Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
List of countries with nuclear weapons
There are currently five nations considered to be "nuclear weapons nations", an internationally recognized status conferred by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In order of acquisition of nuclear weapons these are: the United States of America, Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom, France, and the People's Republic of China. Since the signing of the NPT, two other states have conducted nuclear tests—India and Pakistan. North Korea has publicly declared itself to possess nuclear weapons though it has not conducted any confirmed tests. Israel is suspected to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons though it has never confirmed or denied this. This status is not formally recognized by international bodies; none of these countries are currently signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. There is some speculation that Iran has, or is preparing for, a secret nuclear weapons program. South Africa was once a nuclear weapons state but has reportedly destroyed its formal arsenal.
Declared nuclear states in order of total number of warheads
The following is a list of nations that have admitted the possession of nuclear weapons, the approximate number of warheads under their control in 2002, and the year they tested their first weapon. This list is informally known in global politics as the "Nuclear Club". Note that with the exception of Russia and the United States (which have subjected their nuclear forces to independent verification under various treaties) these figures are estimates, in some cases quite unreliable estimates. Also, these figures represent total warheads possessed, rather than deployed. In particular, under the SORT treaty thousands of Russian and US warheads are in inactive stockpiles awaiting destruction.
|Country||Number||Year of first test|
|Russia (formerly the Soviet Union)||8,400||1949|
|People's Republic of China||390||1964|
|North Korea||0-18 ||not yet? |
From a high of 65,000 active weapons in 1985, there were about 20,000 active nuclear weapons in the world in 2002. Many of the "decommissioned" weapons were simply stored or partially dismantled, not destroyed. 
(Statistics from Natural Resources Defense Council , or the other sources cited)
Declared nuclear states and their first tests
- The United States developed the first atomic weapons during World War II out of fear that Nazi Germany would first develop them. It tested its first nuclear weapon in 1945 ("Trinity"), and remains the only country to have used nuclear weapons against another nation in war, during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (see: Manhattan Project). It was the first nation to develop the hydrogen bomb, testing it ("Ivy Mike") in 1952 and a deployable version in 1954 ("Castle Bravo").
- The USSR tested its first nuclear weapon ("Joe-1") in 1949, in a crash project developed partially with espionage obtained during and after World War II (see: Soviet atomic bomb project). The direct motivation for their weapons development was the development of a balance of power during the Cold War. It tested a primitive hydrogen bomb in 1953 ("Joe-4") and a megaton-range hydrogen bomb in 1955 ("RDS-37"). After its dissolution in 1991, its weapons entered officially into the possession of Russia.
- The United Kingdom tested its first nuclear weapon in 1952, drawing largely on data gained while collaborating with the United States during the Manhattan Project. Its program was motivated to have an independent deterrence against the USSR, while also remaining relevant in Cold War Europe. It tested its first hydrogen bomb in 1957.
- France tested its first nuclear weapon in 1960, also as an independent deterrence and to retain perceived Cold War relevance (see: Force de frappe). It tested its first hydrogen bomb in 1968.
- China tested its first nuclear weapon in 1964, much to the surprise of Western intelligence agencies. It had long sought assistance in becoming a nuclear power from an uneasy USSR, and developed them both as a deterrence against the USA, but also against the USSR as their relations began to sour. It tested its first hydrogen bomb in 1967.
- India tested a "peaceful nuclear device", as it was described by their government, in 1974 ("Smiling Buddha"), the first test developed after the creation of the NPT, and created new questions about how civilian nuclear technology could be diverted secretly to weapons purposes (dual-use technology). It seems to have been motivated as a deterrence against China. It tested weaponized nuclear warheads in 1998 ("Operation Shakti"), and claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb at the same time the yields of the same are disputed (western experts speculate about a failed secondary on a thermonuclear device that was tested, while the Indian scientists claim the secondary was made less explosive by reducing the nuclear material to minimize the impact on the neighbouring villages).
- Pakistan covertly developed its nuclear weapons over many decades, and tested its first fission devices in 1998. It seems to have been motivated primarily in creating a deterrence against India. A chief scientist who worked on the Pakistani bomb, A.Q. Khan, confessed in 2004 to illicitly distributing nuclear-enabling technology to many other countries.
