Policy Newsletter #20 - February/March 2024

To sign up for our regular policy and research newsletter click here

ICAN logo

Policy and Research Newsletter no. 20

Amid two wars waged by nuclear-armed states, TPNW offers a glimmer of hope



70 States Parties
93 signatories



Successful TPNW Second Meeting of States Parties continues to lead the way towards nuclear disarmament and nuclear justice

The second Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) Meeting of States Parties (MSP) took place at the UN in New York on 27 Nov – 1 Dec 2023. The MSP was characterised by its substantive discussions on implementing commitments on nuclear disarmament, victim assistance and inclusion of civil society, academia and communities affected by nuclear weapons. States parties reviewed eight reports from working groups and other entities, and  Kazakhstan and New Zealand issued national reports on victim assistance and environmental remediation. The meeting concluded with the adoption of a political declaration and five decisions, including on taking forward implementation of victim assistance and environmental remediation and creating a new workstream to consult on security concerns of TPNW states parties.

Affected Communities press conference after the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)  Photo: ICAN

Testimonies from survivors and new research on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons were presented in interactive debates during the meeting, including in a thematic discussion on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and  states decided to allow for future such thematic debates at future MSPs as well.

The meeting recommitted to the intersessional structure of three working groups, on the elimination of nuclear weapons (Article 4), victim assistance, environmental remediation and international cooperation and assistance (Articles 6 and 7) and universalization (Article 12). States adopted templates for voluntary reporting on Articles 6 and 7, and agreed to submit a report and examine the establishment of a trust fund at the Third Meeting of States Parties. 

A new process was launched to “challenge the security paradigm based on nuclear deterrence”  through an inclusive consultative process to examine the legitimate security concerns of states stemming from the nuclear weapons deterrence paradigm.

2MSP showed the eagerness and commitment of TPNW states parties’ to take action and explore improved and inclusive processes, to work around the deadlocks of other nuclear disarmament foras and achieve progress towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Two years into Ukraine war, heightened nuclear threats, sharing persist

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked widespread concern about the potential use of nuclear weapons. Two years later, threats to use nuclear weapons and new nuclear weapons developments persist, and some governments in the region have indicated their intent to increase their reliance on nuclear weapons. The past two years have demonstrated the uselessness of nuclear deterrence as a security strategy - as a nuclear-armed state failed to win a war against a non-nuclear armed victim, who is aided by nuclear-armed states, under the constant threat of the accidental or intentional detonation of weapons of mass destruction.

Threats to use nuclear weapons have continued, albeit at a more muted level from earlier in the war in recent months. Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev on 18 February threatened again that “Attempts to restore Russia's 1991 borders” would result in a nuclear war, bombing Western cities such as Kyiv, Berlin, London and Washington. In mid-January he also claimed that Ukrainian attacks on missile sites in Russia with US weapons would provoke a nuclear response. President Putin argued in an end of year speech in December that the role of nuclear weapons has “significantly increased.”

Belarus, which reportedly deployed Russian nuclear weapons last year, also announced in January that it had developed a new military doctrine providing for the use of such weapons, to be sent to the People’s Assembly for official approval in April. Belarus became the 6th state to station foreign nuclear weapons on its territory in 2023, joining Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey which have 100 U.S. nuclear weapons stationed on air bases. In Poland, Brigadier General Jaroslaw Kraszewski advocated for Poland to be armed with U.S. nuclear weapons in comments to the press in February, following a formal request from the Polish government in 2022. While the United States has not responded to the Polish comments, evidence is mounting that it is preparing to station its nuclear weapons in the United Kingdom. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has organised against the move - including through a legal challenge. Nuclear sharing, or stationing nuclear weapons in another country, is explicitly prohibited under the TPNW, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty prohibits the transfer of nuclear weapons to a non-nuclear armed country.

Meanwhile, both the United States and Russia continue to spend extravagantly on developing new types of nuclear weapons. In mid January, the U.S. Air Force notified Congress that the new U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), dubbed the “Sentinel,” is running far overcost, 70% more than its original 2015 to now top $131 billion. These missiles can be even more destructive than the current U.S. ICBMs and a recent study from Princeton University demonstrate the the fallout from missile soils being attacked would be even more catastrophic than previously known. In February, news reports indicated that Russia is developing a new anti-satellite nuclear weapon, which, if launched into space, would be a clear violation of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bans nuclear weapons in space. The weapon is designed to target satellites and disable digital communications infrastructure globally.

On the bright side, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board member and Princeton Associate Professor Glaser recently raised the TPNW as a highlight, adding that it offers a new perspective on nuclear issues for many countries and their citizens, and that it is very likely to gain new momentum, particularly in Europe, as countries re-evaluate their policies on nuclear weapons in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

ICAN protest outside of UN in GenevaICAN protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine outside of the UN in Geneva. Photo: ICAN


Three years of nuclear weapons being banned 

22 January 2024 was the third anniversary of the entry into force of the TPNW. These years have seen increased tensions, threats of use of nuclear weapons and the continued challenging by nuclear-armed states of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regimes underscoring the importance of the commitment of the world’s majority of states to a treaty outlawing such nuclear threats, strengthening non-proliferation, and providing a verifiable pathway to disarmament. 

