Seanad debates

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Nuclear Test Ban Bill 2006: Second Stage


Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

11:00 am

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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The purpose of this Bill is to enable the transposition into Irish law of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. While Ireland is not, and will never be, a nuclear weapons State, it is appropriate that we complete processes such as this to ensure consistency with well developed public policy.

The nuclear test ban treaty was opened for signature in 1999 but has yet to come into force. This is because 44 specifically named countries, those with nuclear capability, must ratify it to enable entry into force. However, to date 41 of these specified states have signed it and 35 have ratified it. Those who have not ratified the treaty include China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States of America.

The treaty requires a state party to the treaty to prohibit natural and legal persons anywhere on its territory or in any other place under its jurisdiction from carrying out, or participating in the carrying out of, a nuclear weapons test explosion or any other nuclear explosion. Since the first, and thankfully so far the only, use of nuclear weapons in 1945, the world has sought ways of preventing the proliferation of such weapons. For many years, Ireland's non-nuclear status has enabled it to be very much to the fore on the international stage in promoting nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. Ireland has continually called on all states to refrain from testing nuclear weapons and to embrace nuclear disarmament.

The historical context to this treaty was the growing concerns among states about the consequences of a large number of countries holding nuclear weapons and the increased likelihood of their use if this happened. These concerns led to the landmark Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968, which was proposed by one of our own, the late Mr. Frank Aiken, in 1958. Another significant treaty, banning nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water, was concluded in 1963.

Given the historical background and our own non-nuclear policy, Ireland is fully committed to the policy of promoting nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. We believe that nuclear weapons states must speedily take steps towards achieving total nuclear disarmament, as they are obliged to do under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

It is our view that the current treaty structure, the non-proliferation treaty and the treaty banning nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water, has had considerable success in limiting the number of nuclear weapons states. However, this structure left a clear gap by permitting the nuclear weapons states to continue testing new weapons underground. The solution to this problem was found in the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty which prohibits all nuclear weapons tests anywhere.

The nuclear test ban treaty was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 September 1996 and opened for signature on 24 September 1996. Ireland signed on the first day. To date it has been signed by 178 countries and ratified by 144. Ireland and all our EU partners have also ratified the treaty.

The treaty bans all nuclear test explosions, wherever they may be conducted. To verify compliance with the prohibition, the treaty provides for the establishment of an international monitoring system. This system comprises 337 stations around the globe which will conduct continuous seismological, hydro-acoustic and radio-nuclide monitoring. This network of stations will permit the detection of any nuclear explosion.

The treaty provides for the establishment of a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation. known as "the treaty organisation", to be based in Vienna at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The purpose of the treaty organisation is to achieve the objectives of the treaty, to ensure implementation of its provisions, including those for international verification of compliance with it, and to provide a forum for consultation and co-operation among state parties.

The treaty organisation will be responsible for the running of the international monitoring system and will have the power to inspect any sites on which it is suspected that nuclear testing has taken place. It will also have the technical expertise to make reliable judgments on suspicions.

As in other international organisations and bodies, the treaty organisation's budget will be provided by contributions from state parties, based on the United Nations scale of assessment. Pending the entry into force of the treaty, a preparatory commission for the treaty organisation has been set up and it has begun to establish both the monitoring system and the organisation's administrative structure.

As I indicated earlier in this speech, the treaty will only enter into force when 44 specifically named countries have ratified it. As was also stated, the 44 countries in question are those which the International Atomic Energy Agency deems to have a nuclear capability, whether civilian or military. Ireland, naturally, is not among them. I stated to the House that so far, 41 of the specified 44 states have signed the treaty. Furthermore, only 35 of the 44 states have actually ratified it.

In these circumstances, I have to state it is a matter of regret that so far, the United States of America has yet to ratify the treaty. Ireland and its EU partners have expressed their deep regret that this is the case. The treaty cannot enter into force without the ratification of the USA. It would be an empty treaty without American adherence. However, the announcement that the US will abide by the moratorium on nuclear testing, in place since 1992, is welcome. On a more negative note, the House will be aware that India and Pakistan conducted tests of nuclear weapons in 1998 and North Korea did likewise in 2006.

