Call for nuclear test ban treaty

Wednesday, August 14, 1996 - 10:00

By Pip Hinman

While China has said it will undertake a nuclear testing moratorium from July 30, nuclear disarmament campaigners in Australia warned that the July 29 nuclear test at Lop Nor may not be China's last and called on all nuclear weapons states to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Negotiations on the CTBT have resumed in Geneva after governments failed to agree at the end of June on a number of issues, including how and when the treaty should come into force. There was also disagreement over whether nuclear "threshold" states such as India, Pakistan and Israel should be required to join the treaty before it becomes legally binding.

India has criticised the US, France and Britain for pressuring the developing countries to sign the CTBT while themselves refusing to commit to a timetable to destroy their nuclear stockpiles. This amounts to forcing the developing world to accept the current nuclear monopoly.

India's other objection is the imperialist powers' preference as to which other countries should be allowed nuclear capability. While the US has campaigned hard against Iraq, it has turned a blind eye to pro-western countries such as Israel.

"France also had a voluntary moratorium until September last year", Jean McSorley from Greenpeace said. Beijing could do the same, she said, adding that the only solution is for China to agree to the CTBT.

The 1.5 kiloton bomb, equivalent to one quarter of the size of the Hiroshima bomb, was the 45th in a series that China began in 1964. According to John Hallam of Friends of the Earth, Chinese nuclear tests have released roughly 3300 curies of plutonium-239, 2 million curies of caesium-137 and 1.3 million curies of strontium-90 (all extremely deadly chemicals) into the atmosphere, affecting the local population, who oppose the tests.

China has 450 nuclear weapons which have a cumulative yield of 251 megatons, the equivalent of 17,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs.

Since 1945, 1030 nuclear tests have been exploded by the US, 715 by the USSR, 198 by France (including the six at Moruroa last year), 45 by China and 43 by Britain. India exploded what it described as "a peaceful nuclear device" in 1974.

From GLW issue 242