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Last Updated: August, 2018

Canada does not have nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons or relevant delivery systems, and is a member in good standing of all relevant nonproliferation treaties and regimes.

A significant producer and exporter of dual-use goods, particularly relating to civil nuclear applications, Canada also plays an active role in nonproliferation export control regimes.


Canada is a non-nuclear weapon state party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and has never had a nuclear weapons program. During the Cold War, as a member of both the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Canada hosted U.S. nuclear weapons on its soil and at its military bases in West Germany. These weapons were paired with four different delivery systems, two for NORAD and two for NATO. Between 1964 and 1971, NORAD deployed approximately 60 BOMARC surface-to-air guided missiles in Canada with 10 kiloton W40 warheads. [1] The second nuclear delivery system deployed in Canada was the Genie air-to-air missile. The Canadian CF-101 Voodoo interceptor aircraft could carry these missiles along with their 1.5 kiloton W25 warheads. [2]

Canada participated in NATO's nuclear mission in Europe between 1963 and 1984. The Canadian CF-104 Starfighter was designed to carry U.S. tactical B57 and B61 gravity bombs. Additionally, the Canadian army was trained to use the short-range surface-to-surface Honest John missile, which carried a W31 warhead. [3] The terms of a 1963 agreement between Canada and the United States stipulated that all U.S. nuclear weapons remain in the custody of qualified U.S. personnel. In order to access nuclear weapons, Canadian units had to pass the Initial Capability Inspection (ICI) given by the U.S. Air Force Inspector General. To keep nuclear weapons, Canadian units had to pass an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI). [4] Canada ended involvement with U.S. nuclear weapons in 1984. [5]

Canada has ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and is an active member in several ad hoc nonproliferation efforts, including the G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction and the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI).

Peaceful Uses

Canada has been actively involved in the peaceful applications of nuclear technology since the government established Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) in 1952. [6] AECL built the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor at Chalk River in 1957. This reactor provided much of the world's supply of molybdenum-99 for medical diagnosis and cancer treatment. [7] In March 2018, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories retired the NRU. [8] To address the resulting shortage of molybdenum-99, Canada plans to begin irradiating medical isotopes at the Darlington nuclear power plant in Ontario in 2019. [9] 

The AECL began developing the CANDU (Canadian-Deuterium-Uranium) power reactor in the late 1950s, and the first commercial CANDU reactors began operating in Ontario in 1971. All 18 of Canada’s commercial nuclear power reactors are CANDU reactors, and together they generate about 15% of Canada’s electricity. [10] Canada has exported CANDUs to 6 countries: Argentina (1); China (2); India (2); Pakistan (1); Romania (2); and South Korea (4). [11] Additionally, India has built 16 derivatives of the CANDU model.

Canada possesses 8% of the world's uranium resources, but produces roughly 22% of the uranium sold on the global market. [12] Most of this uranium comes from the McArthur River Mine in Saskatchewan, the most productive uranium mine in the world. However, in November 2017, the majority owner and operator of both the McArthur River Mine and Key Lake Mill announced a suspension in activities at these locations due to low global prices. Uranium extraction at other sites began increasing in 2014 with the opening of the Cigar Lake Mine, which produced almost half of Canada’s uranium in 2016. Given 582,500 metric tons of known uranium resources, Canada will continue to play a significant role in meeting world demand. [13] 

Canadian industry is also active in the refining and conversion processes. Cameco Corporation's refinery at Blind River is the world's largest commercial refinery, and refines both domestic and foreign U3O8 into UO3. [14] Cameco’s conversion facility at Port Hope represents a significant portion of the western world's uranium hexafluoride (UF6) conversion capacity, and is the only commercial supplier of fuel-grade natural UO2, used to fabricate fuel bundles for CANDUs around the world. [15] 85% of Canada’s uranium production is exported. [16] 


During World War II, Canada conducted research on biological warfare, studying the offensive and defensive applications of anthrax, rinderpest, and probably tularemia at Grosse Ile Island. [17] Some biological weapons testing may have occurred alongside chemical weapons testing at Canadian Forces Base Suffield in Alberta. [18]

Canada ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) on 18 September 1972. The Department of National Defence funds the Canadian Safety and Security Program to research and develop defenses against current and projected non-traditional weapons systems, including biological weapons. [19] Canada possesses a well-developed biopharmaceutical industry, and therefore continually works to mitigate dual-use risks through robust export controls and participation in the Australia Group. [20]


While Canada does not currently possess chemical weapons, it participated in allied chemical weapons research during World War II. In 1940 when the United Kingdom sought an open-air proving ground within the Commonwealth, the Canadian government displaced 100 families and set aside 1000 square miles for testing at Suffield, Alberta. [21] The United Kingdom, Canada and the United States formalized their CW collaboration in 1946, and began holding annual research conferences on offensive and defensive chemical warfare. [22] In 1947, the three governments signed the Tripartite Agreement providing each country with access to join research and mandating a rational division of labor. [23] During World War II, Canada partnered with the U.S. to test mustard gas munitions on San José Island, Panama. In 2017, the remaining eight chemical munitions from that operation were destroyed under the supervision of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). [24] 

As a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) Canada donated $18.7 million CAD ($14.3 million USD) to the OPCW for chemical weapons disposal efforts in Syria between 2012 and 2015. [25] In January 2018, Canada joined the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, a French initiative to encourage international political commitments against the use of CW. [26] Canada is also a member of the Australia Group (AG). 


