explosions inside facilities designed to contain them. Examples are the planned U.S. National Ignition Facility(NIF) and the similar French "Megajoule" facility. Use of such facilities can provide data that can play key roles in the design of new types of nuclear weapons. The CTBT will also allow the design, construction and use of numerous other facilities, in a growing number of countries, designed to investigate possibilities for Inertial Confinement Fusion(ICF) thermonuclear explosions as a source of power for civil purposes. Use of such facilities, and of non- nuclear tests not prohibited by the CTBT, along with use and extension of intimate, rapidly proliferating intimate public knowledge of how to design pure fission, boosted fission, and thermonuclear weapons of wide ranges of yields may make it possible for nations to acquire any of a wide variety of sophisticated nuclear weapons without tests that would violate the treaty.

A speculative but technically conceivable outgrowth of the use of the NIF and related facilities is key information about how to design pure fusion nuclear explosives that, unlike the NIF itself, could be practically transportable as weapons. Such weapons would not require any plutonium or highly enriched uranium neither of which occur naturally in significant quantities. Development of such weapons require solution to two main problems. The first is to create the necessary conditions in thermonuclear fuel(deuterium and tritium or, possibly, mostly or all deuterium and lithium, both of which are naturally abundant) to release much more energy than the energy required to create the explosive conditions. The other problem is to package the energy required to create those conditions with much smaller components than the huge lasers or particle beam accelerators used to energize the NIF or Megajoule facilities, or other facilities in many countries where possibilities for inertial confinement fusion is now under intensive investigation. Efforts to do this with magnetic fields energized by chemical explosives continue to be investigated secretly in Russia, which pioneered much of this work, and the United States, and perhaps other countries.

The CTBT will not prevent the design and construction of relatively crude but easily transportable nuclear explosives by non-governments groups for use by terrorists, using plutonium or highly enriched uranium stolen or diverted from military or civilian nuclear facilities or transport vehicles, and sold or otherwise transferred illegally.

The treaty will not prohibit any country from creating conditions for rapid "breakout" of the treaty, leading to a resumption or new startup of nuclear testing if it perceives a serious enough threat to its security.

Perhaps most important, the CTBT will not deal with the lack of commitments by the countries that now have nuclear weapons to eliminate them and press hard for their prompt global abolition. The signing of this treaty must not cause the relaxation or postponement of worldwide actions to rid the world of these terrible weapons that have moved the human capacity for destruction clear off the human scale.

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