The future role of the
International Monitoring System

From build-up to sustainment

Vienna International Centre, Austria

The first decade of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) had to contend with two overriding challenges: 1) trying to obtain the necessary ratifications to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force; and 2) laying the extensive technical groundwork so that, when it does, the CTBT’s global verification regime, including its 337-facility International Monitoring System (IMS), will be fully operational.

“The CTBTO verification regime is one of the most ambitious global projects ever undertaken. “
International Monitoring System laboratory (ATL03), Seibersdorf, Austria

As was discussed in “The Pioneering Decade”, the early days of the IMS were described as “build-as-you-design” because the CTBTO Provisional Technical Secretariat (PTS) was operating under severe time constraints. Today much has been accomplished but the final touches remain to be put. The majority of the IMS stations and radionuclide laboratories are either certified, operating, testing or under construction.

Now comes the difficult end phase, in which recalcitrant political, environmental, financial, technical and logistical problems must be solved before the IMS can become fully established.

Political challenges

By 2009 it is estimated that some 85-90% of all 321 IMS stations around the world will have been completed and will be transmitting data to the International Data Centre in Vienna. For some of the remaining 35-40 stations, there are political challenges that will have to be solved before installations can commence. For example, stations intended for India and Pakistan cannot be started until these two countries sign the CTBT.

Environmental challenges
Other stations face environmental challenges. Extreme care must be taken not to disturb the natural habitats and to maintain the fragile ecological balance. The PTS abides by all national regulations, it uses passive technologies, and always restores the area surrounding a station back to its original state.

Today the majority of IMS stations and radionuclide laboratories are either certified, operating, testing or under construction. Now comes the end phase.

Technical challenges

There is a new technical “double challenge” to be met.

There is also a new technical “double challenge” to be met. On the one hand, the build-up phase must be followed through to completion. On the other hand, the PTS has to shift gears from build-up to maintenance and sustainment mode.

As the build-up phase is completed, the focus will turn more and more towards sustaining the IMS. System “sustainment” is, in fact, a relatively new word in the IMS vocabulary. Beyond straightforward maintenance of existing equipment, sustainment involves enhancement, improvement, refinement, in some cases even replacement of current equipment with newly evolved technologies.

Since exceptional care must be exercised not to tip the environmental balance, it is vital that IMS stations are non-invasive and adaptable to any environment.

Logistical Challenges

The build up of the IMS has meant that the PTS has been involved in a globe-spanning construction project for over ten years. Its logistical challenges are daunting. For example, since international organizations are entitled to tax exemptions, legal issues associated with taxation and customs must be addressed in each and every country.

Logistical Challenges cont.

Facility agreement between the Cook Islands and the CTBTO

The logistical challenge of IMS sustainment also looms on the horizon. This will become a major issue since some stations are already eight to nine years old, and other pre-existing ones are even older. Since equipment does not last forever, all 337 facilities will eventually be in need of re-capitalization, another logistical challenge.

 
Administrative challenges

To establish and devise a new, worldwide, Treaty-based, monitoring network in 89 different countries has also been an administrative challenge. Some of the larger countries had multiple institutions where administrative procedures had to be negotiated.

Building up the IMS has meant that the Provisional Technical Secretariat has been involved in a globe-spanning construction project for over ten years.

The Treaty also requires legally binding Facility Agreements—that is, bilateral agreements between the CTBTO and the host country of an IMS station, which grants the former the legal and administrative authority to work on State’s territory to establish, upgrade or provisionally operate and maintain monitoring stations.

 
Support from Member States
The International Monitoring System is one of the most ambitious global projects ever undertaken. It depends for its ultimate success upon the Member States who politically, technically, financially and logistically support it.

An entirely new worldwide monitoring network based purely on the Treaty had to be devised and established in 89 different countries—a formidable challenge.