The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

Foundations, context and outlook*

Authored by: Dean Knox

Handbook of Nuclear Proliferation

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  February  2012

Print ISBN: 9781857436044
eBook ISBN: 9780203840849
Adobe ISBN:


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A legally binding accord banning nuclear explosions in any environment and for any reason has been a goal of non-proliferation and arms control proponents for over five decades. The prospects of such a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) have repeatedly waxed and waned over the years as the positions of crucial states have alternated between vigorous support, unyielding opposition and apathy. Opened for signature in 1996 after a period of intense and widespread support, the treaty has not yet entered into force and is unlikely to do so in the near future. After coming into existence as the manifestation of an emerging norm against nuclear explosions, the CTBT now serves to perpetuate widely held beliefs about the illegality and immorality of nuclear explosions. Despite the treaty’s currently non-binding nature, the basic principle of the CTBT now verges on customary international law.

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