Russia’s Renunciation of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Global Implications


Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill to renounce the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in late 2023, citing the US refusal to ratify the treaty. This decision marks a significant moment in the history of nuclear arms control and poses numerous questions about the future of global nuclear stability. Moscow clarified that this step does not necessarily mean Russia intends to resume nuclear tests, but the move has nonetheless raised concerns internationally.

The Treaty on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapon Tests, known as the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT), was signed 50 years ago in July 1974 between the Soviet Union and the United States. This treaty established a nuclear “threshold” by prohibiting tests with a yield exceeding 150 kilotons, equivalent to 150,000 tons of TNT. Over the decades, this threshold has been a crucial element in the effort to control the proliferation and advancement of nuclear weapons technology.

Historical Context and Significance of the TTBT

The TTBT was a landmark agreement in the era of Cold War arms control, setting a precedent for subsequent treaties aimed at reducing the risk of nuclear war. The treaty came at a time when both superpowers were engaged in an intense arms race, with each side seeking to develop more powerful and sophisticated nuclear arsenals. By agreeing to limit the yield of nuclear tests, the TTBT aimed to reduce the environmental and health impacts of nuclear testing, as well as to curb the escalation of the arms race.

On August 29, 2009, the United Nations declared this date as the International Day against Nuclear Tests. This commemoration, initiated by Kazakhstan, honors the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site on August 29, 1991, where the Soviet Union conducted numerous nuclear tests. This day serves as a reminder of the devastating effects of nuclear tests and the ongoing need for vigilance and commitment to nuclear disarmament.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)

The CTBT, adopted in 1996, aimed to ban all nuclear explosions for both civilian and military purposes. Despite its widespread support, the treaty has never come into force. To be effective, it requires ratification by 44 specific countries with nuclear technology capabilities at the time of its negotiation. As of now, eight countries—Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, China, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States—have either not signed or not ratified the treaty.

Russia was one of the first countries to sign the CTBT, demonstrating its commitment to global nuclear disarmament. However, in late 2023, Russia revoked its ratification, with President Vladimir Putin citing the US refusal to ratify the treaty as a primary reason. This development has significant implications for the future of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament efforts worldwide.

The Legacy of Nuclear Testing

The United States is the only country to have used nuclear weapons in war, detonating two atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. These bombings resulted in over 200,000 deaths, either instantly or within a few months due to radiation sickness and injuries. The devastating impact of these attacks highlighted the catastrophic potential of nuclear weapons and underscored the urgency of arms control agreements.

Since the first ‘Trinity’ nuclear test by the US on July 16, 1945, over 2,121  nuclear tests have been conducted globally. These tests have been carried out by at least eight nations, including the US, Russia (as the successor state to the Soviet Union), the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Test sites have included remote locations such as Pacific atolls, the Nevada desert, Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan, Western Australia, Algeria, and Lop Nor in China.

Worldwide Nuclear Testing Totals by Country (Updated July 2024) – Technical Summary Table

CountryTotal TestsDevices FiredDevices w/ Unknown YieldsPeaceful Use TestsNon-PTBT TestsYield Range (Kilotons)Total Yield (Kilotons)Percentage by TestsPercentage by Yield
USA1,0321,13212272310 to 15,000196,51448.7%36.3%
USSR/Russia7279812481562290 to 50,000296,83734.4%54.9%
UK8888310210 to 3,0009,2824.15%1.72%
France21521504570 to 2,60013,56710.2%2.51%
China474870230 to 4,00024,4092.22%4.51%
India360100 to 60700.141%0.013%
Pakistan260001 to 32510.107%0.0094%
North Korea660001 to 250197.80.283%0.036%
Total2,1212,4762941886040 to 50,000540,849100%100%
Key Notes
– The US, USSR/Russia, and France conducted the highest number of nuclear tests, contributing significantly to the total yield.
– Yield ranges vary significantly, with the USSR/Russia conducting the largest single test (50,000 kilotons).
– Peaceful use tests include applications for civil engineering and other non-military purposes, though their true nature can be dual-use.
This table and summary provide a comprehensive overview of nuclear testing by various countries up to July 2024, based on the latest available data from authoritative sources including the Arms Control Associat

Nuclear-Weapon States and Their Testing Histories

Under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), five countries are recognized as nuclear-weapon states (NWS): the US, Russia, the UK, France, and China. Each of these countries conducted its first nuclear tests before the NPT was opened for signature in 1968. The US has conducted the most tests, with a total of 1,032, followed by the Soviet Union with 715. France, the UK, and China have conducted fewer tests, with 210, 45, and 45 respectively.

