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Overview of the Nuclear Disarmament Resource Collection

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Overview of the Nuclear Disarmament Resource Collection

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Introduction

More than seven decades after their development and use during World War II, nuclear weapons continue to be the basis for several states’ national security policies. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) prohibits non-nuclear weapon state parties from developing nuclear weapons. However, the NPT exempts five de jure nuclear weapon states (NWS) (France, the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States) from this ban. These five states had tested nuclear weapons before the treaty was negotiated in 1968. This “exemption” is, however, countered with a legal obligation in Article VI of the NPT for the five nuclear weapon states to fully disarm. Three other nuclear armed states—India, Israel, and Pakistan—have never joined the NPT, but possess nuclear weapons. North Korea also possesses nuclear weapons, but unlike India, Israel, and Pakistan, was previously a member of the NPT obliged not to develop nuclear weapons. North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003, and has tested nuclear devices multiple times since 2006 despite international condemnation and sanctions. 1

Approximately 14,900 nuclear warheads remain in the arsenals of the nine states, roughly 4,000 of which are actively deployed. 2 Five European NATO countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey) also host approximately 150 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons as part of NATO’s extended deterrence mission. 3 The United States has reduced its globally deployed tactical nuclear weapons, but tensions between Russia and NATO make further near-term reductions unlikely. 4 Large stockpiles of fissile material, including directly weapons-useable highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium, also still exists globally. 5

The majority of countries in the world—the non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS) — are committed to remaining free of nuclear weapons, including some countries that once possessed nuclear weapons. South Africa announced in July 1993 that it had developed a small arsenal before destroying it in 1991 in order to join the NPT as a NNWS. Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine returned large arsenals of nuclear warheads and associated delivery systems inherited from the former Soviet Union to Russia in the mid-1990s, subsequently joining the NPT as NNWS.

Other countries, including Brazil and Argentina, considered acquiring nuclear weapons, but abandoned their programs before accepting binding restraints on nuclear weapons development. Brazil and Argentina decided to join the NPT in 1994 and 1995, respectively, as NNWS.

Many NNWS are party to nuclear weapon-free zones (NWFZs), and have thereby accepted additional legal obligations not to develop, manufacture, stockpile, acquire, possess, or control any nuclear explosive devices on their territories. Today, more than 110 countries belong to NWFZ treaties. 6 Nuclear weapon-free zones are in force in South America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, Africa, Central Asia, and Mongolia. 7

On 7 July 2017, a United Nations conference adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first international treaty to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, including banning the development, acquisition, test, use, threat of use and possession of nuclear weapons. Although no nuclear weapons possessing states have signed the treaty, the treaty’s passage is a significant development in disarmament politics. 8

Nuclear Disarmament and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)

The NPT prohibits nuclear weapon states from transferring nuclear weapons to, or assisting NNWS in the development of nuclear weapons. At the same time, NNWS are legally required not to receive, manufacture, or acquire nuclear weapons, and place all their peaceful use nuclear materials and facilities under IAEA safeguards. 9

Article VI requires all of its state parties to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” 10 The article does not specify a time frame or verification mechanism for disarmament, but it places a legal obligation on states with nuclear weapons to stop the nuclear arms race and to eventually disarm. As such, this obligation is one of the three main “pillars” of the treaty, the other two being nuclear nonproliferation and the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

At the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, state parties agreed to indefinitely extend the treaty based on a package of decisions that included Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament. This package called for a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), negotiations on a verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, and for “systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally.” The package also included the Resolution on the Middle East, which calls for all states in the Middle East to accede to the NPT (i.e., Israel) and for action to be taken towards the “establishment of an effectively verifiable Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction.” 11 It is likely that it would not have been possible to indefinitely extend the NPT without the concurrent commitment to this program of action.

