Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) said on Monday that he hoped the recent International Day against Nuclear Tests would “inspire countries to take concrete measures that will allow us to finally reach our objective of a world free from the dangers of nuclear testing”, noting at the meeting marking the occasion that there needed to be an “unmistakable message…that our work is not yet done”.
He said he was honoured to have been jointly awarded the Nazarbayev Prize for a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World and Global Security, together with the late Yukiya Amano (former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency), calling his co-recipient “an outstanding champion for the peaceful use of nuclear energy”.
“The only path that will lead us to this noble goal is through the verifiability of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and its universalization”, asserted Zerbo.
Bringing the CTBT into force and fulfilling the overarching objective of the International Day against Nuclear Tests will require the concerted and sustained multilateral efforts of scientists, diplomats, politicians, academics, the media and all civil society “at every step”, he said.
To guarantee the continued viability of nuclear power for peace and development, “we must reinforce and build upon the legal framework that has been painstakingly established to keep nuclear risks low, while ensuring that countries can continue to benefit from the peaceful uses of nuclear energy”, said Zerbo.
He called the CTBT “a crucial, and long overdue, step” that will help to ensure the continued vitality of the international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres noted that the day served two purposes: “First, to pay tribute to the victims of nuclear tests and second, to raise awareness of the continued threat that such tests pose to the environment and international security”.
Over the last seven decades, some 2,000 nuclear tests have been carried out, “unleashing a terrible toll”, the UN chief said, devastating “pristine environments and local populations around the world”.
“Peoples from regions as diverse as the South Pacific, North America, and North Africa have equally suffered from poisoned groundwater, radioactive fallout, and other side effects to health and living conditions”, he elaborated.
While acknowledging significant progress in banning nuclear tests, Guterres said the day is “a reminder of our moral obligation to ensure a legally-binding prohibition on nuclear weapons”.
And although the CTBT is widely supported and its verification mechanism, the International Monitoring System, has helped facilitate international peace and security, the Treaty cannot enter into force until it has been signed and ratified by China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States, each of which possessed nuclear power or research reactors at the time of the 1996 Conference on Disarmament.
“I want to use this opportunity to once again call upon all States to sign and ratify the CTBT without further delay, and for those remaining eight States to do so with a sense of urgency”, the Secretary-General said, adding “In the 21st century, nuclear testing is simply not acceptable”.