In addition to these NWS, India, Pakistan, and North Korea have also conducted nuclear tests, albeit after 1968. India and Pakistan both carried out tests in 1998, following which they declared moratoriums on further testing. North Korea, however, has continued to conduct tests, with its last known test occurring on September 3, 2017, when it claimed to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb with an estimated yield exceeding 100 kilotons.

The Limited Test Ban Treaty and Its Impact

The Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) of 1963 was a significant step towards reducing the environmental and health impacts of nuclear testing. Signed by the US, the UK, and the USSR, and later joined by over 100 other countries, the LTBT prohibits nuclear weapons tests “or any other nuclear explosion” in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water. However, it does not prohibit underground testing, which accounts for about 75% of all nuclear tests conducted.

The LTBT has been instrumental in curbing atmospheric, underwater, and outer space nuclear tests, which posed significant environmental and health risks. Despite this progress, the continuation of underground testing by several countries has highlighted the need for a comprehensive ban, which the CTBT aims to achieve.

Recent Developments and Subcritical Testing

The Russian Federation has never conducted nuclear tests as an independent state. The last underground nuclear explosion by the Soviet Union took place in 1990 at the Novaya Zemlya test site, with a yield of 70 kilotons. Similarly, the UK conducted its last test on November 26, 1991, in the Nevada desert. The last US nuclear test, known as ‘Shot Divider,’ occurred on September 23, 1992, at the Nevada Test Site.

France conducted its last nuclear test on January 27, 1996, at the Moruroa and Fangataufa Atoll test site in the South Pacific. China followed suit with its last test on July 29, 1996. Since then, no official nuclear tests have been conducted by these countries, although subcritical experiments have continued.

Subcritical experiments involve using chemical high explosives and radiotracers in an underground tunnel to validate new predictive explosive models. These experiments do not result in a self-sustaining, supercritical chain reaction, and are thus considered to comply with the CTBT’s zero-yield standard. However, critics argue that such tests undermine the spirit of the CTBT by allowing countries to improve their nuclear arsenals without conducting full-scale tests.

On October 18, 2023, the US conducted a high-explosive experiment at the Nevada site, coinciding with the Russian State Duma’s adoption of the law revoking ratification of the CTBT. This test, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), aimed to validate new predictive explosive models and collect data to support the effectiveness of US nuclear warheads.

The US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration executed another subcritical experiment on May 14, 2024, at the Principal Underground Laboratory for Subcritical Experimentation at the Nevada National Security Site. Washington maintained that this experiment, like all previous subcritical experiments, was consistent with the zero-yield standard of the CTBT and the self-imposed moratorium on nuclear explosive testing since 1992.

Global Implications of Russia’s Revocation of the CTBT

Russia’s decision to revoke its ratification of the CTBT has raised significant concerns about the future of global nuclear non-proliferation efforts. This move, prompted by the US’s refusal to ratify the treaty, signals a potential shift in the international arms control landscape. While Moscow has stated that it does not intend to resume nuclear testing, the revocation could lead to an arms race and increased tensions between nuclear-armed states.

The CTBT has been a cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to reduce the risks associated with nuclear testing. Its failure to come into force has been a major obstacle to achieving a world free of nuclear tests. The recent developments involving Russia and the US highlight the challenges facing the international community in maintaining and strengthening the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.

The Role of International Organizations and Future Prospects

International organizations, such as the United Nations and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), play a crucial role in promoting the goals of the CTBT and supporting its verification regime. The CTBTO’s International Monitoring System (IMS) is a global network of sensors designed to detect any nuclear explosions, ensuring compliance with the treaty’s provisions.

Despite the challenges, there are several avenues through which the international community can work to strengthen the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. These include diplomatic efforts to encourage the remaining eight countries to ratify the CTBT, enhancing the verification capabilities of the IMS, and promoting transparency and confidence-building measures among nuclear-armed states.

In conclusion, the renunciation of the CTBT by Russia, driven by the US’s refusal to ratify the treaty, marks a significant development in the history of nuclear arms control. While this decision does not necessarily signal an immediate resumption of nuclear testing, it underscores the fragility of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and the need for renewed international efforts to achieve a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests.

The history of nuclear testing, from the TTBT and LTBT to the CTBT, highlights the progress made in reducing the risks associated with nuclear weapons. However, the continuation of subcritical

APPENDIX 1 -Treaty Overview

The Treaty on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapon Tests, known as the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT), was signed in July 1974 by the United States and the Soviet Union. It sets a nuclear “threshold” by prohibiting tests with a yield exceeding 150 kilotons (150,000 tons of TNT)​ ​.