Further building on this action plan, the 2000 NPT Review Conference, laid out 13 practical steps towards nuclear disarmament, including an “unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapons states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.” 12 This “unequivocal undertaking” was significant in that it re-committed NWS to their Article VI obligations, and for the first time in the NPT’s history, the NWS agreed to “the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”

The successes of the 1995 and 2000 NPT Review Conferences were not repeated in 2005. State parties failed to adopt further substantive recommendations. 13 The failure epitomized the decade’s limited progress on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. However, the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States heralded a new era for U.S. engagement in multilateral disarmament diplomacy. In the lead-up to the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the United States signed the New START Treaty with Russia, diminished the role of its nuclear arsenal in its new Nuclear Posture Review, and held the first in a series of Nuclear Security Summits. These initiatives demonstrated a commitment by the United States to make progress toward the ultimate goal of a “world free of nuclear weapons” as stated in President Obama’s April 2009 Prague Speech. 14

Widely considered a success, the 2010 NPT Review Conference’s final outcome document included a 64-item action plan covering the NPT’s three pillars and a commitment to implement the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East. Many NNWS, and mainly the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) countries, strongly supported the idea of negotiating a nuclear weapons convention that would delegitimize nuclear weapons and eliminate them within a clear timeframe. Although the NWS opposed these ideas, the final document noted the Secretary General’s five-point proposal for nuclear disarmament, including consideration of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention. 15 The action plan set clear benchmarks for the implementation of Article VI.

The 2015 NPT Review Conference was unsuccessful in producing a final outcome document. The most contentious issues were nuclear disarmament and discussions of a Middle East WMD-Free Zone. The Review Conference highlighted deep divisions between the NWS and NNWS. The discussion on the humanitarian approach to nuclear disarmament drew a wide range of support, but was also a source of tension and disagreement. While disarmament issues prompted the most contentious debates among states parties, in the end, the disagreement over convening a conference on a Middle East WMD-Free Zone prevented the Review Conference from adopting a final document. 16

Has Any Progress Been Made Towards Disarmament?

Gauging progress towards nuclear disarmament is complicated because shifts in numbers of weapons and the overarching policies governing these weapons are relevant. In terms of quantitative reductions, measurable steps have been undertaken by key NWS both unilaterally and bilaterally. The NWS collectively reduced the size of their nuclear arsenals from over 70,000 warheads at the height of the Cold War to approximately 14,200 by 2018. 17 These reductions have been carried out unilaterally by at least four NWS, as well as through bilateral legally binding arrangements between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russian Federation.

The United States has reduced its stockpile by about 87% from a Cold War peak of 31,255 warheads in 1967, to the current stockpile of approximately 4,000 operational and reserved warheads. 18 While France has reduced its arsenal unilaterally, and the United Kingdom announced ambitious reductions to its arsenal in 2010, both states plan to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent for the foreseeable future. 19 China is the only NWS that appears to be increasing its nuclear stockpile, albeit slowly. 20 Experts estimate that India and Pakistan have been rapidly expanding their nuclear arsenals and capabilities. 21

Bilateral Efforts

There is an extensive precedent for bilateral U.S.-USSR/Russia arms control. Since 1969, the United States and Russia have been limiting/reducing their strategic nuclear arsenals limiting the number of ICBMs and SLBMs, leaving both nations to increase numbers of both bombers and warheads. SALT I also produced the ABM treaty in 1972, which banned nationwide strategic missile defenses (the U.S. withdrew from the ABM treaty in 2002). 22 Following the Cold War, START I (enacted in 1994), placed limitations on the numbers of deployed launchers and, for the first time, warheads. While both START II and III failed to materialize, the United States and Russia negotiated the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) in 2002. SORT provided for a significant reduction of deployed strategic nuclear warheads in each arsenal to 1,700 – 2,200. However, SORT was often criticized for having a weak verification regime that relied on the START I regime. Fears that this treaty and the START agreement would expire without anything to fill the void were allayed with the signing of the New START Treaty in April 2010, and its subsequent entry into force in February 2011. New START limits the United States and Russia to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 launchers by 2018. 23 Both the United States and Russia met those limits on schedule, according to a February 2018 information exchange. 24

New START expires in 2021, and tensions between the U.S. and Russia complicate negotiations for further strategic reductions. 25 Both countries are pursuing new types of weapons: at a speech in March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced several new nuclear weapon delivery systems, including an intercontinental cruise missile, while U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review called for lower-yield warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles and submarine-launched cruise missiles. 26