Clearly there was concern that the situation described above would arise and accordingly provision was made that if the treaty had not entered into force within three years of opening for signature, namely, by 24 September 1999, a conference of states which had ratified it would be convened to consider ways of ensuring its rapid entry into force. A number of such conferences have taken place, the most recent being in September 2007 when the state parties agreed to spare no effort and use all available avenues to encourage signature and ratification of the treaty.

As I stated at the outset of my speech, the Nuclear Test Ban Bill will give legislative effect in Ireland to the nuclear test ban treaty. It transposes the treaty into national law. However remote it may be that Ireland will be exposed to such actions, the Bill will make it an offence for any person to carry out, or cause the carrying out of a nuclear explosion in the State. It will similarly be an offence for an Irish citizen to carry out, or cause to be carried out, such an explosion outside of Ireland. The Bill also designates the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland as the national authority for the implementation of the treaty. The institute will act as the national focal point for liaison with the treaty organisation and other contracting parties to the treaty and will facilitate any on-site inspection visits by the treaty organisation's technical secretariat.

The Bill also provides for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to appoint authorised officers who would have the power to, inter alia, enter a place where he or she has reasons to believe an offence under the Act has been committed and to remove any relevant documentation. These officers would also have the power to accompany the international inspection team on any site inspections. In the unlikely event that a major offence is committed under the Act, it would be an indictable offence and would be liable to penalties including imprisonment for life.

Other offences that may be committed under the Act relate to wrongful disclosure of information obtained under the Act, or the making of false or misleading statements to official authorities. Depending on the seriousness of the offence in these areas, there is provision for a fine of up to €50,000 or imprisonment for up to two years or both.

Given Ireland's rejection of nuclear as a source of energy, and the fact that nuclear medicine and industrial uses represent the main applications of nuclear materials in Ireland, it is reasonable to state that it is extremely unlikely that this Bill, when enacted, will ever come into play in Ireland. The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland is the regulator for all uses of radioactive materials in Ireland, and all such users must operate under a licence from the Institute.

The costs to Ireland associated with implementing the treaty are relatively low. None of the treaty organisation's monitoring stations will be in Ireland and, given the absence of a nuclear industry here, it is not expected that Ireland will receive any inspections.

The main cost to Ireland is approximately €350,000 per annum which is our share of the establishment and running costs of the treaty organisation. The amount is decided in accordance with the UN scale of assessment used for determining states' contributions to UN bodies.

Let me emphasise that the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a central international instrument in preventing the further proliferation of nuclear weapons. The implementation of a ban on testing nuclear devices and establishment of an effective mechanism to monitor the ban, would add to the security of all.

The transposition of this treaty into Irish law is entirely appropriate. It is consistent with our current and historic position on nuclear weapons and non-proliferation. While Ireland's transposition will not trigger the entry into force of the treaty, it will ensure that Ireland is in a position to discharge its obligations under the treaty when and if it does enter into force.

This is straightforward and strictly non-contentious legislation dealing with a subject for which there is cross-party support in Ireland. Enactment of the Bill will be in line with Ireland's strong stance on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Hopefully, our transposition of the treaty will serve as encouragement for other states to sign up to and ratify it and accelerate its entry into force.

I commend the Bill to the House.

12:00 pm

Photo of Paudie CoffeyPaudie Coffey (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister of State. I also welcome this comprehensive Bill, which covers all aspects of the banning of nuclear testing in Ireland. I compliment the officials involved in drafting the legislation, the purpose of which is to give effect to and transpose into Irish law our obligations under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The treaty was opened for signature in 1999 but, regrettably, it has not come fully into force.

