Nuclear Weapons

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Posted by kaori 02/27/2009 @ 03:01

Tags : nuclear weapons, strategic studies, crises and conflicts, world

News headlines
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The New Realism of Arms Control - Huffington Post
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Obama puts Israel at risk - Christian Science Monitor
It also wants Israel to join the ineffective Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The US had committed in a bilateral agreement not to tamper with the Israeli nuclear shield. At a time when Iran seems on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons,...
Yadlin: Slim chance of war now - Jerusalem Post
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL Teheran is very close to obtaining the technology necessary to build nuclear weapons, but the chances are very low that Israel's enemies will start a major war on its borders, OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen....

Nuclear weapons and the United Kingdom

Location of United Kingdom

The United Kingdom was the third state to test an independently developed nuclear weapon in October 1952. It is one of the five "Nuclear Weapons States" (NWS) under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which the UK ratified in 1968. The UK is currently thought to retain a weapons stockpile of around 200 operational nuclear warheads.

In contrast with the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the United Kingdom currently operates only a single nuclear deterrent system since decommissioning its tactical WE.177 free-falling nuclear bombs in 1998. The present system consists of four Vanguard class submarines based at HMNB Clyde, armed with up to 16 Trident missiles, which each carry nuclear warheads in up to 8 MIRVs, performing both strategic and sub-strategic deterrence roles.

While a firm decision has yet to be taken on the replacement of the UK's nuclear deterrent, the manufacturer of the UK's warheads, AWE, is currently undertaking research which is largely dedicated to providing new warheads and on 4 December 2006 the then Prime Minister Tony Blair announced plans for a new class of nuclear missile submarines.

In the Strategic Defence Review published in July 1998, the United Kingdom government stated that once the Vanguard submarines became fully operational (the fourth and final one, Vengeance, entered service on 27 November 1999), it would "maintain a stockpile of fewer than 200 operationally available warheads". The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has estimated the figure as about 165, consisting of 144 deployed weapons plus an extra 15 percent as spares.

At the same time, the UK government indicated that warheads "required to provide a necessary processing margin and for technical surveillance purposes" were not included in the "fewer than 200" figure. However, as recently declassified archived documents on Chevaline make clear, the 15% excess (referred to by SIPRI as for spares) is normally intended to provide the 'necessary processing margin', and 'surveillance rounds do not contain any nuclear material, being completely inert. These surveillance rounds are used to monitor deterioration in the many non-nuclear components of the warhead, and are best compared with inert training rounds. The SIPRI figures correspond accurately with the official announcements and are likely to be the most accurate. The Natural Resources Defense Council speculates that a figure of 200 is accurate to within a few tens. In 2008 the National Audit Office stated that the UK stockpile was of fewer than 160 operationally available nuclear warheads.

Different sources give the number of test explosions that the UK has conducted as either 44 or 45. The 23 or 24 tests from December 1962 onwards were in conjunction with the United States at the Nevada Test Site with the final test being the Julin Bristol shot which took place on 26 November 1991. The apparently low numbers of UK tests is misleading when compared to the large numbers of tests carried out by the US, the Soviet Union, China, and especially France; because the UK has had extensive access to US test data, obviating the need for UK tests: and an added factor is that many tests required are for 'weapon effects tests'; tests not of the nuclear device itself, but of the nuclear effects on hardened components designed to resist ABM attack. Numerous such 'effects' tests were done in support of the Chevaline programme especially; and there is some evidence that some were permitted for the French programme to harden their RVs and warheads; because most French tests being under the ocean floor, access to measure 'weapon effects' was nigh impossible. An independent test programme would see the UK numbers soar to French levels. The UK government signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty on 5 August 1963 along with the United States and the Soviet Union which effectively restricted it to underground nuclear tests by outlawing testing in the atmosphere, underwater, or in outer space. The UK signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on 24 September 1996 and ratified it on 6 April 1998, having passed the necessary legislation on 18 March 1998 as the Nuclear Explosions (Prohibition and Inspections) Act 1998.

The UK has relied on the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) and, in later years, Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites for warning of a nuclear attack. Both of these systems are owned and controlled by the United States, although the UK has joint control over UK based systems. One of the four component radars for the BMEWS is based at RAF Fylingdales in North Yorkshire.

