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Nuclear Disarmament South Africa

  • Medical isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) produced with low enriched uranium (LEU) Medical isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) produced with low enriched uranium (LEU)
    nnsa.energy.gov
  • RSA-3 (Shavit) LEO rocket, South African Air Force Museum, Swartkop RSA-3 (Shavit) LEO rocket, South African Air Force Museum, Swartkop
    NJR ZA, commons.wikimedia.org

NPT Non-nuclear Weapon State
Formerly Possessed Nuclear Weapons


Arsenal Size

  • South Africa manufactured 6 air-deliverable nuclear weapons of the "gun-type" design. [1]
  • The government halted its nuclear weapons program in 1989 and dismantled existing weapons and production equipment. [2]

Weapons system

  • The weapons produced were non-strategic gun–type weapons. [3]
  • Each of the 6 nuclear devices contained 55 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU). [4] South Africa possessed enough HEU for a seventh weapon, but this weapon was never completed. [5]
  • The nuclear devices could have been delivered by a modified Buccaneer bomber. [6] A multi-stage booster rocket (RSA 3) may have been a prototype for an IRBM. [7] The space-launch vehicle (SLV) program was abandoned in 1993[8]

Destructive Power

  • Each device had an estimated yield of 10-18 Kt. [9]

Warheads Dismantled

  • On 26 February 1990, President Frederik Willem de Klerk ordered the destruction of the six completed nuclear weapons and the seventh partially completed device. [10]
  • President de Klerk announced to South Africa’s Parliament on 24 March 1993 the existence and abandonment of the former nuclear weapons program. [11]
  • IAEA inspections between April and August 1993 confirmed the complete dismantlement of the nuclear weapons program. [12]
  • South Africa still holds several hundred kilograms of HEU in a central facility under IAEA safeguards (approximately 430 to 580kg as of 2004). [13]

Nuclear Weapons Policies

  • The apartheid government developed a three-stage deterrence strategy in 1978, fearing a direct invasion or an invasion of South African-controlled Namibia by Soviet-backed forces. [14]
  • The departure of Cuban forces from Angola, Namibia's independence, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union enabled South Africa to abandon its nuclear weapons program in 1989. [15] Isolated from the global economy, the government also recognized that South Africa would benefit more from giving up its nuclear weapons program than maintaining it. [16]
  • Following the dismantlement of South Africa's nuclear weapons, the domestic 1993 Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction Act committed South Africa to abstain from developing nuclear weapons. [17]The apartheid government developed a three-stage deterrence strategy in 1978, fearing a direct invasion or an invasion of South African-controlled Namibia by Soviet-backed forces. [14]
  • The departure of Cuban forces from Angola, Namibia's independence, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union enabled South Africa to abandon its nuclear weapons program in 1989. [15] Isolated from the global economy, the government also recognized that South Africa would benefit more from giving up its nuclear weapons program than maintaining it. [16]
  • Following the dismantlement of South Africa's nuclear weapons, the domestic 1993 Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction Act committed South Africa to abstain from developing nuclear weapons. [17]

Disarmament and Treaty Commitments

Sources:
[1] Roy E. Horton, III, "Out of (South) Africa: Pretoria's Nuclear Weapons Experience," INSS Occassional Paper 27, Counterproliferation Series, August 1999, www.usafa.edu.
[2] J.W de Villiers, Roger Jardine, Mitchell Reiss, "Why South Africa Gave Up the Bomb," Foreign Affairs, November/December 1993, www.lexisnexis.com.
[3] International Atomic Energy Agency, "The Denuclearization of Africa (GC(XXXVII)/RES/577)," Report by the Director General, 9 September 1993, www.iaea.org.
[4] David Albright, "South Africa's Secret Nuclear Weapons," Institute for Science and International Security, 1 May 1994, www.isis-online.org.
[5] International Atomic Energy Agency, "The Denuclearization of Africa (GC(XXXVII)/RES/577)," Report by the Director General, 9 September 1993, www.iaea.org.
[6] David Albright, "South Africa's Secret Nuclear Weapons," Institute for Science and International Security, 1 May 1994, www.isis-online.org.
[7] Department for Disarmament Affairs, Report of the Secretary General, "South Africa's Nuclear-Tipped Ballistic Missile Capability," United Nations, September 1991, www.un.org; "RSA-3" Encyclopedia Astronautica, www.astronautix.com.
[8] Joseph Cirincione, Jon B. Wolfsthal, Miriam Rajkumar, "South Africa," in Deadly Arsenals (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005), pp. 407-418.
[9] David Albright, "South Africa's Secret Nuclear Weapons," Institute for Science and International Security, 1 May 1994, www.isis-online.org.
[10] Adolf von Baeckmann, Garry Dillon, Demetrius Perricos, "Nuclear Verification in South Africa," IAEA Bulletin, 1995, pp. 42-48, www.iaea.org.
[11] Adolf von Baeckmann, Garry Dillon, Demetrius Perricos, "Nuclear Verification in South Africa," IAEA Bulletin, 1995, pp. 42-48, www.iaea.org.
[12] Adolf von Baeckmann, Garry Dillon, Demetrius Perricos, "Nuclear Verification in South Africa," IAEA Bulletin, 1995, pp. 42-48, www.iaea.org.
[13] David Albright and Kimberly Kramer, "Fissile Material: Stockpiles Still Growing," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 60(6), November 2004, pp. 14-16.
[14] Roy E. Horton, III, "Out of (South) Africa: Pretoria's Nuclear Weapons Experience," INSS Occassional Paper 27, Counterproliferation Series, August 1999, www.usafa.edu.
[15] "South Africa: Past Nuclear Policies," Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, November 2006, archives.sipri.org.
[16] J.W de Villiers, Roger Jardine, Mitchell Reiss, "Why South Africa Gave Up the Bomb," Foreign Affairs, November/December 1993, www.lexisnexis.com.
[17] "South Africa: Past Nuclear Policies," Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, November 2006, archives.sipri.org.
[18] Status of the Treaty: Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, disarmament.un.org.
[19] Joseph Cirincione, Jon B. Wolfsthal, Miriam Rajkumar, "South Africa," in Deadly Arsenals (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005), pp. 407-418.
[20] Status of Signature and Ratification, CTBTO: Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, www.ctbto.org.
[21] South African Department of Foreign Affairs, "Communique on Foreign-Ministerial-Level Meeting of the New Agenda Coalition in New York," 23 September 1999, www.info.gov.za.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

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