Technical Specifications

Yield Limitations

  • Maximum Yield: 150 kilotons
  • Fractional-Megaton Range: Prohibits tests above this range to reduce the explosive force of new nuclear warheads​ .

Verification Protocols

  • National Technical Means: Each party uses its own verification methods.
    • Seismic Monitoring: For tests exceeding 50 kilotons.
    • Hydrodynamic Yield Measurement: For tests exceeding 50 kilotons.
    • On-site Inspections: For tests exceeding 35 kilotons​.
  • Data Exchange:
    • Geographic Coordinates: Boundaries of test sites and geophysically distinct areas.
    • Geological Information: Density of rock formations, water saturation, porosity, and depth of the water table.
    • Test Details: Yield, date, time, depth, and coordinates for calibration purposes​​.

Calibration Tests

  • Purpose: Establish correlation between stated yields and seismic signals.
  • Data: Two tests per area, near the 150-kiloton threshold, for calibration purposes. Past tests or new tests can be used​ ​.

Historical Context

  • 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT): Prohibited nuclear tests in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater but allowed underground tests​ .
  • 1974 Negotiations: The U.S. and the Soviet Union agreed to further restrict nuclear testing. Technical talks in Moscow led to the agreement on the TTBT​.
  • Ratification and Additional Protocols: The treaty was ratified and entered into force on December 11, 1990. New protocols for verification were agreed upon in June 1990​ ​.

Treaty Provisions

Articles Summary

  • Article I: Prohibits underground nuclear tests exceeding 150 kilotons and mandates ongoing negotiations for a comprehensive test ban.
  • Article II: Details verification measures and prohibits interference with verification methods.
  • Article III: Excludes peaceful nuclear explosions, which are governed by a separate agreement.
  • Article IV: Requires ratification procedures.
  • Article V: Stipulates the treaty’s duration and conditions for withdrawal​​.

Detailed Scheme Table

Maximum Yield150 kilotons
Verification MethodsNational technical means, seismic monitoring, hydrodynamic yield measurement
Seismic MonitoringFor tests > 50 kilotons
Hydrodynamic Yield MeasurementFor tests > 50 kilotons
On-site InspectionFor tests > 35 kilotons
Geological Data FactorsDensity of rock, water saturation, porosity, depth of water table
Calibration TestsTwo tests per area, near 150-kiloton threshold
Data ExchangeCoordinates, geology, yield, date, time, depth of tests
Article IProhibits tests > 150 kilotons, ongoing negotiations
Article IIVerification measures, non-interference
Article IIIExcludes peaceful nuclear explosions
Article IVRatification procedures
Article VTreaty duration, conditions for withdrawal

APPENDIX 2 – The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is a cornerstone of international efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, promote peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and further the goal of nuclear disarmament. The treaty was opened for signature on July 1, 1968, and entered into force on March 5, 1970. It was extended indefinitely in 1995. As of now, 191 states are parties to the NPT, making it the most widely adhered-to arms limitation agreement.

Key Technical Data and Provisions of the NPT

General Information

  • Opened for Signature: July 1, 1968
  • Entered into Force: March 5, 1970
  • Extended Indefinitely: May 11, 1995
  • Current Number of Parties: 191 states
  • Depositary Governments: United States, United Kingdom, Russia

Core Pillars

  • Non-Proliferation: Nuclear-weapon states (NWS) agree not to transfer nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, while non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS) agree not to acquire or manufacture them.
  • Disarmament: All parties commit to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament.
  • Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy: The treaty promotes cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear technology and ensures that NNWS can access this technology without discrimination.

Safeguards and Verification

  • IAEA Role: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is responsible for verifying compliance with the treaty through safeguards agreements with NNWS to ensure that nuclear materials are not diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
  • Additional Protocol: Enhances the IAEA’s ability to verify the peaceful use of all nuclear material in NNWS by providing broader access to information and sites.

Technical Capabilities and Requirements

  • Verification Mechanisms: Include on-site inspections, remote monitoring, and information analysis to ensure that NNWS are complying with their treaty obligations.
  • Export Controls: Implemented through the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to prevent the spread of materials and technologies that could be used for nuclear weapons development.
  • Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones: The treaty encourages the establishment of regional agreements to prohibit nuclear weapons within specific geographical areas.

