The origin of NORSAR dates back to the government to government agreement between Norway and the United States of America, dated 15 June 1968. This agreement provided for the installation and operation of a large aperture seismic array facility, located in southeastern Norway.
This government to government agreement states:
The purpose of the installation is seismological research and experimentation. The system is primarily designed to produce data valuable as a means of detecting and distinguishing between signals originating from underground explosions and from other sources, especially earthquakes
Building the competence
This agreement created the point of departure for an activity on nuclear test ban monitoring at NORSAR that has evolved substantially over the years and to date has remained a key area of NORSAR’s portfolio. In the early years, work focused on optimum processing of data from the new, large aperture NORSAR array, and the use of data from this array in seismological research. The research team established at NORSAR soon gained international recognition and has over the years maintained a reputation of excellence in research related to detection, location and characterization of seismic events, which are key areas in nuclear test ban monitoring. NORSAR also developed expertise on seismic array configuration for optimum detection of weak seismic events, as well as on engineering aspects of designing and building rugged seismic stations and arrays for continuous, reliable and automatic operation.
Technical advice for treaty negotiations
NORSAR has assisted Norwegian authorities in their pursuit of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, especially in relation to measures to verify compliance with limitations on nuclear testing. In this regard, NORSAR represented Norway in the work of the Group of Scientific Experts (GSE), which met in Geneva under the auspices of the UN Conference on Disarmament during 1976 – 1996 to consider and report on international co-operative measures to detect and identify seismic events, so as to facilitate the monitoring of a comprehensive test ban’. The results of the work of the GSE in terms of a tested monitoring system for seismic events could readily be used by the negotiators who drafted the text of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in Geneva during 1994-1996.
National Data Centre tasks
The ratification by Norway of the CTBT in 1999 marked the beginning of a new phase in NORSAR’s activities within nuclear test ban monitoring. In the parliamentary ratification bill, NORSAR was designated as the National Data Centre for Norway for CTBT-related technical matters. On behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Norway, NORSAR attends to a range of technical tasks and functions related to Norway’s obligations vis-à-vis the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna. Moreover, activities at NORSAR support various national functions of technical nature in relation to the CTBT, such as providing advice to the MFA on CTBT verification matters, and representing Norway in technical meetings of the policy making organs of the CTBTO.