Nuclear weapons today

Nuclear weapons worldwide
The INF-treaty (Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty = Treaty for the comprehensive abolition of Intermediate Nuclear Forces between the US and former Soviet Union) and the end of the Cold War stopped the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. However, the threat to humans by nuclear weapons didn't end. Humans began to feel save with the ending of the east-west tensions.

Nuclear weapons worldwide
Many nuclear weapons have been dismantled since the 90s – most notably by Russia and the United States. Yet the existing warheads have together enough power to destroy our earth more than once.
Countries Nuclear warheads
Official Nuclear weapons countries  
USA 7 315
Russia 8 000
China 250
France 300
Great Britain 225
Inofficial Nuclear weapons countries  
India 90-110
Pakistan 100-120
Israel 80
North Korea 0-10
TOTAL ~16 300
(Source:, 12/2014)

The official Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) are those five states which already tested nuclear weapons until the signing of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968: the USA, the Soviet Union / Russia, China, France and Great Britain. These five happened to be the so called P5 of the United Nations which have a constant seat in the UN Security Council and the right to veto decisions.

India and Pakistan never joined the NPT. Since their nuclear weapons tests in spring 1998, they rank among the unofficial NWS. It is not clear how many of their nuclear weapons are operational. North Korea had been a signer of the NPT until its withdrawal in 2003. There is no concrete evidence of its nuclear arsenals, but the tests in 2006 and 2009 confirm that North Korea has the capability to produce nuclear weapons.

Israel is also no member of the NPT. It neither has confirmed nor denied to be in the possession of nuclear weapons. The amount of 80 warheads is an estimation by experts. Former nuclear scientist Vanunu who worked for the Israeli nuclear program brought the secret program to public and was persecuted by Israel and put into prison for a long time. He is still in house detention.

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Method: BeeBee-Simulation
MATERIALS: Metal container, 2400 beads or beans
TIME AND LOCATION: 5 Minutes, a silent space

Ask the participants to close their eyes and explain them that they will listen to two sounds. The first sound represents the whole power explosive force of the First and Second World War including the two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This results all together three megatons TNT equivalent. This is the sound of the first bead that drops into the metal container.
Repeat the sound of the first bead.
The second sound stands for the explosion power of all nuclear weapons existing in the world today ¡V about 16.300. Drop slowly the 2400 beads in the metal container. After the last one dropped make a short moment of silence. Afterwards you can give the participants the chance to talk about their experience.

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Method: Country quiz
MATERIALS: World map, signs with nuclear warheads (5), symbols of radioactivity (4), sunflowers (6), country cards
TIME AND LOCATION: 20-30 minutes depending on the knowledge of participants, circle with world map in the middle

Unfold the world map in front of the group and distribute the country cards to participants. Then they read out one after the other the name of their countries and the others guess the nuclear situation of the country and the person reads out the solution. The classification is the following:
Official nuclear weapon states: USA, Russia, China, France, Great Britain
Unofficial nuclear weapon states: India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel
Nuclear Weapon Free Zones: Antarctica, Latin America and Caribbean, Africa, Ukraine, Mongolia, South Pacific (Australia – Philippines)

The example for country cards you find at the pdf-document.

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Nuclear weapons in Europe
Although there are only two official Nuclear Weapon States, namely Great Britain and France, there are more deployment sites for nuclear weapons from the US in other European countries. This initiative by NATO during the cold war is supposed to guarantee „protection in Europe“. Whereas the decision of an use of those weapons is up to the US president the operation itself would be carried out by national troops. The planning for military strategy is done by the “Nuclear Planning group” of NATO.
Countries Nuclear warheads
Official Nuclear weapons countries  
Great Britain 225
France 300
Nuclear Sharing countries  
Germany Büchel: 10-20
Italy Aviano:50
  Ghedi Torre: 20-40
Belgium Klein Brogel: 10-20
Netherlands Volkel: 10-20
Turkey Incirlik: 50-90
(Source:, 12.03.2010

This nuclear politic of NATO is often criticized because the Nuclear Sharing is a violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation-Treaty (NPT) under international law. According to article I and II of the NPT only the five official Nuclear Weapon States are allowed to develop and possess nuclear weapons. A transfer of the nuclear weapons to Non Nuclear Weapon States is therefore a breach of international law. Nuclear Sharing is a transfer of technology and Know-How, and even the training with foreign nuclear weapons like the German military is practicing in Büchel, Germany, is a transfer of knowledge and is prohibited under the NPT. Especially the fact that the „Umbrella States“ of the Nuclear Sharing have the possibility to use their nuclear arsenals, is contrasted strongly with the spirit of the NPT: the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

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Method: Letter to decision-maker
MATERIALS: envelope, paper – or email
TIME AND LOCATION: approx. 30 minutes

The policy of a country bases on the opinion and attitudes of the population. Therefore it is important to tell your own government in which state you want to live and what has to be changed to do so.

