Study Guide

Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) or Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) Compare and Contrast

By the governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

  • Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

    A comprehensive test ban was always the original intention of the treaty that eventually became the PTBT. It is "partial" in part because the U.S. and the USSR had so many conflicting stipulations and requests that remained unresolved. The diplomatic stubbornness of both sides wore away at the possibility of a total test ban—essentially making the idea incomprehensible. (Get it?) This is why the opening statements of the PTBT explain the desire for the future elimination of all weapons while settling for restrictions in the present.

    During the Carter administration in the late 1970s and early 1980s, discussions about a total test ban began at the United Nations. Although Carter's efforts would not come to fruition, the issue of a comprehensive test ban was picked up later in the 1980s on the initiative of Mikhail Gorbachev.

    The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which has been signed but not ratified, bans all nuclear tests and explosions, including all of those described in the PTBT, as well as underground testing and peaceful detonations. The treaty will remain out of force until it has been ratified by the following nations: Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Pakistan, China, Egypt, Iran, Israel, and the United States.

    And we wonder why we can't have nice things.

  • Greenpeace International

    Greenpeace is an international, nongovernmental, environmental, peace-seeking activist group. Whooo, that's quite the introduction, but one that's well-deserved.

    Greenpeace works on major issues like combating global warming, providing humanitarian aid, and, of course, fighting the use and development of nuclear weapons.

    Established in 1971 in protest of an underground nuclear test on the western edge of Alaska, Greenpeace has always been strongly anti-nuclear. As an independent organization, it frequently throws caution to the wind and disregards pesky rules like international boundaries. For example, in 1982, they entered the USSR without permission to protest Soviet nuclear testing, which is about as gutsy as you can get.

    Today, Greenpeace has a worldwide presence and is a loud and influential voice in global politics.

  • The Baby Tooth Survey

    This ain't the kind of questionnaire that asks how many quarters you got for putting your tiny, discolored molar under a pillow. It's actually something far more troubling.

    The so-called "Baby Tooth Survey" was a scientific study begun in the 1950s that lasted until 1970. The study was conducted by Louise and Eric Reiss, who investigated the accumulation of radiation in the baby teeth of children born in the era of the atmospheric nuclear test. Specifically, they searched for the presence of a radioactive isotope called strontium 90, which is easily absorbed into human bones via water and milk.

    In the early years of the baby boom, baby teeth were an abundant resource and the easiest human bones to access. The crack husband-and-wife team collected thousands of baby teeth from schools around St. Louis and tested them for strontium 90.

    Much to everyone's dismay, the radioactive isotope was present in the children's teeth at extremely high levels, with the teeth of children born later increasing contaminated.

    The first results of the Baby Tooth Survey were made public in 1961 and are credited with influencing President John F. Kennedy's decision to ratify the PTBT.

  • Edward Teller and His Love of Radioactive Fallout

    Despite all the hubbub, not everyone was against the testing of nuclear weapons. In fact, some people were very much for it. The proponents of nuclear testing felt it was necessary to continue pursuing such research for both the good of humanity and the safety of the United States. Their argument in regard to national security went something like this: the USSR may support the PTBT, but there is no guarantee they will actually comply. Therefore, the U.S. needs to continue testing of all kinds to stay ahead in the nuclear power game.

    It is possible that no one was more in favor of nuclear testing than Edward Teller. In the 1930s, Teller left his home country of Hungary for the U.S. He was a major player in the Manhattan Project, the U.S. government's secret nuclear research, and he significantly contributed to the creation of the atom bombs that eventually destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He also greatly contributed to the development of thermonuclear weapons.

    The guy loved nukes and was all for testing them whenever and wherever. During the domestic debates leading up to the ratification of the PTBT (which he was against), he claimed that radioactive fallout just, like, wasn't a thing. When he was finally called out for being wrong about this, he admitted it was a thing, but it just wasn't dangerous.

    False.

    Teller was a controversial figure his entire life. He eventually lost ties with the broader scientific community but always somehow found support from the military for his ethically questionable ideas. Perhaps this is why he is sometimes referred to as the "Father of the Hydrogen Bomb."

    Perhaps this is why he's also sometimes referred to by a whole variety of other names as well. If you catch our drift.

  • Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace

    The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki crippled Japan. The loss of civilian life was extremely widespread and the structural damage complete. After the war ended, these sites of atomic warfare were converted into memorials of peace and remembrance for those who died as a result of the atomic bombs.

    At Hiroshima, the location of the explosion has been converted into a park where several monuments are located, including the famous ruins of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. Also called the Hiroshima Peace Memorial or the A-Bomb Dome, it is the shell of a building that survived the blast of "Little Boy." Its skeletal dome structure reminds us of the deaths that occurred there.

    Several other monuments and plaques have been installed in the park over the decades. One such plaque from 1952 dedicates Hiroshima as a city of peace and states, "Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil."

    Although most of these locations are technically parks, it is strongly recommended that you leave the picnic basket in the car…seriously.

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