The Modern-Day Nuclear Threat and How to Respond

State Secretary Eivind Vad Petersson's statement at a Nobel Peace Center Conference in Oslo 8 June.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by thanking the Nobel Peace Center, and in particular Executive Director Kjersti Fløgstad, for the invitation. It is an honour to speak in the company of several Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.

Tonight, we are also celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). As a legally binding instrument to end nuclear testing, the CTBT is a vital component in the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation architecture. I will come back to the CTBT and the important role of Norsar later.


The focus on the contemporary nuclear threat is disturbingly relevant. Russia’s unprovoked and ruthless military attack on Ukraine has made disarmament efforts even more arduous.

And it has fundamentally altered the European security landscape. Russia’s rhetoric on nuclear weapons is reckless and dangerous.

It is worth recalling that just a few weeks before its attack, Russia signed a joint statement of the P5 countries affirming that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.


In the past several years, great power rivalry has led to erosion of the multilateral disarmament architecture. New weapons systems are being developed and deployed. And regional actors, such as North Korea, are threatening international peace and security.

Faced with increased threats to allied security, Nato solidarity is vital. Norway is fully committed to Natos deterrence and defence strategy.


The current challenges to nuclear disarmament are numerous. We must nevertheless persist in preparing the groundwork for future binding arms control and disarmament agreements.

Disarmament must be mutual, balanced, verifiable, and irreversible.

We therefore continue our engagement for nuclear disarmament verification, where Norway is the driving force for progress both at the UN and on technical work.

We have also initiated a new effort on irreversibility in disarmament, for which we hope to engage both nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states. This would include discussions on concrete measures nuclear weapon states could take for ensuring that future disarmament will not be reversed.

Our work on verification and irreversibility are among the concrete contributions to the upcoming Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in early August.

Norway is also a part of the Stockholm Initiative, working to advance nuclear disarmament and measures for nuclear risk reduction. The overarching goal is the full implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Treaty forms the foundation for all our nuclear disarmament efforts.

Additionally, the Norwegian Government, that took office in October last year, is increasing our focus on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. An important dimension for progress on nuclear disarmament efforts, by moving the focus from the strategic domain to the catastrophic consequences that any use of nuclear weapons would entail for people and the environment.


Our approach is based on the consensus final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference. And as was the case at the Oslo 2013 Conference, the purpose is to establish a fact-based understanding of the effects of a nuclear detonation.

As many of you present here tonight will remember, the Oslo Conference concluded

  • that it may not be possible to provide sufficient capacity for rescue efforts after a nuclear detonation;
  • that our historical experience from use and testing has demonstrated the devastating immediate and long-term effects;
  • and that the effects will not be constrained by national borders.

We are working closely with relevant Norwegian agencies to study various potential consequences of a nuclear detonation. These include both immediate and long-term effects on human health, critical infrastructure, environment, soil, and air.

Heat, blast, and radiation will cause the initial devastating destruction. The extent will depend on the size of the warhead and the altitude at which the explosion occurs. Conditions on the ground, such as population density, buildings, and vegetation, are also factors.

These are the most immediate consequences. However, it is also necessary to take a more in-depth look at the mid and long-term consequences on human health, the environment, and ecosystems, as well as the socio-economic disruption in our interconnected world.

And, as the topic of this conference so aptly illustrates, we need to update our insight into these consequences considering the current threat landscape. One possible path forward is to focus on the humanitarian consequences of the nuclear testing that has taken place across the globe.


In less than two weeks, on 20 June, Norway will participate at the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.

As announced, Norway will also be an observer to the first meeting of state parties to the Nuclear Ban Treaty (TPNW). Our purpose is to counteract a polarised global debate on nuclear disarmament, and to be present where disarmament is discussed at the UN.

I will be honest and straight forward: Being an observer does not represent a step towards signing the Treaty, which is incompatible with our Nato commitments. But we acknowledge and understand the impatience of the 86 countries that have signed the treaty.

Our goal remains to rid the world of nuclear weapons. An important step in this direction would be the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which Norway strongly advocates. Once in effect, the CTBT will restrict non-nuclear states’ potential paths to develop nuclear weapons technology.

We also urge the early negotiation and conclusion of a verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, which will prohibit the production of the material needed to develop nuclear weapons.

Norway has fulfilled its responsibilities under the verification regime of the CTBT. There are six monitoring stations on Norwegian territory, operated by Norsar on our behalf.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team at Norsar for their professional operation and the assistance they provide to the CTBT.


Let me end my remarks by reiterating my grave concern over the reckless rhetoric on the use of nuclear weapons. We can and must not allow the threshold for nuclear use to be lowered.

It is incorrect to assume that the use of lower-yield nuclear weapons will have limited or merely regional consequences. Any use would have catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences. And it would entirely change the nature of a conflict.

Thank you.