The Treaty

The Limited Nuclear Test Ban treaty was signed in Moscow on August 5, 1963, by U.S. Secretary Dean Rusk, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, and British Foreign Secretary Lord Homeā€”one day short of the 18th anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Over the next two months, President Kennedy convinced a fearful public and a divided Senate to support the treaty. The Senate approved the treaty on September 23, 1963, by an 80-19 margin. Kennedy signed the ratified treaty on October 7, 1963.

The treaty:

  • prohibited nuclear weapons tests or other nuclear explosions under water, in the atmosphere, or in outer space
  • allowed underground nuclear tests as long as no radioactive debris falls outside the boundaries of the nation conducting the test
  • pledged signatories to work towards complete disarmament, an end to the armaments race, and an end to the contamination of the environment by radioactive substances.

A Comprehensive Ban

Thirty-three years later, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Signed by 71 nations, including those possessing nuclear weapons, the treaty prohibited all nuclear test explosions including those conducted underground. Though it was signed by President Bill Clinton, the Senate rejected the treaty by a vote of 51 to 48.