In 2003 the UK government stated that it will consent to a request from the US to upgrade the radar at Fylingdales for use in the US National Missile Defense system.

Nevertheless, missile defence is not currently a significant political issue within the UK. The ballistic missile threat is perceived to be less severe, and consequently less of a priority, than other threats to its security.

During the cold war a significant effort by government and academia was made to assess the effects of a nuclear attack on the UK. A major government exercise, Square Leg, was held in September 1980 and involved around 130 warheads with a total yield of 200 megatons. This is probably the largest attack that the apparatus of the nation state could survive in some limited form. Observers have speculated that an actual exchange would be much larger with one academic describing a 200 megaton attack as an "extremely low figure and one which we find very difficult to take seriously". In the early 1980s it was thought an attack causing almost complete loss of life could be achieved with the use of less than 15% of the total nuclear yield available to the Soviets.

During the cold war, various governments developed civil defence programmes aimed to prepare civilian and local government infrastructure for a nuclear strike on the UK. A series of seven Civil Defence Bulletin films were produced in 1964; and in the 1980s the most famous such programme was probably the series of booklets and public information films entitled Protect and Survive.

The booklet contained information on building a nuclear refuge within a so-called 'fall out room' at home, sanitation, limiting fire hazards and descriptions of the audio signals for attack warning, fallout warning and all clear. It was anticipated that families might need to stay within the fall-out room for up to fourteen days after an attack almost without leaving it at all.

The government also prepared a recorded announcement which was to have been broadcast by the BBC if a nuclear attack ever did occur.

The United Kingdom's nuclear weapons had their genesis in the Second World War when the UK worked on development of an atomic bomb, initially on their own under the cover name of Tube Alloys but later as a partner in the American Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project resulted in the two nuclear weapons dropped on Japan which led to that country's unconditional surrender.

A nuclear program started in 1946 under the control of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (incorporate into the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) in 1954), that was civilian in character, but was also tasked with the job of producing the fissile material, initially only plutonium 239, that was expected to be required for a military programme. It was based on a former airfield, Harwell, (then in Berkshire now in Oxfordshire); and a former Royal Ordnance Factory, Risley in Cheshire. Risley became the headquarters of the Industrial Division of UKAEA, and there were other sites under its control, notably the Calder Hall reactors at Windscale (later Sellafield) used to produce weapons grade Pu-239. The first nuclear pile in the UK, GLEEP, went critical at Harwell on 15 August 1947. AWRE was established at Aldermaston by the Ministry of Supply; later becoming the Weapons Division of the (civilian) UKAEA, before being subsumed into the Ministry of Defence in the 1970s.

William Penney, a physicist specialising in hydrodynamics was asked in October 1946 to prepare a report on the viability of building a UK weapon. Joining the Manhattan project in 1944, he had been in the observation plane Big Stink over Nagasaki, and had also done damage assessment on the ground following Japan's surrender. He had subsequently participated in the American Operation Crossroads test at Bikini Atoll. As a result of his report, the decision to proceed was formally made on 8 January 1947 at a meeting of the GEN.163 committee of six cabinet members, including Prime Minister Clement Attlee with Penney appointed to take charge of the programme.

The project was hidden under the name High Explosive Research or HER and was based initially at the Ministry of Supply's Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) at Fort Halstead in Kent, but in 1950 moved to a new site at AWRE Aldermaston in Berkshire. A particular problem was the McMahon Act. Although British scientists knew the areas of the Manhattan Project in which they had worked well, they only had the sketchiest details of those parts which they were not directly involved in. With the start of the Cold War there had been some warming of nuclear relations between the UK and US governments, which led to hopes of American cooperation. However these were quickly dashed by the arrest in early 1950 of Klaus Fuchs, a Soviet spy working at Harwell. Plutonium production reactors were based at Windscale, later known as Sellafield in Cumberland (now in Cumbria) and construction began in September 1947, leading to the first plutonium metal ready in March 1952.

The first UK weapon test, Operation Hurricane, was detonated below the frigate HMS Plym anchored in the Monte Bello Islands on 2 October 1952. This led to the first deployed weapon, the Blue Danube free-fall bomb, in November 1953. It was very similar to the American Mark 4 weapon in having a 60 inch diameter, 32 lens implosion system with a levitated core suspended within a natural uranium tamper. The warhead was contained within a bomb casing measuring 62 inches diameter and 24 feet long, and being so large, could only be carried by the V-Bomber fleet.

