Leadership and the Future of Nuclear Energy

Rose Gottemoeller
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Chicago, IL
June 9, 2011

Thank you very much for inviting me to speak this morning. It’s good to see so many old friends and colleagues: from the University of Chicago, from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, from Argonne National Lab, and from other eminent institutions – an impressive group! I am pleased to be able to join you.

I last participated in this conference on the future of nuclear power in 2006. At that time I was at the Carnegie Moscow Center and was very much focused on potential areas of cooperation between the United States and Russia. Also at that time, I was honored to be on the board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Today, as the Assistant Secretary for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance my job remains very much about looking for potential areas of cooperation between the United States and Russia. One very important area has been the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, New START, which was ratified last year and entered into force in February. I am pleased to report that implementation of the Treaty is well underway and going forward in a positive and businesslike manner.

The issues you are considering over the next two days are ones I have worked on throughout my career whether in government at the National Security Council or the Department of Energy or in the non-governmental community. Your discussions are important to urgent government policy issues, and I applaud your continuing contributions.

I would like to focus my remarks on an issue that, while not specifically on your agenda, is critical to all of us because it involves global security: the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.

I am sure you are all familiar with a speech President Obama delivered in Prague in April 2009. In that speech, the President spoke about “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Among the many steps he said the United States would take to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons, was the pursuit of ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty – the CTBT.

Secretary Clinton reaffirmed this commitment to ratification of the CTBT at both the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT in September of 2009 and at the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May 2010.

The CTBT establishes a global legal ban on any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.

The United States has not conducted a nuclear explosive test since 1992, in keeping with our moratorium on nuclear testing. Thus, as a practical matter, our policies and practices are consistent with the central prohibition of the Treaty. But without the ratification and entry into force of the Treaty, we cannot accrue all its benefits.

U.S. ratification of the CTBT is in our national security interest. As stated in the April 2010 Nuclear Posture Review: “Ratification of the CTBT is central to leading other nuclear weapons states toward a world of diminished reliance on nuclear weapons, reduced nuclear competition, and eventual nuclear disarmament.”

Ratification of the CTBT would be a significant affirmation of the importance the United States attributes to the international nonproliferation regime and, when the Treaty enters into force, to reducing the role of nuclear weapons in international security.

Establishing a global, legally enforced ban on nuclear weapon tests will make America more secure.

The U.S. can maintain a safe and effective nuclear deterrent without conducting explosive nuclear tests, but would-be proliferators could not develop, with confidence, advanced nuclear weapon designs without conducting an explosive nuclear test. The CTBT would subject suspected violators to the threat of intrusive on-site inspections and, if warranted, international sanctions.

In short, much has changed since the U.S. Senate declined to provide its consent to ratification of the CTBT in 1999. At that time the Senate expressed concerns about the verifiability of the Treaty and the continuing safety and reliability of America’s nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing.

With regard to verifiability, the CTBT’s Preparatory Commission has made great progress in the last decade toward establishing the Treaty’s verification regime. For the United States, this system will augment our highly sophisticated and significantly improved U.S. national technical means for monitoring nuclear explosions anywhere in the world.

In 1999, the International Monitoring System (IMS) existed only on paper. Today, the IMS is roughly 80 percent complete and, when completed, IMS facilities will be in 89 countries spanning the globe.

Although operating only in test mode, a partially constructed IMS demonstrated its capabilities by providing important timely data to the Treaty’s State Signatories on the 2006 and 2009 announced nuclear tests conducted by North Korea.

While the CTBT’s verification system was designed to detect nuclear explosions, data from the IMS is valuable for other purposes. In fact, the CTBT State Signatories agreed to allow the limited use of IMS data for disaster mitigation purposes. This proved particularly valuable recently when data from IMS seismic and hydro-acoustic stations were available to tsunami warning centers that provided warnings of the tsunami generated by the recent massive earthquake in Japan.

In addition, following the Fukushima nuclear reactor release, radioactive particulates and gases were detected at every operational radionuclide monitoring station in the Northern Hemisphere within ten days, demonstrating the effectiveness and sensitivity of this part of the IMS.

With regard to our nuclear deterrent, in 1999, there were legitimate questions regarding our ability to maintain in the absence of explosive testing the long term reliability of our nuclear weapons as they age.

Today, through the extensive surveillance methods and computational modeling developed under the Stockpile Stewardship Program over the past 15 years, our nuclear experts understand how these weapons work and the effects of aging better than when explosive nuclear testing was conducted.

Last November, the President made an extraordinary commitment to ensure the modernization of our nuclear infrastructure. The investment of more than $85 billion over the next decade in science and technology and stockpile reliability demonstrates our commitment to modernize the U.S nuclear weapons complex that supports our deterrent so that it continues to be safe, secure and effective.

While working toward the entry-into-force of the CTBT, the United States will continue its nearly two-decade long moratorium on nuclear explosive testing. We call on all other governments to declare or reaffirm their intention not to test.

Many national security experts, including Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, and George Shultz, who were not supportive of the CTBT in 1999 are now in favor of its ratification. They see it as an important part of a post-Cold War agenda for combating nuclear proliferation.

In order to ratify the Treaty, we will need to win the support of a Senate whose composition has changed significantly since 1999. An important step will be to convince those Senators who had concerns when the Treaty was last considered. Our recent experience working with the Senate to gain their advice and consent to ratification of the New START Treaty has prepared us well for what is expected to be a thorough and robust debate over the CTBT.

In anticipation of the ratification effort, the Administration commissioned a number of reports, including an updated National Intelligence Estimate and a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report to assess the ability of the United States to monitor compliance with the Treaty and the ability of the United States to maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal in the absence of explosive nuclear testing. An unclassified version of the NAS report is expected to be released soon. These authoritative reports, together with others, will help to inform the Senate’s assessment of the CTBT.

Ratification of the CTBT by the United States will encourage other states to sign and ratify the Treaty, including those remaining States whose ratifications are necessary for the Treaty to enter into force. An in-force CTBT will deter states from testing nuclear weapons and raise the costs for any state that might choose to pursue a testing program.

If nuclear testing is prohibited, other countries will be constrained in their ability to develop new, advanced nuclear weapons and modernize their existing arsenals. This Treaty keeps the United States at the forefront of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime without jeopardizing the effectiveness of our nuclear deterrent.

A legally binding ban on nuclear testing is an essential step on the path toward a world without nuclear weapons. The national security of the United States, and all States, will be enhanced when CTBT enters into force.

Thank you again for inviting me to join you today. I would be glad to answer any questions on this or other arms control topics of interest.