World Facts

Countries With The Most Nuclear Warheads

The United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China are regarded as Nuclear Weapons States under the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is a international treaty dealing with nuclear weapons that was adopted by the member states of the United Nations (UN) in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. The treaty is made up of three pillars that outline the three main purposes of the treaty, to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and technology, to further the goal of nuclear disarmament and to support the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Under the terms of the NPT there are only five nuclear weapons states, the United States, Soviet Union (now the Russian Federation), United Kingdom, France and China. There are three other countries that have declared to be in possession of nuclear weapons, India, Pakistan and North Korea. India and Pakistan never signed the NPT and North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003. Israel is believed to posses nuclear weapons and has also never signed the NPT.

Laws, Regulations, and History of Nuclear Weapons

When Did Each Country First Acquire Nuclear Weapons?

Going into and during World War Two the process of trying to build a nuclear weapon was attempted by the Americans, British, Germans, Soviets, and Japanese. The Americans ultimately was the first to build a nuclear weapon, with the first successful test taking place in July of 1945. Three weeks later the Americans used their newfound nuclear power on the city of Hiroshima. Three days later, a second nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, prompting Japan to surrender and ending World War Two. With the way World War Two ended the Soviet Union accelerated their nuclear weapons to catch up to the American and launched their first successful nuclear test in 1949. This was then followed up over the next few years as the United Kingdom's first successful test was in 1952, France's was in 1960 and then China's was in 1964. With five countries now possessing nuclear weapons the world realized it need to act to prevent them from spreading. The NPT was adopted only four years after China's successfully test. This however did not stop other countries from getting nuclear weapons as India had its first successful test in 1974. This caused Pakistan start working on a nuclear weapon in a effort to counter its rival and in 1988 they had their first successful test. North Korea is the most recent country to acquire the bomb, with its first successful test happening in 2006. It is unknown as to when Israel's first successful nuclear test took place.

Laws and Regulations Governing Countries with Nuclear Weapons

There has been no universal ban of any kind on nuclear weapons on a international scale. In 1996 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) did conclude that the use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the principles of international humanitarian law. There are also global organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) that seek to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and stop the use of nuclear weapons. On a state level most countries also have a nuclear regulatory agency to monitor and decide policy on nuclear activity in the country, Nations can also self impose regulations on themselves with treaties, including the historic Strategic Arms Limitations Treaties (SALT), where the United States and Soviet Union agreed to limit the amount of nuclear missiles that they possessed.

Nuclear Weapons Sharing and Former Nuclear States

Nuclear weapon sharing is a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) policy of nuclear deterrence, which involves non nuclear members of NATO possessing, storing, making policy on and having equipment to maintain and even potentially use nuclear weapons. Out of the three nuclear NATO members (U.S., U.K., France) only the United States has shared nuclear weapons with NATO allies. Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Turkey are the current NATO countries that the United States shares nuclear weapons with. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine found themselves in possession of Soviet nuclear weapons. However, within a few years they all agreed to transfer the weapons back to Russia. South Africa had a few nuclear weapons in the 1980s but had dismantled them all by the next decade. South Africa is the only country to ever give up its own nuclear weapons.

Countries With The Highest Number Of Nuclear Warheads

RankCountryWarheads (Active/Total)
1 United States175/697
2 Russia179/730
3 United Kingdom30/43
4 France29/30
5 Chinan.a. / 260
6 Indian.a. / 110–120
7 Pakistann.a. / 120–130
8 North Korean.a. / <10
9 Israeln.a. / est. 60–400

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