This debate is an important opportunity to reaffirm Ireland's support for the full implementation of the treaty. It will enter into force only when 44 specifically named countries have ratified it. The countries in question are those the International Atomic Energy Agency deems to have a nuclear capability, whether civilian or military. Ratification by the key 44 countries will not, however, close off their nuclear capabilities. It is a mechanism to deter nuclear proliferation. Ireland, naturally, is not among these countries and our history in regard to nuclear arms must be acknowledged on the international stage. Ireland has always played, and will continue to play, an important part in promoting the policy of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and the passage of the legislation is another important step in that direction. Ten years after its opening for signature, the treaty is still, however, in a vulnerable position. The Minister of State referred to a number of key states, including India, Pakistan and the United States, which must sign and ratify it to enable the treaty to take full legal effect. The longer the treaty is not ratified by these states, the greater the chance that one of them will resume nuclear testing and that must be a concern for all.

By prohibiting any nuclear weapons test explosion or any other nuclear explosion, the treaty will help to constrain the improvement of nuclear weapons, curb proliferation and advance the disarmament of nuclear weapons. It has been signed by 176 states and 135 states have ratified it. The Bill will give effect to the treaty under Irish law, completing our ratification. The Minister of State referred to the 337 monitoring stations around the globe that will detect nuclear testing and explosions. It is important they are properly resourced and take account of testing anywhere on the planet. The legislation requires a state that has signed up to the treaty to prohibit persons anywhere on its territory or in any other place under its jurisdiction from carrying out or participating in the carrying out of a nuclear weapons test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.

It is important to consider the purpose of the treaty, the challenges to its entry into force and the consequences for national and international security if nuclear testing were to resume. A nuclear test ban contributes to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology, as well as supporting disarmament. It also prevents further damage to the environment from the intense heat and radiation of successive nuclear blasts. History details the horrific harm caused through the inappropriate use of atomic or nuclear energy. The atomic bombings in August 1945 illustrate the magnitude of harm caused by such explosions. For example, of Hiroshima's population of 340,000 people, 130,000 were dead by November 1945 and, by 1950, an additional 70,000 had perished, mainly from radiation-related illnesses. In Nagasaki, 70,000 people were killed outright or died within the first four months and another 70,000 had died by 1950. Such horrific explosions have significant consequences. All countries have strived to find a way to deter further use of such horrific bombs. Any civilised state must learn from this mass destruction of life and we must continue to remind ourselves of the destructive potential of nuclear weapons to civilisation itself. Ireland has been a leader in this regard and we must continue to strive to find ways to prevent further use of such weapons.

A major concern that will continue to exist, despite the adoption of the Bill, is that it will take just one unstable situation in a country with nuclear capabilities to cause a cascade effect and trigger the use of nuclear weaponry, bringing devastation to our planet. North Korea was a signatory to the treaty but inspectors from the IAEA discovered discrepancies in its position. Pressure was put on it to comply but, instead, it withdrew from the treaty, which must be a concern. There is no impediment to leaving the treaty but it also has been argued that a ban on leaving it would impinge on national sovereignty and make it difficult to encourage countries to sign up to it.

Article 6 of the treaty obliges the states holding nuclear weapons to pursue in good faith measures related to nuclear disarmament and to ending the nuclear arms race. Since the end of the Cold War, significant progress has been made towards this goal. For instance, 2,000 warheads from an entire class of weapons have been eliminated under the intermediate range nuclear forces treaty. The ending of the Cold War has not, however, had the desired effect on reducing the total number of weapons that the political situation would warrant. A new generation of nuclear weapons is being designed in the US and the United Kingdom and this programme will run to 2020.

In particular, the 1995 treaty mentioned the five key states with a key role to play in the test ban treaty and contained several commitments in the sphere of disarmament such as making the comprehensive test ban treaty a reality and negotiating a verified ban on the production of enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons use. Failure to meet these commitments is one of the main reasons the 2005 review conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, NPT, ended without any declaration on this issue, which is also a cause for international concern.

Since 1996, more than 158 nations, including the US, have signed the nuclear test ban treaty, yet the world has witnessed nuclear and missile tests in India, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea. Global enactment of the nuclear test ban treaty banning all nuclear test explosions can provide a last line of defence against new advances in weapons development. Nations can build unsophisticated nuclear weapons without testing but they would be much less likely to do so knowing they could not test. Without a ban on testing, other weapons states will at some point begin testing again.