Multilateral Efforts

Attempts at negotiating legally binding multilateral nuclear disarmament treaties have proven challenging. The United Nations established the Conference on Disarmament (CD) as the sole multilateral disarmament-negotiating forum in 1979. The 65-member, consensus-ruled body has only negotiated one treaty related to nuclear disarmament over the past 30 years, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996. Widely considered to be a milestone towards nuclear disarmament, the CTBT would prohibit all nuclear testing. Nineteen years after it opened for signature the CTBT has yet to enter into force. Entry into force of the CTBT requires ratification by all states with nuclear power reactors and/or research reactors (in 1996), known as Annex II states. Eight of these countries, including the United States and China, have yet to ratify. 27

Since the conclusion of CTBT negotiations in 1996, the CD has been locked in a perpetual stalemate. Negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) have not commenced even 18 years after agreement on the Shannon Mandate (a mandate adopted by the CD in 1995 that proposed the negotiation of a treaty banning the production of fissile material 28). Many consider an FMCT ripe for negotiation and the next logical step toward nuclear disarmament. In 2009, CD member states agreed upon a program of work, CD/1864, but were unable to implement it due to procedural blockages. 29 Over the past three years Pakistan has emerged as the single detractor, objecting on the basis of national security and substance. Pakistan fears its national security will be at risk if its rival and neighbor, India, is left with a larger existing fissile material stockpile, and therefore has the capability to continue to produce nuclear weapons after the implementation of the treaty. 30 Pakistan argues that an FMCT would not address existing stockpiles of fissile materials, and would therefore further nonproliferation but not disarmament. 31

Pakistan’s conceptual argument taps into the longstanding confrontation between the nuclear weapon “haves and have nots.” Paradoxically, as Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) members, Pakistan and India vocally support nuclear disarmament while simultaneously increasing their nuclear arsenals and delivery systems. Many NAM members and other NNWS believe that the NWS are not fully meeting their Article VI obligation. 32 Apart from the bilateral negotiations on New START, there have been no negotiations or efforts on disarmament measures since the conclusion of the CTBT negotiations. Moreover, unilateral and U.S.-Russia reductions have been perceived by many NNWS as nothing more than efforts to streamline existing nuclear arsenals, rather than steps towards complete nuclear disarmament. Perhaps most notably, all nuclear weapon states are pursuing some degree of nuclear modernization. 33

Other Significant Efforts to Promote Nuclear Disarmament

Certain national governments and members of civil society have cooperated on initiatives to promote progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons. A progressive approach to promote nuclear disarmament was taken by the New Agenda Coalition (NAC). In June 1998, foreign ministers from Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Slovenia, and Sweden (the latter two eventually withdrawing), issued a statement calling for a new nuclear disarmament agenda, “Toward a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World: Time for a New Agenda.” The NAC played an instrumental role in convincing the NWS to agree to the thirteen practical steps towards nuclear disarmament in the final document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference.

Around the same time, the Middle Powers Initiative was established to support NNWS efforts to reduce and eliminate worldwide nuclear weapons arsenals. Following the failure of the 2005 NPT Review Conference, the Middle Powers Initiative launched the “Article VI Forum” in October 2005 to examine the legal, technical, and political requirements to fulfill nonproliferation and disarmament commitments for a nuclear weapon-free world. 34

Several independent international commissions have played an important role by providing expert recommendations in the form of nuclear disarmament action plans. These commissions include the 1996 Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons sponsored by the Australian government, the 1998 Tokyo Forum for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament sponsored by the Japanese government, and the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Commission.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission was established in 2003 amidst stagnation on nuclear disarmament and serious challenges facing the nuclear nonproliferation regime. It issued a report that concluded “the nuclear weapon states no longer seem to take their commitment to nuclear disarmament seriously-even though this was an essential part of the NPT bargain, both at the treaty’s birth in 1968 and when it was extended indefinitely in 1995.” 35 The report offered several recommendations for multilateral cooperative actions to counter this trend, including a call to adhere to disarmament obligations, ratify the CTBT and FMCT, and change nuclear postures.

An initiative undertaken by four former high- ranking U.S. officials — George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn — created significant momentum for a world free of nuclear weapons. The four statesmen originally published their proposals in a 4 January 2007 Wall Street Journal op-ed, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” followed a year later by another op-ed, “Toward a Nuclear Weapon Free World.” This initiative came at a critical juncture, with the international community facing new and ongoing nuclear threats, when no new significant arms control reductions between the United States and Russia were being pursued. 36 The four statesmen called for U.S. leadership and global cooperation on nonproliferation.

