Experts from U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories, including Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, are participating in the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) Integrated Field Exercise 2014 (IFE14), a large-scale field exercise under way from November to December in Jordan.
At IFE14, more than 200 technical experts from over 40 countries are conducting a mock on-site inspection (OSI) in the Dead Sea Area for evidence of a nuclear explosion. Under the CTBT, any country party to the Treaty can submit an OSI request to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in order to verify whether a suspicious seismic event is a nuclear detonation. Once an OSI request is submitted to the CTBTO, the clock starts ticking; an international team of 40 inspectors has to receive a comprehensive briefing about the suspicious event, within nine days travel to the area of the suspected nuclear explosion, and help the CTBTO move and set-up about 120 tons of inspection equipment and supplies at the base of operations. Keeping time is pivotal during the first few days of an OSI, as some of the conclusive evidence of a nuclear explosion, such as seismic aftershocks and short-lived radionuclides, can only be found during the first several days.
The inspection phase immediately follows the prep-work; inspectors have 25 days to probe the site using techniques such as visual observation, multi-spectral imaging and radioactivity measurements. The inspectors then submit a progress report, which can extend the inspection period and open up a gamut of new, more intrusive inspection techniques depending on the report’s findings. Inspectors at IFE14 will apply most of the inspection techniques listed in the Treaty, which is more comprehensive compared to the previous IFE in Kazakhstan in 2008, making IFE14 the largest and most technologically advanced field exercise ever conducted by the CTBTO.
Once the inspection phase is over, the inspectors work with the CTBTO to develop the final inspection report, which will help the CTBT Executive Council determine whether the Treaty was violated. Although the Treaty has not yet entered into force, inspection exercises such as IFE14 play a critical role in improving the mechanics of the inspection process and ensuring the operational capability and readiness for entry into force of the Treaty.
DOE/NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, Anne Harrington, visited IFE14 in mid-November to observe parts of the exercise at the designated base of operations. Along with U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller and other VIP Observers from over 25countries and international organizations, Deputy Administrator Harrington had an opportunity to discuss the IFE14 exercise with CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo and HRH Prince Feisal Bin Al Hussein of Jordan during a VIP Observers event.
Regular IFE14 updates can be found at http://ctbto.org/specials/integrated-field-exercise-2014/.
Vist CTBTO Flickr page for additional pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ctbto
More detail about the IFE14 process can be found at: http://www.ctbto.org/fileadmin/user_upload/pdf/IFE-14_Final_corrected_SinglePages_WEB.pdf