The comprehensive prohibitions of all nuclear weapons related activities in the TPNW have filled a gap in international law. Notable during this period has been the prohibition of the threat to use nuclear weapons, where TPNW has provided a legal ground and language for states to strongly condemn the unacceptable threats coming out of Russia, Israel and North Korea.

The TPNW also helps challenge the nuclear weapons industry and the profits made from these weapons of mass destruction. While military expenditures are soaring globally, the number of financial actors investing in nuclear weapons producing companies keeps decreasing since the treaty’s entry into force.

Campaigners all over the world took this opportunity to celebrate that nuclear weapons are now banned. In Hiroshima, 1.500 candles were lit in front of the Hiroshima dome, in solidarity with nuclear victims across the world and in protest against the current wars of nuclear armed states. In the US and UK, campaigners protested their countries’ nuclear weapons. In Switzerland, campaigners gathered outside the parliament to urge the Foreign Minister to sign the TPNW.


ICAN campaigners holding signs spelling NUCLEAR BAN with text Happy BanniversaryICAN campaigners celebrating the Nuclear Ban. Photo: ICAN

Doomsday Clock stays at 90 seconds to midnight as Gaza war rages

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' Doomsday Clock at the 2024 setting. Photo: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Just as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine demonstrated the heightened danger of a nuclear-armed aggressor in 2022, so too did Israel’s assault on Gaza following the 7 October attack by Hamas in 2023. Israel, which is one of four countries not party to the NPT, neither officially confirms or denies its possession of nuclear weapons, but is widely acknowledged by experts to have 90 nuclear weapons, which can be launched from missiles, submarines and aircraft. ICAN estimated that Israel spent $1.2 billion on its nuclear weapons in 2022. In November, an Israeli minister suggested that using a nuclear weapon in Gaza was a possibility, although he was subsequently suspended for his comments.

In January, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists unveiled the 2024 Doomsday Clock setting at 90 seconds to midnight, citing the war in Gaza as one of the new dimensions of the nuclear threat. Bulletin President and CEO Rachel Bronson and Chair of the Science and Security Board Daniel Holz called the TPNW a glimmer of hope in a USA Today op-ed. 

In October, ICAN released a statement declaring that: “We join the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations and many others in demanding an immediate ceasefire. This must be followed by negotiations for a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, with disarmament as an essential component. The fact that Israel is a nuclear-armed state – the only such state in the Middle East – significantly increases the risks associated with the devastating humanitarian crisis unfolding in the occupied Palestinian territories, and contributes to regional tensions.”

February and March nuclear testing anniversaries marks horrors of nuclear legacies, fights for nuclear justice

Participants of Nuclear Legacy Week 2024 outside the venueParticipants of the Marshallese Educational Initiative's Nuclear Legacy Week 2024 outside the venue. Photo: ICAN


On March 1 in 1954, US conducted its largest ever nuclear test when it detonated a 15-megaton thermonuclear weapon over Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The test evaporated two atolls and caused radioactive fallout to rain down on the unknowing populations of surrounding islands.

There are several catastrophes within the horror of the Castle Bravo test. The meteorological conditions were ignored, people were forcibly evacuated, and others were not evacuated at all until a few days later, when radiation damage was already apparent. The United States eventually claimed that surrounding atolls were safe to inhabit, while conducting non-consensual tests on the Marshallese populations on the effects of nuclear weapons. Data from these tests alongside information on radioactive fallout and contamination has not been candidly shared with the Marshallese people, denying them information that could help to treat illnesses and decontaminate environments more effectively. Moreover, the US has left enormous amounts of nuclear waste in the Runit dome, which is already leaking and where rising sea levels caused by climate change threaten the dome to collapse.

France similarly has refused to share information with Algeria about the nuclear waste and contamination that its nuclear tests have caused. On February 23, 1960, France conducted its first nuclear weapons test in Algeria. The test, called The Blue Jerboa, was 70 kilotons. Since then, France conducted 16 more nuclear tests in Algeria. Afterwards, it buried nuclear waste in the Sahara without disclosing the locations to Algeria, meaning there are little to no warning signs or barriers preventing people from entering these sites. 

Nuclear tests were disproportionately carried out on Indigenous or colonised lands and peoples. The continued existence of nuclear weapons upholds colonial structures and denies survivors of nuclear testing the fundamental reassurance that it will never happen again. The TPNW through its Articles 6 and 7 on victim assistance, environmental remediation and international cooperation and assistance advances nuclear justice by addressing the harms done by nuclear testing and use, and sharing in this responsibility while still demanding accountability from the nuclear-armed states that committed the tests.

Learn more in ICAN's new article, and at ICAN’s interactive webpage, where you can explore the consequences of nuclear tests and learn about the people and organisations who are fighting for nuclear justice and disarmament.

The civil society organisation Marshallese Educational Initiative hosted the Nuclear Legacy Week in Arkansas for the first time in on 27 Feb - 2 March, a series of events to commemorate the anniversary of the Castle Bravo test.

Join us for a webinar on March 13, 9pm CET / March 14, 8am Majuro: 70 years after Castle Bravo: a legacy of human rights, gender and environmental impacts.





Recommended Reading and Events

Publications, articles and other materials:

Calls for Proposals


Not signed up to receive our Policy & Research Newsletter yet? 

Subscribe now