In 2008, Japan and Australia established the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) to reinvigorate international nonproliferation and disarmament efforts and to help shape a consensus at the then-upcoming 2010 NPT Review Conference. Japan and Australia joined together again in September 2010 to create the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI). The group consisted of twelve countries (Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates) that aimed to facilitate the implementation of the measures from the consensus document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference. 37 In April 2014, the NPDI adopted the “Hiroshima Declaration” that contained concrete proposals for both disarmament and nonproliferation, including calls to negotiate the FMCT, increase nuclear safety and safeguards, encourage the entry into force of the CTBT, and increase transparency in disarmament reporting. 38 However, as the NPDI consists mainly of U.S. allies protected by U.S. extended nuclear deterrence, its disarmament approach is often considered more moderate than the ones of the NAC or NAM that call for delegitimizing nuclear weapons.

The Humanitarian Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament

The humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons has increasingly drawn attention. The 2010 NPT Review Conference final document expressed concern about the humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. 39 A coalition of state parties and civil society groups continued to push this issue, resulting in three international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Oslo, Nayarit, and Vienna, where discussions about negotiating a prohibition against nuclear weapons were held. 40 The third conference in Vienna produced the Humanitarian Pledge (formerly the “Austrian Pledge“), which over 100 countries have supported. 41 The statement emphasized that nuclear weapons should never be used again “under any circumstances.” 42 The nuclear weapon states did not participate in the first two conferences, but the United States and United Kingdom sent representatives to attend the third conference in Vienna. 43 Another group of state parties, mainly consisting of NNWS who rely on U.S. extended nuclear deterrence has pushed an alternative humanitarian pledge that is less extensive. 44

In response to the humanitarian initiative, the five NPT-recognized NWS initiated the so-called “P5 step,” affirming that they intend to continue seeking progress on the step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament as opposed to aiming to eliminate nuclear weapons within a specific timeframe. 45 The P-5 states have held seven conferences to increase dialogue and transparency in disarmament progress. For that purpose, at the 2015 Review Conference, each of the P5 states submitted its national report and completed a first edition of a glossary of key nuclear terms. However, most of the NNWS, especially NAM countries and civil society members, are critical about the P5 process since it is generally perceived that this process has not contributed to the actual reduction of nuclear weapons. 46

Since the CD remains stalemated and the five NPT-recognized NWS have continually refused to participate in other multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament, the international community’s ability to advance nuclear disarmament is highly limited. 47

The important role of disarmament and nonproliferation education in promoting and facilitating nuclear disarmament must also be recognized, as evinced by the adoption of UN General Assembly Resolution 57/60 in November 2002, which reaffirms the need to support education in the field and include the topic in future meetings. 48 Education and training will remain vital to the success of future disarmament initiatives.

Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

After the failure of states parties to the 2015 NPT Review Conference to reach consensus, many countries sought to press forward the nuclear disarmament agenda in the United Nations General Assembly. Over the course of three sessions in 2016, an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) of states recommended that the UN General Assembly convene a conference in 2017 to “negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination.” 49 On 27 October 2016, The First Committee of the UN General Assembly voted to adopt the resolution to convene the nuclear ban conference, and the full UN General Assembly followed suit on 23 December 2016. 50

On 7 July 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted by a recorded vote of 122 in favor to one against (the Netherlands), with one abstention (Singapore). 51 Proponents of the treaty believe that it can strengthen norms against nuclear weapons and stigmatize such weapons. Opponents, including nuclear possessing states and states under extended nuclear deterrence, boycotted the negotiations (with the exception of the Netherlands). NWS are sharply critical of the treaty process; France, the UK, and the U.S. assert that the treaty deepens the division between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, and jointly stated that they do not “intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.” 52 Russia used similar language, claiming the treaty would “have a destabilizing effect on the nonproliferation regime.” 53 However, the majority of the international community welcomed the adoption of the treaty as a significant achievement. In recognition of civil society’s role and grass-roots activism in the treaty’s passage, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its “ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of nuclear weapons.” 54 As part of an effort to build bridges between parties with opposing views, the Japanese government established the “Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament,” and submitted its recommendations to the second session of the PrepCom for the 2020 NPT Review Conference. 55 On 24 October 2020, Honduras became the 50th state to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, meeting the threshold for the treaty’s entry into force 90 days later on 22 January 2021. 56

