The Doomsday Clock is an internationally recognized design that conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making. First and foremost among these are nuclear weapons, but the dangers include climate-changing technologies, emerging... Read More
Norris is a senior fellow with the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, DC. A former senior research associate with the Natural Resources Defense Council, his principal areas of expertise include writing and research on all aspects of the nuclear weapons programs of the United States, the Soviet Union and Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China, as well as India, Pakistan, and Israel. He is the author of Racing for the Bomb: General Leslie R. Groves, the Manhattan Project’s Indispensable Man and co-author of Making the Russian Bomb: From Stalin to Yeltsin. He co-authored or contributed to the chapter on nuclear weapons in the 1985–2000 editions of the SIPRI Yearbook (Oxford University Press) and has co-authored Nuclear Notebook since 1987.
Although the Israeli government neither confirms nor denies that it possesses nuclear weapons, it is generally accepted by friend and foe alike that Israel is a nuclear-armed state—and has been so for nearly half a century.
As of mid-2014, the authors estimate that there are approximately 16,300 nuclear weapons located at some 98 sites in 14 countries. Roughly 10,000 of these weapons are in military arsenals; the remaining weapons are retired and awaiting dismantlement.
The nuclear-armed states have large residual nuclear arsenals, and post-Cold War reductions of nuclear weapons have slowed. Meanwhile, the nuclear nations have undertaken ambitious nuclear weapon modernization programs that threaten to prolong the nuclear era indefinitely.
Russia has taken important steps in modernizing its nuclear forces since early 2013, including the continued development and deployment of new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), construction of ballistic missile submarines, and development of a new strategic bomber.
The United States has an estimated 4,650 nuclear warheads available for delivery by more than 800 ballistic missiles and aircraft. Approximately 2,700 retired but still intact warheads await dismantlement, for a total inventory of roughly 7,400 warheads.
Recent research has revealed new facts about the British nuclear arsenal over a 25-year period starting in 1953. This accounting and the authors’ own research support an estimate that the British produced about 1,250 nuclear warheads between 1953 and 2013.
Russia is in the middle of modernizing its nuclear forces, replacing Soviet-era ballistic missiles with fewer improved missiles. In a decade, almost all Soviet-era weapons will be gone, leaving a smaller but still effective force that will be more mobile than what it replaced.