Markey will soon introduce legislation to prohibit new nuclear testing, bring Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force


Markey is House co-author of key amendment that lay foundation for moratorium on all U.S. nuclear tests


Boston (May 24, 2020) – After a report in the Washington Post revealed that senior Trump administration officials are actively considering breaking the near three-decade old U.S. moratorium on nuclear test explosions, Senator Edward J. Markey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a long-time Congressional leader on nuclear arms control and nonproliferation issues, announced he would soon introduce legislation to prohibit any new nuclear testing and bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force. A verifiable prohibition on nuclear-weapons testing would restrict the emergence of new nuclear-weapon countries and stop those who already have nuclear weapons from perfecting new, even more lethal weapon designs. Senator Markey also sent a letter to President Donald Trump demanding he abandon any efforts to reinitiate nuclear testing. If the United States were to resume testing, it would join North Korea as one of the only two countries known to have tested a nuclear weapon in the past two decades.


The United States last conducted a nuclear test explosion in 1992, and it signed the CTBT in 1996. The CTBT bans all nuclear explosives tests regardless of yield, and includes requirements for a verification regime that will include on-site inspections. However, the United States remains one of eight countries in the world who must ratify the CTBT for the Treaty – and its full benefits – to enter into force.


“President Trump is risking a new, even more dangerous Cold War and willfully walking down a road that ends in nuclear conflict,” said Senator Markey. “Previous U.S. nuclear testing poisoned the ground and air with deadly radiation, and brought us closer to a catastrophic nuclear weapons exchange with the former Soviet Union. We cannot allow that to happen again. I will soon introduce legislation to prohibit any dangerous new nuclear testing by President Trump and finally set the stage to bring the CTBT into force. This is the only way we can place inspectors on the ground to investigate any accusation that a country has cheated on the treaty. And if President Trump is sincere about engaging with Russia and China to prevent a renewed arms race, he can start by making the easiest decision of all – extending the New START Treaty. Doing so will keep a lid on the arsenals of both the United States and Russia.”


A copy of Senator Markey’s letter to President Trump can be found HERE.


The U.S. Senate voted down the CTBT in 1999 during its ratification advice and consent process. However, the United States and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council have abided by a nuclear weapons testing moratorium since 1996. Over the past two-plus decades, the Department of Energy’s national laboratories have improved their capacity to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent in the absence of testing. Additionally, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) in Vienna has assembled a network of 300 monitoring stations dispersed across the globe to detect any country’s nuclear test explosion, including each of North Korea's six such tests. A move by the Trump administration to resume testing would also conflict with a U.S.-led UN Security Council Resolution 2310, which stated that any nuclear weapons explosives test would defeat the “object and purpose” of the CTBT.


Then-Congressman Markey co-authored a 1986 amendment that passed in the House of Representatives to establish a moratorium on all nuclear tests in excess of one kiloton, provided the Soviet Union observed similar limits. This provision laid a vital foundation for the subsequent moratorium on all U.S. nuclear tests and for the negotiation of the CTBT.