What countries have nuclear weapons? In the world today, nine major countries currently possess nuclear weapons. Here is the list of all nine countries with nuclear weapons in descending order, starting with the country that has the most nuclear weapons at hand and ending with the country that has the least amount of nuclear weapons:
- Russia, 6,375 nuclear warheads
- The United States of America, 5,800 nuclear warheads
- France, 290 nuclear warheads
- China, 320 nuclear warheads
- The United Kingdom, 215 nuclear warheads
- Pakistan, 160 nuclear warheads
- India, 135 nuclear warheads
- Israel, 90 nuclear warheads
- North Korea, 30-40 nuclear warheads
However, before discussing the countries with nuclear weapons, it’s essential to understand what nuclear weapons are. A nuclear weapon is defined as an explosive that has such an intense power behind it that it can cause massive amounts of damage in faraway places.
To start breaking down the explanation of nuclear weapons, let’s talk about the two types of explosives at hand. There are two types of explosives, including fission bombs and thermonuclear bombs. Fission bombs are detonated by way of a nuclear fission reaction, hence the name. However, this is not the only method of activating a nuclear weapon. Bombs that are detonated through a combination of fission and fusion are called thermonuclear bombs. Both of these types of explosives fall under the category of nuclear weaponry.
Nuclear weapons have been used twice, and both times, they were employed for the sake of wars that had broken out. The United States of America detonated the first nuclear weapon against Japan. Towards the end of World War II, the United States released a bomb of nuclear weapon power on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
The uranium fission bomb was detonated directly over the top of the city. As you can imagine, this infuriated not only the Japanese government but everyone who lived in Japan at the time, as well as their allies. The nuclear weapon that the United States dropped overhead caused more damage than anyone country should ever inflict on another, but that did not keep Japan from acting with better morals than the US.
A mere three days after the nuclear weapon hit Hiroshima, a plutonium bomb was detonated by the United States over Nagasaki, Japan. As if one nuclear weapon was not enough, the United States of America decided to fire another nuclear weapon in the direction of Japan. Sadly enough, over 200,000 people died due to these two nuclear bombings, which led to a lot of questions regarding the ethics behind the use of nuclear weapons.
Those two occurrences of nuclear bombs being used during the war are not the only times that nuclear weapons have been detonated throughout history. They happen to be the only two instances of nuclear weaponry as a war tactic for attacking the enemy. As scary as it is, the truth of the matter is that nuclear weapons have been tested, demonstrated, remodeled, and used as a scare tactic to threaten opposing nations approximately hundreds of thousands of times.
Eight different nations around the world have successfully detonated nuclear weapons. Five of these eight countries are designated as states that reserve the right to have nuclear weapons on their grounds, which was decided upon in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Otherwise known as the NPT, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons permits the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom to be in possession of nuclear weapons, no matter the reason for them.
Three additional states have conducted nuclear testing even though they are not part of the NPT, nor did they sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. These three nations include North Korea, India, and Pakistan. The Middle Eastern country of Israel, which is recognized as a religiously-affiliated country, also has nuclear weapons within its borders. Known as the Holy Land to many Christians, Muslims, and Jews, Israel is one of the countries with their hands on nuclear weapons. This can be shocking to some, mostly because religion emphasizes peace and communication over war and destruction, of which nuclear weapons are incredibly capable.
Israel is currently fighting to prevent an enemy country, Iran, from securing nuclear weapons of their own, most likely because that would level the playing field instead of giving Israel a leg up over Iran. As you can see, not only are the ethics of nuclear weapons constantly in question, but these weapons pose a question as to whether they are essential in the first place. Nuclear weapons divide countries, which is counterintuitive when trying to bring nations together and forge a sort of harmony among all countries.
Anyway, coming full circle, Israel is known to possess nuclear weapons, but it is unknown whether or not Israel has conducted nuclear testing of these weapons. For the longest time, the country’s government officials have not come forward to address the rumors or even acknowledge the fact that they have nuclear weapons on Israeli land. However, it has since then been determined that Israel has about eighty nuclear weapon warheads within its borders.
Many other nations previously held nuclear weapons but no longer do, for a plethora of reasons. The countries that once did but no longer have nuclear weapons at their disposal include South Africa, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. As of calculations performed in 2017, it has been determined that there is an estimated number of 9,220 nuclear weapons worldwide.
How many nuclear warheads does the United States have? The United States, as of 2019, has an estimated 6,185 nuclear weapons. It is believed that 3,800 of these are stockpiled, and 1,365 are in strategic deployment. This is a fraction of what the US had at its peak of 31,225 in 1967 and 22,217 in 1989. The United States is one of five countries that entered into the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, aiming to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons technology.
Ever since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a cap of sorts determines how many countries are allowed to access, house, and utilize nuclear weapons. Another treaty came about approximately twenty-eight years after the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Known as the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996, this document proposed that no other countries be allowed to have nuclear weapons in yet another attempt to prevent the nuclear weapon rates from expanding and reaching other nations.
The United States has always tried to maintain a monopoly over nuclear weapons, but more and more countries continue to find roundabout ways of circumventing the treaties. Countries like India, Pakistan, and Israel refused to sign treaties presented to them regarding nuclear weapons, and yet, they still have nuclear arsenals on their person. While there is a lot of controversy over the existence of nuclear weapons, it is crucial to be aware of which countries do have them.