The threat of international terrorism must be examined. Former Soviet republics and others have plutonium and uranium deposits and it is important that Ireland has the resources through the treaty to both monitor and properly resource the agencies to which authority has been given to oversee the implementation of the treaty. Agencies such as the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland have the expertise and it is important the Minister of State ensures its staff has the resources to properly carry out their functions under the treaty. The Garda also has a role to play, even though this issue is not on its agenda on a daily basis. International terrorist threats occur and, from time to time, reference is made to an attack, for example, on Sellafield and the serious impact that would have on Ireland. It is important that we play our part, having signed up to the treaty. We welcome the Bill, which will enhance and reinforce Ireland's position on total nuclear disarmament while banning the testing of nuclear weapons. Ireland can, and will, play a role in this regard going forward. I support the Bill.

Photo of Camillus GlynnCamillus Glynn (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the Minister. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the Nuclear Test Ban Bill. It sets out in detail Ireland's position with regard to nuclear testing and the use of nuclear weapons. One need only recall what happened in Chernobyl, among other examples. Many families in this country have hosted children who come from areas near and even quite far from where that nuclear explosion took place. I was pleased to host some of those children. I commend Adie Roche and others like her who have made a career out of helping those people.

I welcome the common approach to this Bill of all parties in both Houses of the Oireachtas. That unified approach clearly indicates the importance they attach to the legislation. I am particularly pleased that Ireland has ratified the treaty, as have all EU member states. That brings into focus the importance of being a member of a group such as the EU. It infers that in most cases there is unanimity of approach. In my view, nuclear weapons and the utilisation of nuclear energy generally constitute a death wish. There are many examples to demonstrate that is the case. I am pleased Ireland has done its bit by ensuring that the administrative area of the Irish Republic and its shores are free from nuclear testing.

I agree it is disappointing that a number of countries have yet to ratify the treaty. The USA, for which I have a great deal of admiration, should take the lead or be a pathfinder in this regard. One or two of the countries that have not ratified the treaty are causing some concern to the international population. Everybody knows who they are. There is provision for 337 monitoring stations. It is one thing to ratify treaties and to introduce legislation but it is another to monitor and enforce the terms of such agreements, which is most important. I shudder to think of what could happen if people such as Robert Mugabe, Saddam Hussein or the like had nuclear weapons.

When we consider the reason for bringing forward this Bill, it clearly brings into focus the fact that we are dealing with the preservation of life itself and society. Given Ireland's anti-nuclear policy and the proactive role taken by this country over the years with regard to nuclear disarmament, it is essential that Ireland has in place, sooner rather than later, the necessary legislation to enforce the treaty's provisions. This is notwithstanding the fact that entry into force of the treaty is still not likely for some time. The Minister clearly outlined why that is the case. The Nuclear Test Ban Bill will give legislative effect in Ireland to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The Bill precisely transposes the treaty into national law, however remote might be the possibility that Ireland would be exposed to such actions. The rather odd looking provisions arise directly from the treaty and constitute a treaty obligation. It is therefore a requirement that we transpose the obligations specifically into law. In the unlikely event that a major offence is committed under the Bill, it would be an indictable offence and the perpetrator would be liable to penalties that include imprisonment for life.

The Minister has covered all I wish to say about the Bill, and I will not parrot what he said. I welcome the Bill and thank all parties in both Houses for their unified approach to it. That is indicative of the Bill's importance. Their attitude to the Bill shows a great maturity on their part. I warmly commend the legislation and ask all Members to support it.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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The historical background to the Bill has been adequately and appropriately outlined by the two previous speakers. It is fair to note that since the time of the late Frank Aitken Ireland has played a distinguished and historic role in the banning of nuclear weaponry. It is something in which we can take considerable pride. Unfortunately, however, matters have not advanced as much as we would like. I do not mean my contribution to be just an attack on the United States but given that of the countries that have failed to sign and ratify the treaty it is the country to which Ireland is closest, it is important that we, as friends of the US in general, although in my case not friends of the current regime there, should make known our views.