A nuclear landmine dubbed Brown Bunny, later Blue Bunny, and finally Blue Peacock that used the Blue Danube warhead was developed from 1954 with the goal of deployment in the Rhine area of Germany. The system would have been set to an eight-day timer in the case of invasion of Western Europe by the Soviets but was cancelled in February 1958 with only two built. It was judged that the risks posed by the nuclear fallout and the political aspects of preparing for destruction and contamination of allied territory were simply too high to justify. A more usual reason for cancellation revealed by numerous archived declassified documents was that the Army felt it was too unwieldy and diverted their efforts into a successor, Violet Vision, based on the smaller successor to Blue Danube, Red Beard. None were ever built, the Army instead receiving U.S. ADMs or Atomic Demolition Munitions under the established procedures for supply of NATO allies from U.S. stocks held in U.S. custody in Europe. A sea mine based on the Blue Danube warhead and codenamed Cudgel was also envisaged for delivery by midget submarines, referred to by naval sources as "sneak craft"; perhaps reflecting a belief that these craft were really rather ungentlemanly methods of waging war. None were built.

A gaseous diffusion plant was built at Capenhurst, near Chester and started production in 1953 producing low enriched uranium (LEU). By 1957 it was capable of annually producing 125 kg of highly enriched uranium (HEU). The capacity was further increased and by 1959 it may have been producing as much as 1600 kg per year . At the end of 1961, having produced between 3.8 and 4.9 tonnes of HEU it was switched over to LEU production for civil use. Additional plutonium production was provided by eight electricity generating Magnox reactors at Calder Hall and Chapelcross which started operating in 1956 and 1959 respectively.

The detonation by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union of thermonuclear devices alarmed the UK government of Winston Churchill and a decision was made on 27 July 1954 to begin development of a thermonuclear bomb, making use of the more powerful nuclear fusion reaction rather than nuclear fission. There was little or no dissent in the House of Commons.

The Economist, the New Statesman and many left-wing newspapers supported the government's policy of nuclear deterrence as a means of reducing the size of conventional forces. Their view (in 1954-55) is fairly summarised as being not opposed to nuclear deterrence and nuclear weapons, but in their view that of the United States would suffice, and that of the costs of the 'nuclear umbrella' was best left to be borne by the United States alone. Their attitudes to nuclear weapons have changed somewhat since then.

The first prototype, Short Granite, was detonated on 15 May 1957 in Operation Grapple, with disappointing results at 300 kt, when the target requirement was one megaton. A further test of Purple Granite yielded less at 200 kt. Further testing in 1958 got performance up to the requirement, but none were ever deployed, because the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement intervened, making fully developed and Service engineered designs available more quickly, and more cheaply. The first of these was the U.S. Mk-28 weapon which was anglicised and manufactured in the UK as Red Snow and quickly deployed as Yellow Sun Mk.2 in the V-bomber fleet. Red Snow became the warhead of choice for the Blue Steel stand-off missile and some of the Skybolt missiles intended for carriage by the V-bombers. Under the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement 5.4 tonnes of UK produced plutonium was sent to the U.S. in return for 6.7kg of tritium and 7.5 tonnes of HEU over the period 1960-1979, replacing Capenhurst production, although much of the HEU was used not for weapons, but as fuel for the growing UK fleet of nuclear submarines, both of the Polaris variety and others numbering approx twelve.