Suspected nuclear states
Countries believed to have or sometimes suspected of having at least one unconfirmed nuclear weapon currently, or at some point in history, or research programs with a realistic chance of producing a nuclear weapon in the near future:
- Israel - It is questionable whether Israel should be classed as a "suspected state" at this point. Israel is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and refuses to officially admit or deny having a nuclear arsenal, or to having developed nuclear weapons, or even to having a nuclear weapons program. Although former Prime Minister Shimon Peres unofficially acknowledged this last fact in the summer of 1998, extensive information about this program in Dimona was disclosed by technician Mordechai Vanunu in 1986, and imagery analysts can identify weapon bunkers, mobile missile launchers, and launch sites in satellite photographs. It is clear though that Israel can deploy or employ nuclear weapons at will, and it is suspected to possess nuclear weapons by the International Atomic Energy Agency. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Federation of American Scientists, they may possess 300-400 weapons, a figure which would put them above the median in the declared list. However until it admits to having an actual stockpile of weapons, it will be retained on the "suspect" list for the present time. 
- Iran - Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and says its interest in nuclear technology, including enrichment, was for civilian purposes only, but the CIA claims this to be a cover for a nuclear weapons program.  The Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi stated on the intentions of his country's nuclear ambitions: "Iran has a high technical capability and has to be recognized by the international community as a member of the nuclear club. This is an irreversible path." 
- North Korea - On January 10, 2003 North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In February 2005 they claimed to possess functional nuclear weapons.
- Ukraine - signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Inherited about 5,000 nuclear weapons when it became independent in 1991, making its nuclear arsenal the third-largest in the world . It transferred all of these to Russia by 1996.  However recent news has surfaced that due to a clerical error, Ukraine may still possess several hundred warheads which were not accounted for in the armaments repatriation move 14 years ago. In any case, even if Ukraine does possess these weapons, they are technically missing and not in a deployed state or any part of Ukraine's defense posture. 
States formerly possessing nuclear weapons or programs
These are nations known to have initiated serious nuclear weapons programs, with varying degrees of success. All of them are now regarded as currently no longer actively developing, or possessing, nuclear arms.
- Argentina - Conducted a nuclear weapon research program, under military rule in 1978. This program was abandoned after returning to civilian rule in 1983. Later Argentina signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 
- Australia - From 1950 to the early 1970s Australia first attempted to gain access to British nuclear technology, then investigated a fully indigenous nuclear program on a number of occasions, going so far as to plan and begin clearing a site for a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor at Jarvis Bay in 1969, but abandoned its efforts at that time. Australia has large indigenous supplies of uranium. Currently Australia's uranium exports policy prevents export for military purposes, but there have been allegations about Australian uranium ending up in nuclear weapons. Curiously for an industrialized nation that is also a major uranium supplier, Australia has no nuclear power plants. There are however, two nuclear reactors in Australia that produce radioactive materials mainly for medical purposes. Australia has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is now one of the strongest supporters of anti-proliferation efforts.
- Belarus - A few Eastern European countries inherited whatever nuclear stockpiles happened to be stationed in their territory after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Belarus had 81 single warhead missiles which it returned to Russia by 1996. Belarus signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 
- Brazil - Conducted a nuclear weapon research program to acquire nuclear weapons code-named "Solimões" in 1978 under military rule. On 13 July 1998 President Fernando Henrique Cardoso signed and ratified both the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), denying that Brazil had developed nuclear weapons
- Egypt - Had a nuclear weapon research program 1954-1967. Egypt signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 
- Germany - During World War II Germany researched possibilities to develop a nuclear weapon. This program was however not finished and was around five to ten years from producing a workable weapon (see German nuclear energy project). They would have achieved such results had not the allied powers inadvertantly bombed their enrichment facilities. (they didn't know what the Germans were doing there). Nowadays Germany is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Although it has an advanced science and technology infrastructure and would be capable of creating a nuclear weapons program, the government has decided to decrease even the civil use of nuclear energy.
- Iraq - Signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Had a nuclear weapon research program during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. In 1981, Israel destroyed Iraqi nuclear reactor Osiraq. In 1996, the UN's Hans Blix reported that Iraq had dismantled or destroyed all of their nuclear capabilities. Exact dates remain disputed. 
- Japan - Japan conducted research into nuclear weapons during World War II though made little headway (see Japanese atomic program). Japan signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. While Japan has the technological capabilities to develop nuclear weapons in a short time there is no evidence they are doing so. Japan's constitution forbids it from producing nuclear weapons and the country has been active in promoting non-proliferation treaties. There exists some suspicion that there may exist nuclear weapons located in US bases in Japan. 
- Kazakhstan - Inherited 1,400 nuclear weapons from Soviet Union, returned them all to Russia by 1995. Signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 
- Libya - Signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. On December 19, 2003, Libya admitted having had a nuclear weapon programme and simultaneously announced its intention to end it and dismantle all existing Weapons of Mass Destruction to be verified by unconditional inspections.
