Global nuclear weapons inventories, 1945–2010

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Nuclear Notebook: How many nuclear weapons are there in the world?

Excessive secrecy prohibits the public from knowing the exact number of nuclear weapons in the world. Nuclear weapon states shield details about their arsenals and generally have only imprecise knowledge about the size and composition of other countries’ inventories; this creates uncertainty, mistrust, and misunderstandings. More transparency would alleviate this, and in fact, Britain, France, and the United States have recently taken steps to provide additional nuclear data to the public.

We estimate that the world’s nine nuclear weapon states possess nearly 22,400 intact nuclear warheads. The vast majority of these weapons—approximately 95 percent—are in the U.S. and Russian arsenals. Nearly 8,000 warheads—nearly one-third of the worldwide total—are operational to some degree (not necessarily fully operational) and ready to launch on relatively short notice. We estimate that approximately 1,880 warheads are on different levels of alert: Russia, 960 warheads; United States, 810; France, 64; and Britain, 48…

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The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists and Robert S. Norris, a senior fellow with the FAS. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.

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