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Glossary

Nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon: A device that releases nuclear energy in an explosive manner as the result of nuclear chain reactions involving fission, or fission and fusion, of atomic nuclei. Such weapons are also sometimes referred to as atomic bombs (a fission-based weapon); or boosted fission weapons (a fission-based weapon deriving a slightly higher yield from a small fusion reaction); or hydrogen bombs/thermonuclear weapons (a weapon deriving a significant portion of its energy from fusion reactions).
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS)
Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS): Under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), NNWS are states that had not detonated a nuclear device prior to 1 January 1967, and who agree in joining the NPT to refrain from pursuing nuclear weapons (that is, all state parties to the NPT other than the United States, the Soviet Union/Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China).
Nuclear-weapon states (NWS)
NWS: As defined by Article IX, paragraph 3 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the five states that detonated a nuclear device prior to 1 January 1967 (China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Coincidentally, these five states are also permanent members of the UN Security Council. States that acquired and/or tested nuclear weapons subsequently are not internationally recognized as nuclear-weapon states.
Disarmament
Though there is no agreed-upon legal definition of what disarmament entails within the context of international agreements, a general definition is the process of reducing the quantity and/or capabilities of military weapons and/or military forces.
Sanctions
Punitive measures, for example economic in nature, implemented in response to a state's violation of its international obligations.
Deployment
The positioning of military forces – conventional and/or nuclear – in conjunction with military planning.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance that was formed in 1949 to help deter the Soviet Union from attacking Europe. The Alliance is based on the North Atlantic Treaty, which was signed in Washington on 4 April 1949. The treaty originally created an alliance of 10 European and two North American independent states, but today NATO has 28 members who have committed to maintaining and developing their defense capabilities, to consulting on issues of mutual security concern, and to the principle of collective self-defense. NATO is also engaged in out-of-area security operations, most notably in Afghanistan, where Alliance forces operate alongside other non-NATO countries as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). For additional information, see NATO.
Tactical nuclear weapons
Short-range nuclear weapons, such as artillery shells, bombs, and short-range missiles, deployed for use in battlefield operations.
Deterrence
The actions of a state or group of states to dissuade a potential adversary from initiating an attack or conflict through the credible threat of retaliation. To be effective, a deterrence strategy should demonstrate to an adversary that the costs of an attack would outweigh any potential gains. See entries for Extended deterrence and nuclear deterrence.
Fissile material
Fissile material: A type of fissionable material capable of sustaining a chain reaction by undergoing fission upon the absorption of low-energy (or thermal) neutrons. Uranium-235, Plutonium-239, and Uranium-233 are the most prominently discussed fissile materials for peaceful and nuclear weapons purposes.
Weapons-grade material
Weapons-grade material: Refers to the nuclear materials that are most suitable for the manufacture of nuclear weapons, e.g., uranium (U) enriched to 90 percent U-235 or plutonium (Pu) that is primarily composed of Pu-239 and contains less than 7% Pu-240. Crude nuclear weapons (i.e., improvised nuclear devices), could be fabricated from lower-grade materials.
Highly enriched uranium (HEU)
Highly enriched uranium (HEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of more than 20% of the isotope U-235. Achieved via the process of enrichment. See entry for enriched uranium.
Plutonium (Pu)
Plutonium (Pu): A transuranic element with atomic number 94, produced when uranium is irradiated in a reactor. It is used primarily in nuclear weapons and, along with uranium, in mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. Plutonium-239, a fissile isotope, is the most suitable isotope for use in nuclear weapons.
Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ)
NWFZ: A geographical area in which nuclear weapons may not legally be built, possessed, transferred, deployed, or tested.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
IAEA: Founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is an autonomous international organization in the United Nations system. The Agency’s mandate is the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, technical assistance in this area, and verification that nuclear materials and technology stay in peaceful use. Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA. The IAEA consists of three principal organs: the General Conference (of member states); the Board of Governors; and the Secretariat. For additional information, see the IAEA.
Safeguards
Safeguards: A system of accounting, containment, surveillance, and inspections aimed at verifying that states are in compliance with their treaty obligations concerning the supply, manufacture, and use of civil nuclear materials. The term frequently refers to the safeguards systems maintained by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in all nuclear facilities in non-nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT. IAEA safeguards aim to detect the diversion of a significant quantity of nuclear material in a timely manner. However, the term can also refer to, for example, a bilateral agreement between a supplier state and an importer state on the use of a certain nuclear technology.

