U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY FEDERICO PEÑA
REGARDING THE COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB
FEBRUARY 12, 1998
Good afternoon. As I speak to you today, more than 30,000 U.S. soldiers stand on alert in the Persian Gulf. Two U.S. aircraft carriers and more than 400 aircraft are already in the area. And Americans watch with growing concern as Saddam Hussein continues to defy the will of the world by denying United Nations weapons inspectors unrestricted access to sites where nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons of mass destruction may be hidden.
It is in this climate of escalating tension and growing concern that I come before you today to make the case for a treaty that can bolster our national security, strengthen our commitment to peace, and help us stem the tide of proliferation of nuclear weapons -- the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
This treaty represents an important building block for both our national and our international security. There have been numerous arguments put forward for ratification of this treaty. But today I want to focus on what I believe are the three most important.
First, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty effectively "puts the brakes" on the arms race. Because it prohibits all nuclear explosions, it constrains the development of more advanced types of nuclear weapons by the declared nuclear powers.
Most Americans do not realize that there are currently five declared nuclear weapons states -- the United States, Russia, Great Britain, France, and China. None of us would be able to develop with high confidence new, more advanced and more dangerous weapon types without nuclear testing. Therefore, all five states would be effectively "frozen" at current levels of weapons sophistication -- and a fifty year spiral of escalation would be ended.
I want to take a moment to remind you of what those fifty years were like.
While the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is an important constraint for countries seeking to develop more advanced weapons, it is more than that. It is also a step toward leaving our children a world where we have put an end to the arms race once and for all.
This brings me to the second reason for ratification -- that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will constrain other countries from developing nuclear weapons. As I mentioned earlier, there are currently five nations in the "nuclear club." But there are more who want to join the nuclear ranks. How can the treaty deter them? Well -- even if these nations were to assemble sufficient nuclear material to produce a simple fission weapon, without nuclear testing, their military leaders would be forced to place confidence in an untested design. Moreover, the treaty would constrain any further improvements in nuclear weapon design.
Furthermore, if these nations insist upon defying the world by building a nuclear weapon, with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, we will improve our ability to detect and deter nuclear explosive testing. Under the treaty, we will deploy a broad network of more than 300 sensors, blanketing the globe, that can detect a nuclear explosion and help us identify nations that have acquired nuclear capabilities.
And again, the question is what kind of world do we want to leave our children? We are thankful that the specter of imminent nuclear destruction no longer haunts our daily lives. But the world is not completely safe and there are still threats to be addressed. With the constraints that it places upon those seeking entry to the nuclear club, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty gives us an important new tool to address those threats.
The third reason for ratification was recently summed well by President Clinton when he said, "The Test Ban Treaty will hold other nations to the same standard we already observe -- that is its importance." Most Americans don't realize it, but it has been more than five years since the United States last conducted a nuclear weapons test -- ironically enough, a test named "Divider." Although the scientists did not appreciate it at the time, "Divider" would be the line separating an era of nuclear testing from an era of nuclear silence.
And most Americans probably don't realize that we have a law against nuclear testing in the United States. You see, in 1992, the United States Congress passed a law that precluded the U.S. from testing any nuclear weapons after September 30, 1996. So, if we cannot test, it is certainly in our best interest to make sure that other countries do not test either.
And the best way to ensure that other countries do not test is for us to lead by example. The United States has always led by example. It is part of what makes us all proud to be Americans. And there is little doubt that ratification of the Test Ban Treaty by the United States will encourage other countries to follow our lead. We have already experienced the effect of the U.S. leading on international treaties. When we ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, we were soon followed by Russia, China, Pakistan, and others.
We Americans, once again, must lead. We must act not only for our own security, we must act for the security of our fragile world. We were the leaders in conducting the first nuclear tests. We should also be the leaders in ending them.
Next year, we expect a special conference to take place where it will be decided how to best encourage more nations to sign on and bring the treaty into force. Only those nations that have already ratified the treaty will be allowed to participate. Do we want to be at the table, leading these discussions as we have historically led the world in nonproliferation initiatives? Or do we want to be excluded from those negotiations?