Fifty-eight Blue Danube bombs were produced, although archived declassified files indicate that only a small proportion of these were ever serviceable at any one time. It remained in service until 1963, when it was replaced by Red Beard, a smaller tactical boosted fission weapon that used the same fissile core as Blue Danube and was deployed on many smaller aircraft than the V-bombers, both ashore and at sea aboard five carriers. Stocks of Red Beard were maintained in Cyprus, Singapore, and a smaller number in the UK. After the detonation of U.S. and Soviet thermonuclear weapons the UK deployed an Interim Megaton Weapon in the V-bomber fleet until a true thermonuclear weapon could be devised from the Christmas Island tests. This never tested interim weapon derived from the Orange Herald warhead tested at Christmas Island on 31 May 1957 yielding 720 kt known as Green Grass was merely a very large unboosted pure fission weapon yielding 400 kt. It was the largest pure fission weapon ever deployed by any nuclear state. Green Grass was deployed first in a modified Blue Danube casing and known as Violet Club. A later variant was deployed in a Yellow Sun Mk.1 casing. A true thermonuclear device was planned for the later Yellow Sun Mk.2 bomb, and after the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement the choice fell on a US Mk.28 warhead manufactured in the UK and known as Red Snow. This Red Snow warhead was also fitted in the Blue Steel, an air-launched stand-off missile which remained in service until Dec 1970. It was to have been replaced by Skybolt air-launched ballistic missiles purchased from the United States, and the UK consequently cancelled their Blue Steel extended range upgrade and Blue Streak ballistic missile projects, because of changing military perceptions of the vulnerability of these Blue Streak land-based liquid-fuelled missiles that were so close to Soviet missile launch sites in Eastern Europe. Similar changed military perceptions led to the removal of Thor IRBM missiles in the UK; and Jupiter IRBMs in Italy and Turkey; although the Turkish sites were implicated in an alleged deal following the Cuban Missile Crisis. To consternation, and considerable protests, the incoming Kennedy administration cancelled Skybolt at the end of 1962 because it was believed by the US Secretary of State for Defense, Robert McNamara, that other delivery systems were progressing better than expected, and a further expensive system was surplus to U.S. requirements.

After the cancellation of Skybolt, the UK purchased Polaris missiles for use in UK-built ballistic missile submarines. The agreement between U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Harold Macmillan, the Polaris Sales Agreement, was announced on 21 December 1962 and HMS Resolution sailed on her first Polaris-armed patrol on 14 June 1968. In the 1970s the UK Polaris RVs and warheads were vulnerable to the Soviet ABM screen concentrated around Moscow, and the UK developed a Polaris improved-front-end (IFE) codenamed Chevaline, designed to counter this ABM defence which threatened to completely nullify an independent UK deterrent posture. When Chevaline became public knowledge in 1980, it generated huge controversy as it had been kept secret by the four governments of Wilson, Heath, Wilson (again) and Callaghan, whilst costs rocketed; admittedly during a period of high inflation; until disclosed by the Thatcher government. By the time it entered service in 1982 it had cost approx £1bn. The final Polaris/Chevaline patrol took place in 1996, two years after the first Trident-carrying submarine sailed on its first patrol.

As well as the establishment at Aldermaston, the UK nuclear weapons programme also has a factory at Burghfield nearby which assembled the weapons and is responsible for their maintenance, and had another in Cardiff which fabricated non-fissile components and a 2000 acre (8 km²) test range at Foulness. Since 1993 the sites have been managed by private consortia. The Foulness and Cardiff facilities closed in October 1996 and February 1997 respectively.

The UK currently has four Vanguard class submarines based at HMNB Clyde in Scotland, armed with nuclear-tipped Trident missiles. The principle of operation is based on maintaining deterrent effect by always having at least one submarine at sea, and was designed for the Cold War period. One submarine is normally undergoing maintenance and the remaining two in port or on training exercises. It has been suggested that the UK's ballistic missile submarine patrols are coordinated with those of the French.

Each submarine carries 16 Trident II D-5 missiles, which can each carry up to twelve warheads. However, the UK government announced in 1998 that each submarine would carry only 48 warheads, an increase of 50% over the 32 warheads carried by Trident's predecessor, Chevaline, (halving the limit specified by the previous government), which is an average of three per missile. However one or two missiles per submarine are probably armed with fewer warheads for "sub-strategic" use causing others to be armed with more; but this is speculative.

The UK-designed warheads are thought to be selectable between 0.3 kt, 5-10 kt and 100 kt; the yields obtained using either the unboosted primary, the boosted primary, or the entire "physics package"; although it must be stressed that these yields and similar data are entirely speculative. The true position is unlikely to be known with certainty for many years; as was the case with the misplaced speculation about the earlier Chevaline programme; only now becoming publicly known. Although the UK designed, manufactured and owns the warheads, there is evidence that the warhead design is similar to, or even based on, the US W76 warhead fitted in some US Navy Trident missiles, with design data being supplied by the United States through the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement. The United Kingdom owns 58 missiles which are shared in a joint pool with the United States government and these are exchanged when requiring maintenance with missiles from the United States Navy's own pool and vice versa.

