Nuclear Disarmament United States
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Nuclear Disarmament United States
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Arsenal and Missile Types
NPT Nuclear Weapons State
Total Stockpile: ~3,708 weapons
- Deployed weapons: ~1,744
- Reserve weapons: ~1,964
Retired: Retired weapons awaiting dismantlement: ~1,720
Key Weapon Systems
- 400 Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)
- 240 Submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs)
- 107 Strategic bombers
Capabilities and Developments
Military Fissile Material Stockpile
- Plutonium: 87.7 tons
- Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU): 472 tons
Commitments and Policies
Disarmament and Commitments to Reduce Arsenal Size
- Legal obligation to pursue global disarmament under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
- Under the New START treaty that entered into force on 5 February 2011, the United States and Russia agreed to reduce their deployed strategic warheads to no more than 1,550 each; to deploy no more than 700 ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers; and to limit ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and heavy bombers to no more than 800.
- As of 2022, the U.S. appears to be in compliance with its New START commitments. The U.S. has not reduced its total inventory of strategic launchers since 2017, but it remains in compliance with the limits of the treaty.
- Agreed with Russia to extend the New START treaty for 5 years, until February 5, 2026. Stated its readiness to negotiate follow-on to New START.
- Dismantled 11,683 nuclear warheads from FY 1994 through 2020.
- Reduced from the largest U.S. stockpile of 31,255 warheads in 1967 to the current stockpile of 3,708 deployed and reserved warheads.
- U.S. official policy is to pursue a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament to achieve a nuclear-weapons-free world.
- Has not signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
- Signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in September 1996 but has yet to ratify the treaty.
- The United States has stated its support of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).
Nuclear Weapons Policy
- Observed nuclear testing moratorium since 1992.
- Signed the CTBT in 1996 but has yet to ratify the treaty.
- Biden Administration supports ratification of the CTBT.
- Ratified the PTBT in 1963 (banning nuclear tests in atmosphere, outer space, and under water).
Use of Nuclear Weapons
- 2022 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) maintains U.S. need for nuclear weapons as a deterrent with the goal of reducing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategy.
- Will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against NPT Non-nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) that are in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.
- Retains first-use option.
- 2022 NPR states that the U.S. would consider the use of nuclear weapons only in “extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its Allies and partners.”
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- The positioning of military forces – conventional and/or nuclear – in conjunction with military planning.
- Dismantlement: Taking apart a weapon, facility, or other item so that it is no longer functional.
- 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 Bomber
- Strategic Bomber: A long-range aircraft designed to drop large amounts of explosive power—either conventional or nuclear—on enemy territory.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: 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.
- 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.
- Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT)
- The PTBT: Also known as the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water prohibits nuclear weapons tests "or any other nuclear explosion" in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water. While the treaty does not ban tests underground, it does prohibit nuclear explosions in this environment if they cause "radioactive debris to be present outside the territorial limits of the State under whose jurisdiction or control" the explosions were conducted. The treaty is of unlimited duration. For additional information, see the PTBT.
- 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).
- Nonproliferation: Measures to prevent the spread of biological, chemical, and/or nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. See entry for Proliferation.
- The introduction of nuclear weapons, or other weapons of mass destruction, into a conflict. In agreeing to a "no-first-use" policy, a country states that it will not use nuclear weapons first, but only under retaliatory circumstances. See entry for No-First-Use
- Shannon Bugos, “New START at a Glance: Fact Sheet,” Arms Control Association, last reviewed April 2022, www.armscontrol.org.
- International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, “United States,” www.icanw.org.
- International Panel on Fissile Materials, “Countries: United States,” last reviewed May 2, 2022, https://fissilematerials.org.
- Daryl Kimball, “Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, last reviewed June 2018, www.armscontrol.org.
- Daryl Kimball, “The Status of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Signatories and Ratifiers,” Arms Control Association, last reviewed July 2020, www.armscontrol.org.
- Hans Kristensen and Adam Mount, “Nuclear Posture Review,” Federation of American Scientists, updated February 6, 2018, https://fas.org.
- Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda, “United States nuclear weapons, 2021,”
- Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,
- January 26, 2021, https://fas.org.
- Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda, “United States nuclear weapons, 2022,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, October 2022, www.tandfonline.com.
- Nagasaki University, “Global Inventory of Separated Plutonium,” Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, last reviewed 2019, www.recna.nagasaki-u.ac.jp.
- Barack Obama, “Remarks By President Barack Obama,” Prague, April 5, 2009, Obama White House Archives, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov.
- Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, “Nuclear Testing,” www.ctbto.org.
- U.S. Department of Defense, “2022 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America, Including the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review and the 2022 Missile Defense Review,” October 2022, https://media.defense.gov.
- U.S. Department of State, “Report of the United States of America Pursuant to Actions 5, 20, 21 of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Final Document,” Reaching Critical Will, April 27, 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
- U.S. Department of State, “Transparency in the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile,” October 5, 2021, www.state.gov.
- U.S. Department of State, “Remarks to the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty,” remarks by Ambassador Bonnie Denise Jenkins, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, UN Headquarters, September 23, 2021, www.state.gov.
- United Nations, “Treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water,” https://treaties.un.org.