Seventy percent of the American public has said that they support this treaty -- that they want us to be at the table. I believe that it is not only in our best interests to ratify this treaty, but it is also our responsibility to the American people.
I had the opportunity to talk about this issue with the President last week when I accompanied him to the place where the very first nuclear bomb was built -- the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory. The President wanted to visit Los Alamos because achieving a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is one of his highest priorities.
Both the President and I were struck by the experience of Los Alamos. The events that occurred there profoundly shaped the course of human history. It was at Los Alamos that the Manhattan Project began. And on July 16, 1945, our scientists witnessed their project's success as a blinding light whose core was ten thousand times hotter than the surface of the sun lit up the New Mexico desert.
The awesome power unleashed by our scientists at Los Alamos brought an end to World War II, but a beginning to the arms race and another kind of war -- the Cold War. The President and I are about the same age. And as we were touring Los Alamos and being briefed by the scientists there, I could not help but be reminded of the Cold War world we once lived in.
As a young man, I can remember watching people build bomb shelters. And I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis -- all of us watching the clock on the wall as the eleventh hour approached and we wondered whether we'd soon be witnesses to, or even victims of, a nuclear exchange between the superpowers.
And it was, perhaps, standing so close to the precipice of nuclear destruction that led President Kennedy to call for a test ban treaty in 1963 when he stated that, "Such a treaty, so near, and yet so far, would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas... It would decrease the prospects of war. Surely this goal is sufficiently important to require our steady pursuit, yielding neither to the temptation to give up the whole effort, nor to the temptation to give up our insistence on vital and responsible safeguards."
The goal that seemed "so near and yet so far" to President Kennedy in 1963 is today within our grasp. This legacy of generations is upon us. President Clinton has taken up this legacy. In September of 1996, President Clinton became the very first world leader to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And he used the same pen that President Kennedy had used to sign the Limited Test Ban Treaty back in 1963.
When President Clinton called upon the Senate in his State of the Union address to ratify the treaty this year, he said that the treaty "can help to prevent the development of new and more dangerous weapons and make it more difficult for non-nuclear states to build them." In those words, we hear echoes of the hopes of President Kennedy, who stated more than three decades ago that the treaty "would place the nuclear powers in a position to deal more effectively with one of the greatest hazards which man faces, the further spread of nuclear arms."
Now, there are those who question whether this treaty is a good idea. There are critics who doubt that we can keep our nuclear weapons stockpile safe, secure, and reliable unless we continue nuclear testing. To those people I say, we can do it..and, in fact, we are doing it today.
When President Clinton extended the moratorium on testing in 1993, he directed the Department of Energy to develop a program to maintain the safety, security, and reliability of our nuclear deterrent...without nuclear testing. This program is called "stockpile stewardship," and it is based upon the principle that we can replace nuclear testing with the use of new, advanced scientific tools that will allow us to analyze our weapons without actually exploding them.
For example, we have a very aggressive program for increasing the computational powers that will be necessary for the modeling and simulation of what happens inside a nuclear weapon. We have begun building the facilities that we will need -- such as the National Ignition Facility which is designed to produce, for the first time in a laboratory setting, conditions of temperature and density of matter close to those that occur in the detonation of nuclear weapons. And we have put in place a rigorous program to train a new generation of scientists and engineers on how to care for the enduring stockpile.
Stockpile stewardship is working. And working so well, that I am pleased to announce that today, President Clinton will forward to Congress the annual certification from the Secretaries of Defense and Energy that the nuclear stockpile remains safe, secure, and reliable, and that there is no need to return to nuclear testing at this time.
Secretary Cohen and I have given the President our full assurance that we have conducted a painstaking and thorough review of every weapon type in the stockpile. And we undertake this review from the bottom up. From the technicians who work every day with the weapons, to the scientists who designed the weapons, to the directors of our three weapons laboratories, John Browne, Paul Robinson, and Bruce Tarter, to the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, General Habiger.