STEP 1 – Whom do I write to?
You could write to your head of state, your mayor or a local member of parliament. It might also be worthwhile contacting non-elected officials, such as church leaders or academics. It is important to get information about the person you want to write to. Have there been any comments on nuclear weapons in the press? What do you know about his or her activities in the disarmament issue?

STEP 2 – What is my aim?
You should have a particular request. Make sure that this can be realistically fulfilled by the leader you are writing to: e.g. don’t ask a local mayor to sign an international treaty. Also don’t ask for example South Africa to dismantle its nuclear weapons – it has already done this.

STEP 3 – How do I draft my letter?
Your points should be clear, logical and well expressed. Don’t make the letter long it it doesn’t need to be, and be polite even you strongly disagree with your leader’s views and actions. On the preview page you can find a sample letter you can use for your writing.

STEP 4 – How do I send my letter?
You could send the letter in hard form or by email. Make sure it’s correctly addressed and, if it’s hard form, be sure to sign it. Then await a reply. Leaders receive a large volume of correspondence, so you should be prepared to wait several months for a reply!

A Sample letter to decision-makers you can find in the pdf-document.

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The Non-Proliferation Treaty
The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was released for signing on July 1 in 1968 and entered into force on March 5 in 1970. It is the purpose of the NPT to contain proliferation of nuclear weapons and to facilitate the use of nuclear power for energy.

Right now 189 states are party to the NPT. India, Pakistan and Israel never signed nor ratified it. North Korea had been party to the NPT until 2003 and then dropped out of it.

The NPT is built-on eleven articles:
Article 1: Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) will neither pass over nuclear weapons to Non Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) nor support them in any kind to develop nuclear weapons.
Article 2: NNWS will neither acquire nor manufacture nuclear weapons.
Article 3: Nuclear power facilities from NNWS will be inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – those from NWS not. Fissile material and nuclear technology must not be passed over to states, which have not ratified the NPT
Article 4: Each state party has an “unalienable right” for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Article 5: Each state party has the opportunity to acquire benefits from peaceful detonations of nuclear weapons. (This article will not be reviewed nowadays. It is obsolete since the CTBT.)
Article 6: Each state party works towards nuclear disarmament at an early date under strict international control.
Article 7: Negotiations about nuclear weapons free zones will not be restricted.
Article 8: A 1/3-majority of the parties of the treaty can make proposals for amendments. Changes have to be decided in consensus. Each state party can call a review conference of the NPT every five years.
Article 9 Any state can sign and ratify the treaty. It enters into force when the US, UdSSR, Great Britain and 40 more states have signed it. NWS are defined as those states that carried out nuclear tests until January 1, 1967.
Article 10: If there is a conflict with supreme national interests, any state can leave the treaty with an advance notice three months before. 25 years after the treaty entered into force there will be a conference called to decide about the definite or indefinite extension of the treaty. The majority of the parties of the treaty make this decision.
Article 11: French, Chinese, English, Russian and Spanish texts are equal.
(Source:, 18.03.2010)

A core problem of the treaty is that its creating two classes of countries: one with nuclear weapons and one without – you call this discriminating because later nuclear powers like India or Pakistan cannot join the regime. Although the NATO nuclear sharing made it possible to deposit US nuclear warheads on European soil it is officially not in objection to the Articles I and II of the NPT. The argumentation is that in case of an use of those warheads the executing soldiers are no national, but NATO units. Furthermore the nuclear sharing had been composed before the NPT entered into force.

Obwohl die NATO Nukleare Teilhabe es ermöglicht hat, US-Atomsprengköpfe in europäischen Staaten zu deponieren, steht sie offiziell nicht im Widerspruch mit Artikel I und II des NVV. Begründet wird das einerseits damit, dass im Falle eines Einsatzes der Sprengköpfe die ausführenden Soldaten keine nationalen, sondern NATO-Einheiten wären. Außerdem kam es zur Ausarbeitung der Nuklearen Teilhabe schon vor des in Kraft treten des NVV.

The “unalienable right” for the peaceful use of nuclear technology in Article IV is often criticized. The same technology can be used to build nuclear weapons.

Article VI describes the will of all NWS to disarm their nuclear arsenals to zero. It is a matter of fact that this process is sneaking since decades and there is no existing point of time for a global zero.