I wish to put a question to the Minister of State. I note that there are more than 300 seismic stations to monitor the treaty but Ireland is not included among them. That is a large number and the stations must be scattered across the globe. Is there a particular reason for Ireland not being included? It would be an important role for Ireland. I would welcome our co-operation in this technical manner and I believe we have the expertise to do it.

It is easy for Ireland to sign this treaty, so let us not over-estimate the courage of what we are doing. We are unlikely to start manufacturing nuclear weapons. It is also highly unlikely that there would be a terrorist threat in this country, although it is always possible. However, one must be conscious of the proliferation of nuclear technology. When one considers the countries involved in this issue and the history of the past ten or 20 years, one can identify two sources of worry. The first is the result of the breakdown of the former Soviet Union. A great deal of nasty material that disappeared and is unaccounted for might have found its way into the hands of people who are not what one would describe as responsible. Adequate accounting and monitoring of this material is necessary but that has not yet been done.

The other issue is that the worst offender is Pakistan. We do not appear to appreciate that the man who headed that country's nuclear programme opened a type of one-stop-shop in Pakistan whereby he distributed these materials to the most appalling sources, apparently including North Korea. I welcome the fact that there has been some amelioration in the situation in North Korea and I hope that will continue. However, it is the last country to announce officially that it conducted a test. That was in 2006.

I welcome the fact that the United States has given an undertaking to observe the moratorium. However, the US is the only country that has employed nuclear weapons in active military engagement. That gives it a particular moral responsibility and I do not believe it has lived up to that responsibility. The US has constantly attempted to undermine the International Atomic Energy Agency and its reports. It sees the nuclear issue as an arm of foreign policy; there is little to do with principle involved. That a nation refusing to ratify the treaty attempts to use moral arguments against Iran is extraordinary. I have no great time for Iran and President Ahmadinejad, while occasionally capable of acute analysis, is an unpredictable maverick who must be watched. However, we must be careful about what is transpiring and I ask the Minister of State to raise this matter at the highest possible levels.

I am concerned about the dying days of the Bush regime. For example, this morning's The Irish Times contains a report regarding a former CIA operative involved in disclosures concerning a number of legal cases he is taking. His claims are supported by those of others and the track records of the United States and Britain in managing such information. He maintains that there was a deliberate suppression of findings of the Central Intelligence Agency on Iran's nuclear programme. Political interference in and management of information about the precise nature of the perceived nuclear threat in Iran is cause for concern.

Coupled with this is the fact that the landmark intelligence report presented to the US Houses indicated that Iran had halted work on nuclear weapons design in 2003. At the time, this man and others were being instructed to falsify reports so that they could be used politically by the Administration. According to his lawyer:

[the] informant provided secret evidence that Tehran had halted its research into designing and building a nuclear weapon. Yet, when the operative sought to file reports on the findings, his attempts were "thwarted by CIA employees", according to court papers. Later he was told to "remove himself from any further handling" of the informant, the documents say.

This is a cause of concern, given that reports published this week and last tell of military exercises involving the Israeli air force and the air forces of member states of the European Union in what Israeli daily newspapers described as a test run for a raid on the Iranian nuclear facility. As I am not in a position to say whether this is true, will the Minister of State find out? Such a raid would be extraordinarily dangerous in light of the human, military and political catastrophe in the Middle East that it would unleash. In terms of environmental damage, one cannot calculate the impact of the release of radioactive material into the atmosphere as a result of this type of cowboy bombing raid. We must take this issue seriously, particularly when coupled with other situations.

My nature is to be a friend of the United States and its constitution, something I cannot say of President Bush, and not to be particularly friendly to the regime in Tehran. However, one must view these matters dispassionately. Like me, the Minister of State may have noticed the recent development of a slush fund of $400 million granted by Congress to President Bush and his Administration for use in covert operations in Iran for which he is not answerable to Congress. The committee charged by both American Houses with monitoring and seeking accountability in this respect is supine and has not lived up to its constitutional function. Since the award of the money, there has been a rash of abductions, kidnappings, bombings and assassinations and the funding of dissident groups within Iran. Coupled with the fact that President Bush has not ruled out a strike, anyone interested in a nuclear test ban must be concerned by these developments.