But I want to make one thing absolutely clear. If, in the future, Secretary Cohen and I, or our successors, ever had to inform the President that we could no longer certify the safety and reliability of a nuclear weapon type with high confidence...in that circumstance, the President would be prepared to withdraw from the treaty in order to conduct whatever testing might be required. And I would not issue my written certification to the President if I could not state, with absolute certainty, that the weapons in our stockpile remain safe, secure, and reliable each year.
I am proud that we were able to certify to the President for the second year in a row that the stockpile stewardship program is working and that our nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, and reliable. And I was proud last week to be able to show the President the Los Alamos National Laboratory and to show him why we were able to make that certification -- to show him some of the technologies we are using to replace nuclear testing.
The President and I saw one of the supercomputers that we are using now to ensure that the stockpile remains safe, secure, and reliable. But I told the President that as the stockpile continues to age, we will need to develop new tools. And today, I am making an important announcement about one of those new tools. It gives me great pleasure to announce that the Department of Energy has taken a major step forward in providing for the safety, security, and reliability of our stockpile well into the future.
Today, the Department of Energy has signed a contract with the IBM Corporation, to develop a supercomputer that is capable of performing ten trillion operations per second. The President often jokes about being "technologically challenged." So let me put this into terms even the "technologically challenged" might understand -- in one second this computer can do the same number of calculations that it would take us ten million years to do with one of our hand calculators.
This announcement builds upon a record of computational breakthroughs at the Department of Energy that is unparalleled in the world. And it builds upon a partnership with the IBM Corporation that has been one of the Department's greatest assets. I want to thank John Kelly, Mike Borman, and John Nyland from IBM who are here with us today.
In an industry that has seen many changes in technology and structure, there have been few constants -- and IBM has been one of them. IBM has made a long-term and firm commitment to assist the Department with the technology needed for stockpile stewardship. From their perspective it's both good business and good for the country. I share this perspective.
It seems incomprehensible to realize that when research for the Manhattan Project first began, computations were done on desk calculators. The wives of our weapons scientists formed a computing pool to do the repetitive calculations needed to determine the effect of the nuclear explosion. The Department has certainly come a long way from those days to emerge as the preeminent supercomputing power in the world.
In December of 1996, the Department of Energy achieved the astounding world record of one trillion operations per second. By early 1999, we expect to achieve an incredible three trillion operations per second. And with the partnership that we have announced today, we expect to reach an earth-shattering ten trillion operations per second by early 2000.
To put this into context, it means that as we enter into the first year of the new millennium we will be able to do in less than a day all of the calculations that were performed at the weapons laboratories for the first fifty years of the nuclear weapons program. What we learn will not only support our national security mission, but also has unlimited potential for global climate problems, biotechnology, and a host of other applications important to the future health and well-being of our citizens.
This is truly revolutionary technology. And perhaps what is most amazing is that three years ago, almost no one believed that any of this would be possible. There were predictions that it would be into the next century before we had a one trillion operations per second system -- we demonstrated one in December of 1996.
We proved to the world that it is possible. And we are proving it again and again as we meet our commitments to the President and to the American people to develop the technologies we will need to keep our nuclear weapons stockpile safe, secure, and reliable into the next millennium -- all without nuclear testing.
Thirty-five years ago, President Kennedy called the completion of the Limited Test Ban Treaty "a shaft of light cut into the darkness of the Cold War." Today, we have the historic opportunity for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and with it, the opportunity to transform that shaft of light into a beacon that will illuminate our path to a safer future. It stands before the United States Senate right now to decide.
We have the technology. We have the support of the American people. We have the endorsement of four of the former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the current Chairman, the current Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Commander in Chief of Strategic Command. We have a legacy that extends from President Eisenhower to President Clinton. And we have a historic opportunity. It is my profound hope that the Senate will seize this opportunity and approve the treaty this year. Thank you.