Nine countries together possess around 15,000 nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia maintain roughly 1,800 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert status – ready to be launched within minutes of a warning. Most are many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. A single nuclear warhead, if detonated on a large city, could kill millions of people, with the effects persisting for decades.
The failure of the nuclear powers to disarm has heightened the risk that other countries will acquire nuclear weapons. The only guarantee against the spread and use of nuclear weapons is to eliminate them without delay. Although the leaders of some nuclear-armed nations have expressed their vision for a nuclear-weapon-free world, they have failed to develop any detailed plans to eliminate their arsenals and are modernizing them.
How many nuclear weapons are there in the world?
|COUNTRY||NUCLEAR PROGRAMME||SIZE OF ARSENAL
|United States||The first country to develop nuclear weapons and the only country to have used them in war. It spends more on its nuclear arsenal than all other countries combined.||6,800 warheads|
|Russia||The second country to develop nuclear weapons. It has the largest arsenal of any country and is investing heavily in the modernization of its warheads and delivery systems.||7,000 warheads|
|United Kingdom||It maintains a fleet of four nuclear-armed submarines in Scotland, each carrying 16 Trident missiles. Its parliament voted in 2016 to overhaul its nuclear forces.||215 warheads|
|France||Most of its nuclear warheads are deployed on submarines equipped with M45 and M51 missiles. One boat is on patrol at all times. Some warheads are also deliverable by aircraft.||300 warheads|
|China||It has a much smaller arsenal than the US and Russia. Its warheads are deliverable by air, land and sea. It appears to be increasing the size of its arsenal at a slow pace.||260 warheads|
|India||It developed nuclear weapons in breach of non-proliferation commitments. It is increasing the size of its nuclear arsenal and enhancing its delivery capabilities.||110–120 warheads|
|Pakistan||It is making substantial improvements to its nuclear arsenal and associated infrastructure. It has increased the size of its nuclear arsenal in recent years.||120–130 warheads|
|Israel||It has a policy of ambiguity in relation to its nuclear arsenal, neither confirming nor denying its existence. As a result, there is little public information or debate about it.||80 warheads|
|North Korea||It has a fledgling nuclear weapons programme. Its arsenal probably comprises fewer than 10 warheads. It is not clear whether it has the capability to deliver them.||<10 warheads|
The wider problem
Five European nations host US nuclear weapons on their soil as part of a NATO nuclear-sharing arrangement, and roughly two dozen other nations claim to rely on US nuclear weapons for their security. Furthermore, there are many nations with nuclear power or research reactors capable of being diverted for weapons production. The spread of nuclear know-how has increased the risk that more nations will develop the bomb.
|Nations with nuclear weapons||United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea|
|Nations hosting nuclear weapons||Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey|
|Nations in nuclear alliances||Albania, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain (plus the five host nations)|