How many countries have nuclear weapons and how many are there?
Nine countries - China, North Korea, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States - possess a total of nearly 13,080 nuclear weapons. Russia and the United States possess roughly 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, with over 5,500 weapons each. Learn more.
How destructive are today’s nuclear weapons?
The two nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, had an explosive yield of the equivalent of about 15 kilotons of dynamite and 20 kilotons of dynamite respectively. In modern nuclear arsenals, those devastating weapons are considered “low-yield.” Many of the modern nuclear weapons in Russian and U.S. nuclear weapons are thermonuclear weapons and have explosive yields of the equivalent at least 100 kilotons of dynamite - and some are much higher. One 100-kiloton nuclear weapon dropped on New York City could lead to roughly 583,160 fatalities, according to NukeMap.
Do nuclear weapons help to keep the peace?
Nuclear weapons proponents have often argued that the existence of nuclear weapons have prevented World War III. But these theories have never been able to prove a causation between the existence of nuclear weapons and the lack of a direct war between nations. In fact, the existence of nuclear weapons have done nothing to prevent the many terrible conflicts in the world since 1945, including most recently, the devastating civil war in Syria. What’s more, nuclear weapons are strategically useless to address the actual security threats facing nations in the 21st century, including climate change, terrorism and cyber-attacks.
What is the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons?
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted in July 2017 at the United Nations with 122 countries voting in favor. It bans the use, threat of use, development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, transfer, stationing, deployment or installation of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance with, encouragement or inducement of any of these prohibited activities. The treaty also includes positive obligations requiring states parties with people or places harmed by nuclear weapons use or testing under their jurisdiction to provide assistance and requires all states parties in a position to do so to also help these efforts. The treaty strengthens the norm against nuclear weapons as the first legal instrument to ban them.
Why does this treaty matter if none of the countries with nuclear weapons have joined?
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a powerful normative tool to demonstrate that nuclear weapons are morally unacceptable. It strengthens the legal framework and legal stigma against nuclear weapons. The TPNW can put external pressure on nuclear-armed states to make further efforts on disarmament.
The TPNW reinforces other disarmament efforts by nuclear-armed states, such as the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, further reductions of arsenals, and de-alerting nuclear weapons systems. The TPNW does not preclude or prevent bilateral or multilateral agreements to reduce numbers of warheads between nuclear-armed states.
Why should one country give up its nuclear weapons if other countries still have them?
Nuclear weapons pose unacceptable risks to humanity and the environment. The vast majority of the world’s nations have already chosen to contribute to a world without nuclear weapons by rejecting ever developing, possessing or using them as members of Nuclear- Weapons-Free-Zones. The vast majority of the world’s countries already recognize that nuclear weapons make them less safe, not more secure. It is time for the nine nuclear-armed states to get on board.
Why should countries that don’t have nuclear weapons care about this treaty?
The possession of nuclear weapons by some states puts the whole world at risk. Strengthening the norm against the use and possession of nuclear weapons is in the interest of all states and people.
Beyond banning and working towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons contains important positive obligations for countries to receive and provide victim assistance for impacted people and environmental remediation for places impacted by nuclear weapons use and testing. The TPNW can help to ensure that affected communities receive the assistance they need.
Can a NATO state join the TPNW?
According to research by the Norwegian People’s Aid, a NATO state can join the TPNW and be in compliance with the treaty as long as “they explicitly distance themselves from specific statements or formulations in Alliance documents, particularly the Strategic Concept, which can be understood as an encouragement of the retention of nuclear weapons and their possible use.” Without doing so, the NPA report finds that NATO states would be in violation of Article 1(1)(e) of the treaty.