We would all wish for a world free of nuclear weapons. The more they proliferate, the more dangerous they are and the greater the mathematical possibility of an accident occurring or their falling into the hands of an irresponsible leader. Regrettably, there are many such leaders on the planet. When I was a child, I trusted adults because I believed that when one grew up, one gained sense. This is plainly not always true in political terms and we cannot rely on a number of countries' political leadership, particularly those on the list presented by the Minister to State to the House.

I ask the Minister of State to take my comments on board and to make representations regarding the situation in Iran. According to the IAEA and reports of the American intelligence services, it appears that the programme has been halted while remaining within legal boundaries. The United States has not ratified the treaty, but it seems to be preparing contingency plans for launching an assault against a supposed nuclear facility. I wish to signal a warning and to ask the Minister of State to make some inquiries as to whether we, as a small country, a friend of the United States and world peace and the historic source of much of the valuable work done on banning nuclear weapons, can exert some degree of pressure on the US so that it will not embark on this dangerous mission.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Green Party)
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That this legislation is non-contentious in Irish politics has been alluded to in the debate. A responsible Opposition would not make a call for nuclear tests to occur in Ireland. In this respect, many Senators will be repetitive in welcoming the legislation.

Historically, the gestation period between United Nations agreements being reached and legislation being passed has been long. For example, the test ban treaty in question was adopted by the General Assembly in 1996, but we are only now implementing it in our Statute Book. It is more than "feel good" legislation. Our foreign policy record is a proud one in that the original nuclear non-proliferation treaty was primarily led by our then Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Frank Aiken. We should never lose sight of Ireland's proud role in the debate.

While no political party or future governmental composition will take Ireland down a nuclear armaments road, the Bill and the test ban treaty in question adopt further measures. We live in an increasingly unsafe world where people who do not have national affiliations have access to a technology and the ability to act on it. For this and other reasons a test ban treaty and governing legislation is required.

Senators referred to the number of countries with access to nuclear armaments, some of which have yet to admit to such. Israel, which views itself as a regional policeman, particularly in respect of Iran's ambitions, has never formally acknowledged that it is a nuclear power. However, we are certain that it is given that Mr. Mordechai Vanunu was imprisoned in Israel for revealing many of its nuclear technology secrets. It is unfortunate that an ostensibly democratic country experiencing regional strife has adopted this degree of subterfuge and abused its citizens by failing to acknowledge its use of nuclear technology.

Nuclear energy has been a cloak for the nuclear armaments industry. We should treat with cautioin the nuclear energy industry's promotion of itself as the solution to global warming. Since the end of the Second World War, nuclear energy was never promoted as a cheaper form of energy; it was always there to refine and provide the raw material for nuclear armaments. It is no accident that those countries that have large-scale nuclear energy plants are the ones that have nuclear weapons. It is the reason there are justifiable concerns that the claim by countries such as Iran and North Korea they are producing a programme of nuclear energy technology is simply a cloak for nuclear armament ambitions. That is why a test ban of this type is especially important. It is especially true of Iran which can make no argument for promoting nuclear energy as a means of counteracting global warming or in meeting its own energy needs because it is a large-scale producer and exporter of oil.

The ambivalence and, it is fair to say, hypocrisy of the United States in regard to ratifying this treaty has been already noted but it should be re-stated. I was born in the United States, my parents having emigrated from this country. Many Americans are at odds with their government in this policy area. We debated this issue during the recent Cluster Munitions Bill. There is a trend to develop armaments, which spew from the general nuclear industry. The existence and use of the depleted uranium as a weapon of war is one of the more immoral aspects of modern warfare not covered by a Bill of this type but a definite by-product of the nuclear industry. We should use every opportunity such as the initiative of the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, which has been followed through by the current Minister, Deputy Martin, with the adoption of the cluster bomb treaty, to make similar arguments on the international stage about the use and morality of weapons of this type.

