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Nuclear Weapons

No other type of weapon presents as immediate and serious a threat to global security as nuclear weapons. Since the United States detonated its first nuclear test on July 16, 1945, seven other states have tested and continue to retain these true weapons of mass destruction: Russia, UK, France, China, India, Israel, and Pakistan.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which entered into force in 1970, is the cornerstone of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The NPT manifests a bargain struck between the original nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear states. The nuclear weapon states agreed to negotiate in good faith the elimination of their nuclear arsenals. In exchange, the non-nuclear states promised not to acquire nuclear weapons. As an incentive, the NPT recognizes the “inalienable right” of all states to develop “peaceful” nuclear technology, “without discrimination.” . More countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, a testament to its significance. Only nuclear-armed India, Israel and Pakistan remain outside the treaty. In 1995 the parties to the NPT agreed to extend the treaty indefinitely, adopting a series of decisions to strengthen the treaty and to progressively and systematically reduce and eliminate nuclear stockpiles. The parties to the 2000 NPT Review Conference agreed to 13 practical steps to achieve the systematic and progressive implementation of their disarmament obligation.

The end of the Cold War, more than a decade ago, should have led to rapid progress toward the global elimination of nuclear weapons. Instead, some 27,000 nuclear weapons remain, several thousand on high alert, and the nuclear weapon states are continuing to design, develop and deploy new nuclear weapons systems. As global interest in nuclear energy surges in view of finite oil resources, the proliferation of nuclear technology - inherently "dual use" - is presenting new challenges.

Backtracking on the nuclear disarmament commitments made at the 2000 NPT Review Conference undermines global support for nonproliferation efforts. The breakdown of the 2005 NPT Review Conference and the abandonment of language on non-proliferation and disarmament in the 2005 World Summit outcome document demonstrate that non-proliferation efforts will be weakened unless the nuclear weapon states live up to their unequivocal undertaking to disarm and implement in good faith commitments already made.

For more information:

Nuclear Weapons Resources Page