See entries for Full-scope safeguards, information-driven safeguards, Information Circular 66, and Information Circular 153.
Nonproliferation
Nonproliferation: Measures to prevent the spread of biological, chemical, and/or nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. See entry for Proliferation.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The CTBT: Opened for signature in 1996 at the UN General Assembly, the CTBT prohibits all nuclear testing if it enters into force. The treaty establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to ensure the implementation of its provisions and verify compliance through a global monitoring system upon entry into force. Pending the treaty’s entry into force, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is charged with establishing the International Monitoring System (IMS) and promoting treaty ratifications. CTBT entry into force is contingent on ratification by 44 Annex II states. For additional information, see the CTBT.
Thirteen Practical Steps
The Thirteen Practical Steps toward nuclear disarmament were adopted as part of the Final Document at the 2000 NPT Review Conference. The steps outlined ways in which Article VI, the nuclear disarmament provision of the NPT, could be implemented.
Multilateral
Multilateral: Negotiations, agreements or treaties that are concluded among three or more parties, countries, etc.
New START
New START: A treaty between the United States and Russia on further limitations and reductions of strategic offensive weapons, signed on 8 April 2010, which entered into force on 5 February 2011. Under the New START provisions, the two sides have to reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads and the number of deployed strategic delivery vehicles within seven years of the treaty’s entry into force. The treaty’s verification measures are based on the earlier verification system created under START I. New START supersedes the Moscow Treaty, and its duration is 10 years, with an option of extension for up to five years. See entry for Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and Treaty of Moscow. For additional information, see New START.
Nuclear Posture Review
Under a mandate from the U.S. Congress, the Department of Defense regularly conducts a comprehensive Nuclear Posture Review to set forth the direction of U.S. nuclear weapons policies. To date, the United States has completed four Nuclear Posture Reviews (in 1994, 2001, 2010, and 2018).
Nuclear Security Summits
Nuclear Security Summits: A series of international summits that emerged out of U.S. President Barack Obama's call in April 2009 to "secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years." The summit process focuses on strengthening international cooperation to prevent nuclear terrorism, thwarting nuclear materials trafficking, and enhancing nuclear materials security.
Prague Speech
Refers to the speech given by U.S. President Barack Obama in April 2009 at Hradcany Square, Prague, the Czech Republic. In the speech, Obama stated "America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." He noted that “the United States will take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons.” The Prague speech served as the framework for the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and subsequent U.S. arms control efforts.
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was formed during the Cold War as an organization of states that did not seek to formally align themselves with either the United States or the Soviet Union, but sought to remain independent or neutral. NAM identifies the right of independent judgment, the struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism, and the use of moderation in relations with all big powers as the three basic elements that have influenced its approach. For additional information, see the NAM.
Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons as well as Other Weapons of Mass Destruction
Middle East NWFZ: The concept of an NWFZ in the Middle East was first introduced by Iran and Egypt in 1974. In April 1990, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak proposed the establishment in the Middle East of a zone free of all types of weapons of mass destruction. In the "Resolution on the Middle East" adopted at the 1995 NPT Review Conference, the concept of a Middle East Zone Free of WMD was endorsed by all NPT state parties. The resolution calls on all regional states to join the NPT, place their nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, and work towards the establishment of a Middle East WMD-free zone. At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, in light of the minimal progress made since 1995, Arab states pushed for tangible steps toward the WMD-free zone. The result was a resolution calling for a meeting on the establishment of a Middle East WMD-free zone in 2012, to be attended by all states of the region. The meeting was subsequently postponed due to the parties' failure to convene in 2012.
Bilateral
Bilateral: Negotiations, arrangements, agreements, or treaties that affect or are between two parties—and generally two countries.
Arms control
Arms control: Measures, typically bilateral or multilateral, taken to control or reduce weapon systems or armed forces. Such limitations or reductions are typically taken to increase stability between countries, reducing the likelihood or intensity of an arms race. They might affect the size, type, configuration, production, or performance characteristics of a weapon system, or the size, organization, equipment, deployment, or employment of armed forces. Arms control measures typically include monitoring and verification provisions, and may also include provisions to increase transparency between the parties. Also see entry for Confidence and Security Building Measures, Transparency Measures.
Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)
Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM): A ballistic missile with a range greater than 5,500 km. See entry for ballistic missile.
Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
SLBM: A ballistic missile that is carried on and launched from a submarine.
Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT I & II)
Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT I & II): A series of discussions between the Soviet Union and the United States aimed at limiting missile systems and other strategic armaments. The first round of talks (SALT I) was held from 1969 to 1972, and concluded with the 20 May 1971 signing of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the Interim Agreement limiting strategic offensive arms. SALT II was held from 1972 to 1979. The SALT II Treaty was signed on 18 June 1979, but was not ratified by either country, although both committed to abiding by its limits. For additional information, see the entries for SALT I and SALT II.
Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty
The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union on May 26, 1972, and entered into force on October 3, 1972, constrained strategic missile defenses to a total of 200 launchers and interceptors per country, which were divided between two widely separated deployment areas. These restrictions were intended to prevent the establishment of a nationwide defense, and the creation of a base for deploying such a defense. The treaty was modified in 1974, reducing the permitted deployment areas to one per country. The United States withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002. For additional information, see the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I, II, & III)
Refers to negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russian Federation, held between 1982 and 1993 to limit and reduce the numbers of strategic offensive nuclear weapons in each country’s nuclear arsenal. The talks culminated in the 1991 START I Treaty, which entered into force in December 1994, and the 1993 START II Treaty. Although START II was ratified by the two countries, it never entered into force. In 1997, U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin discussed the possibility of a START III treaty to make further weapons reductions, but negotiations resulted in a stalemate. Following the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 2002, Russia declared START II void. START I expired on 5 December 2009, and was followed by the New START treaty. See entries for New START and the Trilateral Statement. For additional information, see the entries for START I, START II, and New START
Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT)
SORT: Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, also called the Treaty of Moscow on 24 May 2002. The treaty stated that both the United States and Russia would reduce the numbers of their deployed nuclear warheads to between 1700 and 2200 within the next ten years. It established a Bilateral Implementation Commission, scheduled to meet at least twice a year, to establish procedures to verify and assist reductions. The treaty was rendered obsolete by the signing of the New START treaty in 2010. For additional information, see SORT.
New START
New START: A treaty between the United States and Russia on further limitations and reductions of strategic offensive weapons, signed on 8 April 2010, which entered into force on 5 February 2011. Under the New START provisions, the two sides have to reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads and the number of deployed strategic delivery vehicles within seven years of the treaty’s entry into force. The treaty’s verification measures are based on the earlier verification system created under START I. New START supersedes the Moscow Treaty, and its duration is 10 years, with an option of extension for up to five years. See entry for Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and Treaty of Moscow. For additional information, see New START.
Entry into force
The moment at which all provisions of a treaty are legally binding on its parties. Every treaty specifies preconditions for its entry into force. For example, the NPT specified that it would enter into force after the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union (the Depository governments) and 40 other countries ratified the treaty, an event that occurred on March 5, 1970. See entries for Signature, Ratification.
Cruise missile
An unmanned self-propelled guided vehicle that sustains flight through aerodynamic lift for most of its flight path. There are subsonic and supersonic cruise missiles currently deployed in conventional and nuclear arsenals, while conventional hypersonic cruise missiles are currently in development. These can be launched from the air, submarines, or the ground. Although they carry smaller payloads, travel at slower speeds, and cover lesser ranges than ballistic missiles, cruise missiles can be programmed to travel along customized flight paths and to evade missile defense systems.
Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
SLBM: A ballistic missile that is carried on and launched from a submarine.
Multilateral
Multilateral: Negotiations, agreements or treaties that are concluded among three or more parties, countries, etc.
Conference on Disarmament (CD)
The CD is an international forum focused on multilateral disarmament efforts. Although it reports to the UN General Assembly and has a relationship with the United Nations, it adopts its own rules of procedure and agenda, giving it some degree of independence. The CD has a permanent agenda devoted to the negotiation of disarmament issues. The CD and its predecessors have negotiated major nonproliferation and disarmament agreements such as the NPT, the BTWC, the CWC, and the CTBT. In recent years, the CD has focused on negotiating a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS); and negative security assurances. For additional information, see the CD.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The CTBT: Opened for signature in 1996 at the UN General Assembly, the CTBT prohibits all nuclear testing if it enters into force. The treaty establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to ensure the implementation of its provisions and verify compliance through a global monitoring system upon entry into force. Pending the treaty’s entry into force, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is charged with establishing the International Monitoring System (IMS) and promoting treaty ratifications. CTBT entry into force is contingent on ratification by 44 Annex II states. For additional information, see the CTBT.
Ratification
Ratification: The implementation of the formal process established by a country to legally bind its government to a treaty, such as approval by a parliament. In the United States, treaty ratification requires approval by the president after he or she has received the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate. Following ratification, a country submits the requisite legal instrument to the treaty’s depository governments Procedures to ratify a treaty follow its signature.