The biggest fear is the existence of nuclear weapons in countries that have less than stable governments and democracies — Pakistan is a natural case in point — or the development, sale and use of technology as an economic tool to, what are defined as, rogue elements. The CIA in a recent intelligence report to the US Congress said that it is not a question if but now a matter of when a dirty nuclear bomb will explode somewhere on the planet on the basis of rogue elements not associated with any particular affiliation. That is the dangerous world we live in today. It is important to have in place a treaty of this type. It is also important that we contribute to ensuring that it is policed effectively. As a country we have a proud history in this area and have made no attempt to engage in a nuclear armaments role. The most significant effect we make is to highlight the physical constraints that exist in terms of this technology.

The other argument made about nuclear energy and its possible saviour role in terms of global warming tends to forget that nuclear technology depends on a raw material that is finite. The use of uranium and plutonium cannot sustain the running of nuclear energy plants or the production and continued production of nuclear warheads. On those grounds, there will come a day when this becomes an obsolete technology. However, that does not address the problem that these armaments are incredibly dangerous.

There has only been one use of nuclear armaments in the history of mankind with the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those were atomic bombs which have been replaced by hydrogen bombs. The effect of the use of current armaments would be much more devastating than atomic bombs. It is possible to blow up the world by many factors of times that would accomplish that, which shows how ridiculous the arms race and the nuclear armaments element of that has become.

I wish to address our relations with the United States and the use of weapons. I was born in the United States and, despite largely disagreeing with its foreign policy, I still identify with it as a friendly nation. The United States has a policy in terms of its naval vessels, even when visiting on a cordial basis, of refusing to state whether they are carrying nuclear weapons or weapons of the type such as depleted uranium. It is a matter of courtesy in international relationships and in keeping with the spirit of legislation such as this, that we should require that all invitations for such future visits are contingent on none of those vessels and none of the people connected with them having been associated with nuclear weapons. Otherwise, we are introducing a degree of hypocrisy and turning a blind eye to policing and to what we seek to insert in this legislation. If we can get across the message in a friendly, cordial and diplomatic way that these are the standards we want to ensure are met, I would like to think that perhaps not the current US Administration but future Administrations would begin to understand that they way America sees the world is very different from the way countries such as Ireland see it in terms of the use of force and nuclear armaments in particular.

On those grounds, I welcome the Bill. I also welcome the contributions made by Members in support of it.

Photo of Dominic HanniganDominic Hannigan (Labour)
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I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I agree with Senator Boyle that this is not a contentious Bill. There is agreement for its enactment across the House.

I am glad that the Bill has finally being put on the Order Paper. It gives us a chance to fulfil our obligations under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which was signed almost ten years ago. The Bill is a statement of Ireland's firm stance on the issue of nuclear weapons and their use anywhere in the world. Under the treaty every state will have to ensure that not only does it not carry out any nuclear test, but nowhere in its jurisdiction will tests be allowed. Every state which ratifies this treaty will also undertake not to participate in any way with the nuclear testing industry.

This is the 10th treaty controlling the use of weapons of mass destruction since 1963 and, in many ways, it is one of the most promising. Treaties such as this are a dire necessity following the race in the latter part of the 20th century to develop increasingly more efficient and deadly weapons which ultimately could have destroyed the human race.

The arms race embarked upon by the USSR, as it was then, and by the United States led to a simple choice between mutually assured destruction, MAD as it was known then, or the elimination of the weapons and banning of nuclear tests. Therefore, we welcome the introduction of this legislation.

As of April 2006, 176 countries had signed the treaty but only 132 had ratified it. Therefore, 44 countries have yet to ratify it. We have reached a point where even the USA along with Iran have signed the treaty, although they have not yet ratified it. India, Pakistan and Israel have not even signed it and North Korea withdrew from process. There is an impasse concerning some of these countries. Many countries do not want to be pressed by America, which up until now is probably the most experienced tester of nuclear weapons and the only country that has used them to kill people on two occasions in the last century.

