UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged countries which have not yet ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) to do so without delay.
Guterres made the appeal in his message on Sunday to mark the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, marked annually on August 29, to create awareness about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions.
The date marks the 30th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan, the largest of its kind in the former Soviet Union, where more than 450 nuclear devices were exploded over four decades.
Guterres said nuclear tests caused enormous human suffering and environmental damage, noting that they have terrible consequences on the health of people living in affected areas.
“Many were relocated from their ancestral lands, disrupting their lives and livelihoods. Pristine environments and ecosystems were destroyed, which will take decades, if not centuries, to heal.”
The secretary-general said the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site signalled the end of the era of unrestrained nuclear testing, adding that soon afterwards countries began negotiating the CTBT.
“The treaty bans all explosive nuclear weapons tests anywhere, by any country, putting a brake on the nuclear arms race and providing a powerful barrier to the development of new nuclear weapons.”
The CTBT was adopted in 1996 and has been signed by 185 countries, and ratified by 170, including three nuclear weapon States.
However, it must be signed and ratified by 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries before it can enter into force.
Guterres lamented that the full potential of the CTBT had not been realised.
He said even though the world had witnessed the gradual development of a norm against nuclear testing in the three decades since the closure of the Semipalatinsk site.
He said, “Despite its near universal acceptance by countries, it has yet to enter into force. I once again urge those states that have not yet ratified the treaty to do so without delay. Eight States whose ratifications are necessary for the Treaty to enter into force have a special responsibility.
“At the same time, all States should maintain or implement moratoria on nuclear explosions.”
According to him, the International Day Against Nuclear Tests is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to outlaw all nuclear tests, by anyone, anywhere and there is no excuse to delay achieving this goal.