- Poland - Nuclear research began in Poland in the early 1960s, with the first controlled nuclear fission reaction being achieved in late 1960s. During the 1970s further research resulted in the generation of fusion neutrons through convergent shockwaves. In the 1980s research focused on the development of micro-nuclear reactions, and was under military control. Currently Poland operates the MARIA nuclear research reactor under the control of the Instituite of Atomic Energy, in Swierk near Warsaw. Poland signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and officially posses no nuclear weapons.
- Romania - Signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In spite of this, under Ceauşescu, in the 1980s, Romania had a secret nuclear-weapons development program, that was stopped after the overthrow of Ceauşescu in 1989. 
- South Africa - Produced 6 nuclear weapons in the 1980s but disassembled them in the early 1990s. Signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 
- South Korea - Began a nuclear weapons program in the early 1970s, which was believed abandoned after signing NPT in 1975. However there have been allegations that program may have been continued after this date by the military government. In late 2004, the South Korean government disclosed to the IAEA that scientists in South Korea had extracted plutonium in 1982 and enriched uranium to near-weapons grade in 2000. (see South Korean nuclear research programs)
- Sweden - During the '50s and '60s Sweden seriously investigated nuclear weapons. A very substantial research effort of weapon design and manufacture was conducted resulting in enough knowledge to allow Sweden to manufacture nuclear weapons. A weapon research facility was to be built in Studsvik . Saab made plans for a supersonic nuclear bomber, the A36. However Sweden decided not to pursue a weapon production program and signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
- Switzerland - During 1946-1969 Switzerland had a secret nuclear program that came into light in 1995. By 1963 theoretical basics with detailed technical proposals, specific arsenals, and cost estimates for Swiss nuclear armaments were made. This program was, however, abandoned partly because of financial costs and by signing the NPT on 27 November 1969.
- Taiwan - Conducted a nuclear weapon research program in the 1970s.  Signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
- Yugoslavia - Yugoslavia's nuclear ambitions began as early as 1950's when scientists considered both uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing. In 1956, the Vinca fuel reprocessing site was constructed, followed by research reactors in 1958 and 1959, for which the Soviets provided heavy water and enriched uranium. In 1966, plutonium reprocessing tests began in Vinca laboratories, resulting in gram quantities of reprocessed plutonium. During the 1950s and 1960s there was also cooperation in plutonium processing between Yugoslavia and Norway. In the year 1960 Tito froze the nuclear programme for unknown reasons, but restarted it, after India's first nuclear tests, in 1974. The programme continued even after Tito's death in 1980, divided into two components - for weapons design and civilian nuclear energy, until a decision to stop all nuclear weapons research was made in July 1987. The civilian nuclear programme however resulted in the Krško nuclear power plant in Slovenia, built in 1983, now co-owned by Croatia. During the NATO raids, Vinca has never been hit - Americans were aware of 50 kilograms of highly enriched uranium stored at the site - it may have been a reason for the NATO intervention. After the end of NATO bombings the U.S. government and the Nuclear Threat Initiative transported the HEU to Russia - the place from which Yugoslavia originally acquired it.
Other nuclear capable states
Virtually any industrialized nation today has the technical capability to develop nuclear weapons within several years if the decision to do so were made. Nations already possessing substantial nuclear technology and arms industries could do so in no more than a year or two. The larger industrial nations (Japan and Germany for example) could, within several years of deciding to do so, build arsenals rivaling those of the states that already have nuclear weapons. This list below mentions some notable capabilities possessed by certain states that could potentially be turned to the development of nuclear arsenals. It should also be noted that this list represents only strong nuclear capability, not that any political will to develop such weapon would exist. All of the listed countries signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
- Canada - Canada has a well developed nuclear technology base and large uranium reserves. While Canada has the technological capabilities to develop nuclear weapons, there is no hard evidence they are or have ever done so. In the early 1960s, Canada purchased Bomarc missiles from the United States.
- Netherlands - Operates a power reactor at Borsele, producing 452 MW electrical, 5% of its electrical needs. Several Dutch companies are key participants in the tri-national Urenco uranium enrichment consortium. By the year 2000 the Netherlands had about 2 tonnes of separated reactor grade plutonium. There is no evidence about past or present nuclear weapon program in the Netherlands.
- Saudi Arabia - In 2003 members of the government stated that due to the worsening relations with the USA, Saudi Arabia was being forced to consider the development of nuclear weapons. However, so far they have denied that they are making any attempt to produce them. 
- Nuclear disarmament
- Nuclear proliferation
- Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
- Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
- International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
- Nuclear Threat Initiative
- IPPNW: International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
- Globalsecurity.org - World Special Weapons Guide
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