It is possible that if America was to ratify the treaty and make a national law similar to what we are proposing here, that could help to encourage some of the other countries such as Israel, India, Pakistan and perhaps even Iran to do the same. Senator Boyle referred to Mr. Mordechai Vanunu and the work he did in Israel to expose its nuclear programme. It was worrying to read recent reports of potential nuclear strikes between Israel and Iran. That is a matter of great concern. Intermittently every few years we continue to hear about the potential for war between India and Pakistan. We are all very aware of the nuclear danger in these regions. If ratification of the treaty was expanded to include these countries, it would make the world a safer place.

The Bill also provides for the setting up of a monitoring commission to be based in Vienna, which will manage monitoring of any tests that may take place. We are not a member of the nuclear club, therefore we have got nothing to gain or lose on this island from signing the treaty. However, being a close neighbour of a nuclear power, it assures the world that we will not assist our neighbour in testing such weapons in any way. Since the first tests were carried out in 1945, more than 2,000 tests have taken place worldwide. The United States has been responsible for more than half of them. Among the other tests recorded, the USSR has completed 715 while China has completed 45. India and Pakistan have been head to head when it comes to showing their teeth, each of whom has tested six times each. Nuclear testing has also commenced in North Korea in recent years.

This treaty is a fine example of what we can achieve by working together to avoid nuclear conflict. Multilateral engagement is always preferable to confrontation, especially when something as deadly as nuclear weapons are involved. We are setting an excellent symbolic example to the world by taking the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty so seriously. We can only hope certain other countries take notice of this and follow our lead.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I thank all Senators who contributed to what was a constructive debate. It is interesting to note that 2008 marks the 12th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. As I mentioned earlier, the treaty will enter into force when the 44 countries named have ratified it. It is important, given our long-standing position on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, that Ireland has the necessary legislation in place to transpose the treaty.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty will make an important contribution towards preventing the proliferation of materials, technologies and knowledge that can be used for nuclear weapons — one of the most important challenges facing the world today. The treaty, through its verification system, will also bring scientific and civil benefits, including, for example, tsunami warning systems and possibly other disaster alert systems, through civil and scientific applications of waveform radio nuclide technologies and the use of the data. We have many natural disasters but possibly more information now about when they will take place.

I thank Senator Coffey especially for his remarks. He referred to the great work done by the officials in the Department, to whom I pay tribute. It is an excellent Bill which required much work. He mentioned the number of stations around the world for monitoring purposes, the threat of international terrorism and the need for the ban on testing.

Senator Glynn mentioned the Chernobyl disaster. We are all aware of the dreadful outcome of that explosion. Throughout Ireland, many towns and small villages still help the people of Chernobyl, especially the children who visit Ireland and stay with Irish families. He said all EU states have ratified the treaty. This is a good example of where the countries in Europe are working together.

Senator Norris asked why there is no station in Ireland. The 337 stations are managed and monitored by the treaty organisation and are located in what are deemed to be the best locations in 89 countries. These stations detect any nuclear explosions. In Ireland, national stations are located across the island and are constantly monitored by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland. Any increase in radiation will be noticed and assessed. There are protocols within the EU and the IAEA to notify a significant change in radiation or any other action that needs to be taken.

Senator Norris also raised the issue of Iran. I will ensure my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin, is made aware of the Senator's contribution on the matter as well as on the military manoeuvres in the Middle East, in particular.

Senator Boyle mentioned the nuclear industry, which I found interesting. He has much knowledge of that issue. He welcomed the cluster bomb treaty on which the previous Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, and the Government did much work. It was finally dealt with by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin, at an excellent conference in Croke Park recently. He made the point, and I agree, that countries which have unstable governments are involved in the testing of nuclear weapons.

Senator Hannigan referred to the monitoring commission in Vienna and the issue of US ratification. It is fair to say the US has announced a moratorium, even if it has not signed or ratified the nuclear test ban treaty.

I thank Senators for their positive comments and constructive input into the debate. I look forward to the Bill being finalised in the Seanad and enacted into law as soon as possible.

Question put and agreed to.

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Photo of Camillus GlynnCamillus Glynn (Fianna Fail)
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Tomorrow, after the Order of Business.

Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 3 July 2008.

Sitting suspended at 12.37 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.