Canada does not have a missile development program, and has shown no interest in pursuing an indigenous missile capability. Canada's limited missile arsenal for delivering conventional weapons is imported from the United States. These missiles include RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles deployed on Iroquois class destroyers; SM-2 Block III (RIM-66) missiles; and RIM-162 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles (SAM) deployed on the Halifax-class Frigate. [27] In October 2014 the Canadian government reportedly approved an $800 million purchase of next-generation Sea Sparrow missiles. [28] Canada also has medium-range air-to-air AIM-120 missiles, and was approved to purchase the AIM-120D variant by the U.S. State Department in November 2017. The missiles will be used on the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18/CF-188 Boeing Hornets. [29] Canada has indicated some interest in long-range rocket artillery systems such as the HIMARs and Lockheed Martin's MLRS. [30] A member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), Canada is committed to preventing the spread of missiles and related technologies.

In 2005 Canada announced that it would not participate in the U.S. missile defense plan, citing concerns over the viability of the system and program costs. [31] In 2015, Canada purchased the same radar technology utilized in Israel’s Iron Dome. [32] The medium- range radar system can track short to medium-range missiles, as well as aircraft, cruise missiles and unmanned air vehicles. [33] Canada is also an active member of NORAD, the primary command responsible for missile launch detection, validation, and warning. [34] In August 2004 Canada requested a change to the NORAD agreement to allow it to play a greater role in missile defense warning, so while Canada would not participate in any future missile interceptions, it does actively participate in warning-related efforts. [35]

[1] John Clearwater, Canadian Nuclear Weapons: The Untold Story of Canada's Cold War Arsenal (Dundurn Press) 1998.
[2] John Clearwater, Canadian Nuclear Weapons: The Untold Story of Canada's Cold War Arsenal (Dundurn Press) 1998.
[3] John Clearwater, Canadian Nuclear Weapons: The Untold Story of Canada's Cold War Arsenal (Dundurn Press) 1998.
[4] John Clearwater, Canadian Nuclear Weapons: The Untold Story of Canada's Cold War Arsenal (Dundurn Press) 1998.
[5] John Clearwater, Canadian Nuclear Weapons: The Untold Story of Canada's Cold War Arsenal (Dundurn Press) 1998.
[6] World Nuclear Association, “Nuclear Power in Canada,” 15 March 2018,
[7] World Nuclear Association, “Nuclear Power in Canada,” 15 March 2018,
[8] Susan Lunn, Sarah Sears, “A Relic of Canada’s Atom Age, the NRU Reactor is Shutting Down for Good,” CBC News, 30 March 2018,
[9] World Nuclear Association, “Darlington to Supply Molybdenum-99,” 21 June 2018,
[10] World Nuclear Association, “Nuclear Power in Canada,” January 2013,
[11] Canadian Nuclear Association, “CANDU Technology,”
[12] International Atomic Energy Association, “World Distribution of Uranium Deposits,” 2009 Edition,; World Nuclear Association, “Uranium in Canada,” February 2015,; World Nuclear Association, “Supply of Uranium,” October 2014,
[13] World Nuclear Association, “Uranium in Canada,” 15 March 2018,
[14] World Nuclear Association, “Nuclear Power in Canada,” 15 March 2018,
[15] World Nuclear Association, "Nuclear Power in Canada,” 15 March 2018,
[16] National Resources Canada, “About Uranium,”
[17] John Bryden, “Deadly Allies: Canada's Secret War 1937-1947” (McClelland and Stewart) 1989.
[18] John Bryden, “Deadly Allies: Canada's Secret War 1937-1947” (McClelland and Stewart) 1989.
[19] Defence Research and Development Canada, “Science and Technology for a Secure Canada,” December 2006,
[20] Industry Canada, “Life Science Industries: Biopharmaceutical Industry Profile,” 2 December 2011,
[21] Jonathan Tucker, War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare from World War I to Al-Qaeda (Anchor Books) 2006, p. 108.
[22] Jonathan Tucker, War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare from World War I to Al-Qaeda (Anchor Books) 2006, p. 108.
[23] Jonathan Tucker, War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare from World War I to Al-Qaeda (Anchor Books) 2006, p. 108.
[24] “OPCW Endorses Plan for the Destruction of Chemical Weapons on San José Island, Panama” Panama Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 14 July 2017,
[25] “Canada contributes €2.5 million to support OPCW work in Syria,” Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, 17 February 2017,
[26] “Chemical Weapons, No Impunity! International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons,” Chemical Weapons No Impunity!
[27] “Importer/Exporter TIV Tables,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute,; “Background - Artillery - Long Range Precision Rocket System,” Canadian American Strategic Review,; “The Fleet,” Royal Canadian Navy,
[28] Michael Den Tandt, “Tories approve $800M sole-source purchase of next-gen Navy missiles, sources say,” National Post, 11 October 2014.
[29] Gareth Jennings, “Canada cleared to buy latest-variant AMRAAM,” Jane’s 360, 2 November 2017,
[30] “Background - Artillery - Long Range Precision Rocket System,” Canadian American Strategic Review,
[31] Doug Struck, “Canada Rejects Missile Shield Plan,” The Washington Post, 25 February 2005,
[32] Ben Makuch, “Canada Just Bought Israel’s Iron Dome Radar Technology,” Vice News, 29 July 2015,
[33] “Rheinmetall to supply Canada’s armed forces with medium range radar and integrated soldier system – potential order volume could total CAD 493 million,” Rheinmetall Defence, 28 July 2015,
[34] “About NORAD,” North American Aerospace Defense Command,
[35] James Fergusson, “Shall We Dance? The Missile Defence Decision, NORAD Renewal, and the Future of Canada-US Defence Relations,” Canadian Military Journal,

Get the Facts on Canada
  • Hosted U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory until 1984
  • Produced biological and chemical weapons before acceding to both the BTWC and CWC
  • Owns 18 nuclear power reactors with a total capacity of 12,600 MWe

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2019.