Postprint version. Published in The Nonproliferation Review, Volume 16, Issue 3, November 1, 2009, pages 473-482.
Copyright © 2009 Taylor & Francis. This is an electronic version of an article published in The Nonproliferation Review. The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10736700903257595.
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the nonproliferation regime have been weakened; perhaps no other issue demonstrates this as dramatically as the status of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the ratification of which the U.S. Senate rejected in October 1999. Despite the U.S. rejection, the test ban has strong international support—the most recent vote to promote the CTBT in the UN General Assembly passed overwhelmingly, with 175 votes to 1 (the United States) and three abstentions. The Obama administration favors U.S. ratification of the CTBT, but this is no guarantee that Washington will ratify the test ban. Members of Congress must weigh the benefits and risks of signing the treaty; however, these calculations can sometimes be difficult to carry out. This article examines whether a return to nuclear testing would in fact benefit the United States, or if a test ban would be a greater contribution to U.S. national security.