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"Nuclear Test Ban Treaty," July 26, 1963

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Courtesy of National Archives, "Nuclear Test Ban Treaty," 26 July 1963


Continued testing of atomic and then hydrogen devices led to a rising concern about the effects of radioactive fallout. As knowledge of the nature and effects of fallout increased, and as it became apparent that no region in the world was untouched by radioactive debris, the issue of continued nuclear tests drew widened and intensified public attention. Apprehension was expressed about the possibility of a cumulative contamination of the environment and of resultant genetic damage. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in Moscow on August 5, 1963, it was ratified by the U.S. Senate on September 24, 1963 and entered into force on October 10, 1963. The treaty prohibited nuclear weapons tests "or any other nuclear explosion" in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water. While not banning tests underground, the treaty prohibited such explosions if they caused "radioactive debris to be present outside the territorial limits of the State under whose jurisdiction or control" the explosions were conducted. In accepting limitations on testing, the nuclear powers accepted as a common goal "an end to the contamination of man's environment by radioactive substances."

Full Transcript of the "Nuclear Test Ban Treaty"

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Source-Dependent Questions

  • What was the intent of the countries in creating this treaty? Cite specific evidence.
  • How did the technological advances create an environment (situation) where the two major enemies during the Cold War would work together in creating this document? Why might a nuclear test ban treaty actually increase the probability of conflict between the U.S. and the USSR through third parties like Vietnam?

Citation Information 

"Nuclear Test Ban Treaty," 26 July 1963. Courtesy of National Archives