Over 20 000 nuclear weapons linger in global arsenal: SIPRI

3383

Eight states — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel — currently possess more than 20 500 nuclear weapons, including operational weapons, spares, those in both active and inactive storage and intact weapons scheduled for dismantlement.

Of this total figure, more than 5000 nuclear weapons are deployed and ready for use, including nearly 2000 that are kept in a state of high operational alert, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says in its latest yearbook, released yesterday.

The five legally recognised nuclear weapon states, as defined by the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA — are either deploying new nuclear weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so; none appears to be prepared to give up its nuclear arsenals in the foreseeable future.

India and Pakistan, which along with Israel are de facto nuclear weapon states outside the NPT, continue to develop new ballistic and cruise missile systems capable of delivering nuclear weapons. They are also expanding their capacities to produce fissile material for military purposes. Israel appears to be waiting to assess how the situation with Iran’s nuclear programme develops, SIPRI said. North Korea is believed to have produced enough plutonium to build a small number of nuclear warheads, but there is no public information to verify that it has operational nuclear weapons.
“The year 2010 saw advances in bilateral and multilateral initiatives to promote nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation,” SIPRI says in a summary of the yearbook. Russia and the United States signed a Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) last year April, mandating further reductions in their deployed strategic nuclear forces. The treaty preserves the main elements of the expired 1991 START’s comprehensive verification regime, the principal means by which Russia and the USA monitored each other’s strategic nuclear forces. In the wake of New START’s entry into force on February this year, there appeared to be few near-term prospects for negotiating deeper reductions of Russian–US nuclear forces.

In May last year, the ninth five-yearly Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference was widely hailed as a success when the participating states parties adopted by consensus a final
document. The document contained recommendations for advancing the treaty’s principles and objectives, including steps towards establishing a weapon of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East. However, the discussions during the conference revealed continuing deep divisions
among the states parties—especially between the nuclear weapon ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’—over the basic aims and goals of the NPT.

These divisions cast doubt on the prospects for making progress in implementing even the modest steps endorsed in the final document,SIPRI says. Also during 2010 the USA hosted a Nuclear Security Summit meeting that brought together heads of state and government to consider how to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism and to increase the security of nuclear materials and facilities. While the meeting did not lead to new joint initiatives, a number of participating states announced steps to adopt or implement a number of existing conventions, agreements and measures for enhancing nuclear security and combating illicit trafficking in nuclear materials.

In 2010 little progress was made towards resolving the long-running controversies over the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea, which have been the focus of international concerns. These concerns were heightened when North Korea revealed that it had constructed a previously undeclared uranium enrichment plant. In Iran, the IAEA remained unable to resolve questions about nuclear activities with possible military dimensions, while Iran experienced technical problems with its uranium enrichment programme.

World nuclear forces , January 2011

Country

Deployed warheads

Other warheads

Total

USA

2 150

6 350

8 500

Russia

2 427

8 570

11 000

UK

160

65

225

France

290

10

300

China

?

200

240

India

?

80–100

80–100

Pakistan

?

90–110

90–110

Israel

?

80

80

Total

5 027

15 500



20 530