See entries for Entry into force and Signature.
Nuclear power plant
Nuclear power plant: A facility that generates electricity using a nuclear reactor as its heat source to provide steam to a turbine generator.
Research reactor
Research reactor: Small fission reactors designed to produce neutrons for a variety of purposes, including scientific research, training, and medical isotope production. Unlike commercial power reactors, they are not designed to generate power.
Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT)
The Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty us currently under discussion in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to end the production of weapons-usable fissile material (highly enriched uranium and plutonium) for nuclear weapons. For additional information, see the FMCT.
Nonproliferation
Nonproliferation: Measures to prevent the spread of biological, chemical, and/or nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. See entry for Proliferation.
Disarmament
Though there is no agreed-upon legal definition of what disarmament entails within the context of international agreements, a general definition is the process of reducing the quantity and/or capabilities of military weapons and/or military forces.
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was formed during the Cold War as an organization of states that did not seek to formally align themselves with either the United States or the Soviet Union, but sought to remain independent or neutral. NAM identifies the right of independent judgment, the struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism, and the use of moderation in relations with all big powers as the three basic elements that have influenced its approach. For additional information, see the NAM.
New Agenda Coalition
New Agenda Coalition: In June 1998, the foreign ministers of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa, and Sweden issued a statement calling for a new nuclear disarmament agenda. (Slovenia later withdrew from the NAC.) The NAC called for the five nuclear weapon states and the three nuclear-capable states to make an unequivocal commitment to nuclear disarmament and to begin multilateral negotiations that would lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons through a Nuclear Weapons Convention.
Thirteen Practical Steps
The Thirteen Practical Steps toward nuclear disarmament were adopted as part of the Final Document at the 2000 NPT Review Conference. The steps outlined ways in which Article VI, the nuclear disarmament provision of the NPT, could be implemented.
Middle Powers Initiative
A group of eight international NGOs that work with middle power countries including Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden for nuclear disarmament.
WMD Commission (Blix Commission)
The WMD Commission was an independent commission chaired by former IAEA Director General and Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, Hans Blix. Funded by the Swedish government, the Commission's June 2006 report attributed the stagnation in global arms control and disarmament forums to a lack of commitment to disarmament by the nuclear weapon states.
Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI)
Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI): Founded by Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates in September 2010, the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) is a ministerial-level group of states within the framework of the Nonproliferation Treaty focused on practical steps that will forward the consensus outcomes of the 2010 NPT Review Conference.
P-5
P-5: The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
United Nations General Assembly
The UN General Assembly is the largest body of the United Nations. It includes all member states, but its resolutions are not legally binding. It is responsible for much of the work of the United Nations, including controlling finances, passing resolutions, and electing non-permanent members of the Security Council. It has two subsidiary bodies dealing particularly with security and disarmament: the UN General Assembly Committee on Disarmament and International Security (First Committee); and the UN Disarmament Commission. For additional information, see the UNGA.

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