21 April 2015

International visit focusing on the Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty

The CTBTO is an international organisation tasked with verifying compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Today the organisation’s highest representative visited FOI’s research facilities.

Sweden has a long tradition of involvement in disarmament treaties and at FOI there are scientists who are experts in the detection of radioactivity in the air. FOI’s research in this area is largely funded by grants from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs but assignments are also received from, for example, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). The CTBTO has been in existence since 1996 with the task of verifying that no state carries out nuclear weapon tests on land, in the atmosphere or underground. The CTBTO’s Executive Secretary Dr. Lassina Zerbo is today paying a visit to Sweden.

“FOI is engaged in extensive and significant cooperation with the CTBTO, and the organisation itself fulfils the vital function of verifying compliance with the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It means a lot that the CTBTO’s Executive Secretary Dr. Lassina Zerbo is coming to Sweden for a meeting with our Minister for Foreign Affairs and to meet Hans Blix. We are also pleased that he is making a special visit to FOI to see our research activities for himself,” says Anna-Lena Österborg, FOI’s Deputy Director General.

During the morning Dr. Lassina Zerbo met with Deputy Director General Anna-Lena Österborg and members of FOI’s scientific and research staff. Among other things, Dr. Lassina Zerbo witnessed a demonstration of SAUNA in FOI’s xenon laboratory. SAUNA is a measuring system that forms part of a global monitoring network with 300 monitoring stations located all round the world. The purpose of this international monitoring system is to support the CTBTO in its work of verifying that no nuclear weapon tests are carried out. The SAUNA system is internationally known for its ability to measure airborne radioactivity. The initial prototype was developed at FOI during the year 2000 and the system was launched commercially in 2003. In 2006 the system was in the news when it detected radioactive xenon originating from a North Korean underground nuclear weapon test. FOI has been commissioned by the Government to continue development of the SAUNA system in order to strengthen the verification regime still further.

“Dr. Lassina Zerbo stressed the importance of maintaining the good cooperation between the CTBTO and FOI so that Sweden can continue to contribute, as one of the world leaders in the field of monitoring and verification, in support of the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty”, says Martin Goliath, FOI’s Unit Manager.

FOI’s experts work on assessments of the threat from nuclear weapons and this work also includes matters relating to disarmament and non-proliferation. FOI is the national centre of excellence for knowledge and expertise in matters relating to technical verification, especially where measurements to determine whether a nuclear weapon test has taken place are concerned, and ways in which it should be possible to verify other agreements relating to nuclear weapons.

Yesterday, at a seminar on nuclear disarmament at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, was quoted as saying “Sweden and the EU have long been working for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty /…/ On the technical side the Government has tasked FOI with the further development of the SAUNA system designed to detect nuclear weapon tests though the measurement of radioactive noble gas isotopes in the air. SAUNA is a key component of the CTBTO’s verification system and Sweden is one of only three countries possessing leading-edge competence in this field”.

Read more about CTBTO External link.