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Method: Create a treaty for nuclear non-proliferation
MATERIALS: posters to collect headwords, paper and pens fort he groups
ZEIT UND ORT: 30 minutes in groups, 10-30 minutes for presenting the results, space to sit together in small groups The explanation of treaties is most times very boring for participants. There is no possibility for interaction with them. The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is very easy to copy because of its simple structure. The method calls the participants to create an own treaty that is similar to the NPT.

Ask the participants to think about a treaty including following conditions:
  • There are 192 states recognized by the United Nations.
  • There are five states possessing nuclear weapons. They also want to keep them.
  • The treaty is supposed to contain the proliferation of nuclear weapons. That means no more states are supposed to get in possession of nuclear weapons.
  • If possible the treaty should be valid and compulsory for every state.
The participants decide by themselves what they want to include in their treaty. If they get stuck you can give them some hints what could be important for the treaty:
  • Which conditions must be agreed to persuade non-nuclear weapon states not to obtain nuclear weapons?
  • Think about nuclear technology. What could be offered to non-nuclear weapon states instead of nuclear weapons?
  • Should there be any obligations for nuclear-weapon states in order to establish the treaty?
When the participants finish their own treaty you can show them the original ten articles of the NPT and arrange a comparing and evaluation.

As an alternative the group can be separated in two groups as nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states. Each group formulates demands and conditions for a treaty about nuclear weapons. After this representatives of each group come together at the negotiating table. There are three different results possible: nuclear weapons for everybody, for nobody or to keep status quo. For what the participants decide is depending on their negotiating skills.

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International Treaties
Nuclear policies of states or communities of states are not only discussed in the NPT or the CTBT but also in other treaty instruments.

United Nations Conference on Disarmament (UNCD)
The Conference on Disarmament is a multilateral association which focusing on Arms Control, Measures for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. It operates independently from the United Nations, however, is seen represent for them. The agenda of the UNCD includes stopping (nuclear) arms races and establishing more transparency concerning arms control and disarmament. It was the UNCD that created the treaties of Non-Proliferation (NPT) and Comprehensive Test Ban (CTBT). The current task of the UNCD is to develop a treaty for the Cut Off of Fissile Materials (FMCT) as a measure to limit the production und proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones (NWFZ)
There are certain geographical areas or states defined as nuclear weapon free. The region declares not to deploy, develop, test or use nuclear weapons. In return nuclear weapon states should assure not to use nuclear weapons against these locations.
Today there are following Nuclear Weapon Free Zones:
  • Latin America and the Caribbean (1968, Treaty of Tlatelolco)
  • South Pacific (1986, Treaty of Rarotonga)
  • Southeast Asia (1996, Treaty of Bangkok)
  • Africa (1996, Treaty of Pelindaba: not into force)
  • Antarctica (1959)
  • Outer Space (1967)
  • Sea Bed (1971)
Even though some treaties came into force not all of them are ratified by all nuclear weapons states.

More bilateral disarmament treaties between the US and Russia:
SALT I (Strategic Arms Limitation Talk)
1972: Limits the amount of launch systems for intercontinental missiles on the ground and ballistic submarine missiles.

ABM (Anti Ballistic Missile)
1972: Forbids the deployment of ABMs outside of Washington and Moscow respectively. This treaty has been recalled by the US in 2001.

1979: Limitation of carrier systems to the amount of 2400. The US didn’t ratify but supported the content.

INF-Treaty (Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces)
1987: Every ground INF-missiles (500 – 5500 kilometer) should be destroyed under mutual control.
START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty)
1991: Limitation of strategic arms with a range over 5000 kilometer to an amount of 25 to 30 percent. The treaty expired in December 2009.

1993: Further reductions and complete renouncement of intercontinental missiles with multiple warheads.

SORT (Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty)
2002: Disarmament of nuclear warheads to the amount of 1700 to 2200 until the year 2012.

2010: Renewal of START I. Reduction of nuclear warheads to 1550 and of carrier systems to 800. Expires in 2020.

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Method: Rating of Treaties
MATERIALS: chart as paper for each group, one computer with internet for each group
TIME AND LOCATION: 30-60 minutes, depending on knowledge of participants

The first nuclear test in July 16, 1945 happened over 50 years ago. There are agreements and treaties, however, experts count still more than 20000 nuclear warheads in the world. A critical look into the certain treaties may help to evaluate the de facto endeavors of the nuclear weapon states to disarm.

Create a chart that lists the presented treaties and define the columns with different rating criteria:
Qualitative disarmament
Quantitative disarmament
Containment of proliferation

Separate the group in small groups with a maximum of five persons and ask them to evaluate the chart by the help of school marks. Afterwards discuss in the group which results the participants made and why.

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