Detailed Scheme Table

Date of AdoptionJune 12, 1968
Entry into ForceMarch 5, 1970
ExtensionIndefinitely extended on May 11, 1995
Parties191 states as of 2023
Depositary GovernmentsUSA, UK, Russia
Nuclear-Weapon States (NWS)USA (1945), Russia (1949), UK (1952), France (1960), China (1964)
Key ArticlesArticle I: Non-proliferation obligations for NWS
Article II: Non-proliferation obligations for NNWS
Article III: IAEA safeguards for verification
Verification AuthorityInternational Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
SafeguardsMandatory for all NNWS to prevent diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons
Additional ProtocolProvides the IAEA with enhanced verification measures
Export ControlsManaged through the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
Review ConferencesHeld every five years to assess the implementation of the treaty
Withdrawal ClauseParties can withdraw with a three-month notice citing extraordinary events compromising their supreme interests
Non-NPT StatesIndia, Israel, Pakistan, and South Sudan are not parties to the NPT; North Korea withdrew in 2003

The NPT remains a fundamental framework for global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament efforts. It has successfully limited the number of nuclear-armed states and promoted the peaceful use of nuclear energy under strict international safeguards.

APPENDIX 3 – Worldwide nuclear test with a yield of 1.4 Mt TNT equivalent and more

CountryYield (megatons)DeploymentDate
Soviet Union50.00parachute air drop03/01/1954
China3.40air drop26/03/1954
Soviet Union24.20missile warhead05/05/1954
UK3.00air drop13/05/1954
Soviet Union1.10tunnel22/11/1955
Soviet Union3.00air drop20/05/1956
USA3.00free air drop27/05/1956
China3.00air drop25/06/1956
Soviet Union2.70air drop20/07/1956
Soviet Union21.10air drop07/08/1956
Soviet Union20.00air drop07/10/1956
Soviet Union19.10air drop10/06/1957
USA3.50dry surface27/02/1958
Soviet Union3.10air drop28/04/1958
China3.00air drop14/06/1958
Soviet Union2.80air drop28/06/1958
USA1.40dry surface15/10/1958
USA1.40space rocket18/10/1958
Soviet Union1.10space rocket24/10/1958
Soviet Union12.50air drop05/11/1958
Soviet Union10.00air drop08/12/1958
Soviet Union10.00air drop10/12/1958
USA8.30air drop10/06/1961
UK1.80air drop14/09/1961
Soviet Union8.20air drop09/10/1961
USA1.30underground shaft20/10/1961
USA1.20underground shaft30/10/1961
Soviet Union1.10air drop31/10/1961
USA7.70air drop09/12/1961
Soviet Union2.90air drop27/06/1962
Soviet Union2.80air drop30/06/1962
Soviet Union5.00air drop09/08/1962
Soviet Union2.50tunnel20/08/1962
Soviet Union2.40air drop22/08/1962
USA4.80underground shaft07/09/1962
Soviet Union1.60air drop16/09/1962
Soviet Union1.60air drop18/09/1962
Soviet Union1.60air drop19/09/1962
Soviet Union1.50air drop21/09/1962
Soviet Union1.50air drop25/09/1962
Soviet Union1.50air drop27/09/1962
Soviet Union4.20air drop07/10/1962
Soviet Union1.40air drop18/10/1962
Soviet Union4.00air drop07/11/1962
Soviet Union4.00underground shaft06/12/1962
USA1.00underground shaft24/12/1962
USA1.00underground shaft24/12/1962
USA1.00underground shaft25/12/1962
China3.00air drop17/06/1967
Soviet Union3.80tunnel19/01/1968
Soviet Union3.10air drop26/04/1968
China4.00air drop09/08/1968
Soviet Union2.20tunnel24/08/1968
USA1.00air drop19/12/1968
Soviet Union1.00air drop27/12/1968
Soviet Union1.50high alt rocket29/09/1969
Soviet Union3.30air drop26/03/1970
Soviet Union1.50air drop14/10/1970
USA3.80free air drop11/06/1971
Soviet Union1.50high alt rocket27/09/1971
Soviet Union1.90high alt rocket28/08/1972
Soviet Union2.90air drop27/06/1973
Soviet Union1.20space rocket27/10/1973
USA3.80high alt rocket09/12/1973
USA3.80high alt rocket11/02/1974
USA1.90underground shaft29/08/1974
Soviet Union2.30underground shaft23/08/1975
Soviet Union1.30tunnel21/10/1975
Soviet Union1.20tunnel28/10/1975
Soviet Union1.10tunnel17/11/1976

Copyright of
Even partial reproduction of the contents is not permitted without prior authorization – Reproduction reserved


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Questo sito usa Akismet per ridurre lo spam. Scopri come i tuoi dati vengono elaborati.