Until August 1998, the UK also retained the WE.177 nuclear weapon manufactured in the 1960s, in air-dropped free-fall bomb and depth charge versions. This left the four Vanguard class submarines, which replaced the Polaris ones in the early 1990s, as the United Kingdom's only nuclear weapons platform. It has been estimated by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that the United Kingdom has built around 1,200 warheads since the first Hurricane device of 1952. In terms of number of warheads, the UK arsenal was at its maximum size of about 350 in the 1970s, but this figure does not include the large numbers of US-owned warheads, bombs, nuclear depth bombs supplied from US stocks in Europe for use by NATO allies. At its peak, these numbered 327 for the British Army of the Rhine in Germany alone.

A decision on the replacement of Trident was made on the 4th December 2006. Tony Blair (Prime Minister at that time) told MPs it would be "unwise and dangerous" for the UK to give up its nuclear weapons. He outlined plans to spend up to £20bn on a new generation of submarines for Trident missiles.

He said submarine numbers may be cut from four to three, while the number of nuclear warheads would be cut by 20% to 160. Mr Blair said although the Cold War had ended, the UK needed nuclear weapons, as no-one could be sure another nuclear threat would not emerge in the future.

The timeline below shows the development of warheads, nuclear delivery systems and nuclear infrastructure in the UK between 1940 and 2006. Delivery systems are charted to indicate when they were in active service. This does not include development time or decommissioning. Similarly, power plants are charted from when they became active, rather than the date of commissioning or construction. At the end of 1961, the Capenhurst reactor was switched back to low enriched uranium production for civil use. The Magnox electricity producing power stations could produce Plutonium for use in the UK military nuclear programme. Seven other Magnox reactors came online between 1964 and 1971 (see List of Magnox reactors in the UK), although these weren't necessarily used to generate material for warheads.

ROF Cardiff was used as part of the nuclear programme from 1961 until its closure in 1997. The ROF Burghfield site was built in 1941 and used for the nuclear programme from the early 1950s to this day. It is now called AWE Burghfield rather than ROF Burghfield.

Until 1992 UK forces also deployed U.S. tactical nuclear weapons as part of a U.S.-UK dual-key NATO nuclear sharing role. This arrangement commenced in 1958 as Project E to provide nuclear weapons to the RAF prior to a sufficient number of Britain's own nuclear weapons becoming available.

The weapons deployed included nuclear artillery, nuclear demolition mines and warheads for Corporal and Lance missiles in Germany; theatre nuclear weapons on RAF aircraft; Mark 101 nuclear depth bombs on RAF Shackleton maritime patrol aircraft, later replaced by a modern successor, the B-57 deployed on RAF Nimrod aircraft.

The Lance missiles were purchased in 1975, to replace Honest John missiles which had been bought in 1960; and were themselves a replacement for the U.S. Corporal missiles deployed in Germany by the Royal Artillery. Not generally recognised is the fact that the Royal Artillery deployed a numerically greater quantity of US nuclear weapons than the RAF and Royal Navy combined, peaking at 277 in 1976-78; with a further 50 ADMs deployed with another British Army unit, the Royal Engineers, peaking in 1971-81. The dual-key agreement for controlling U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, known as the Heidelberg Agreement, was made on 30 August 1961. The UK sponsored access for the Canadian Army Honest John missile deployments to the US/UK nuclear warhead storage sites.

The UK continues to permit the U.S. to deploy nuclear weapons from its territory, the first having arrived in 1954. During the 1980s nuclear armed USAF Ground Launched Cruise Missiles were deployed at RAF Greenham Common and RAF Molesworth. As of 2005 it is believed that about 110 tactical B61 nuclear bombs are stored at RAF Lakenheath for deployment by USAF F-15E aircraft.

The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), Aldermaston (formerly the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Aldermaston) is situated just 7 miles north of Basingstoke and approximately 14 miles south-west of Reading, Berkshire, near a village called Aldermaston, bordering with Tadley. It was built in 1949 on the site of a former World War II Royal Air Force base and converted to nuclear weapons research, design and development in the 1950s. Although some early test devices were probably assembled on this site, final assembly of Service-engineered weapons takes place at the nearby site of Burghfield.

Other nuclear weapons sites could be found in Cardiff and Burghfield near Reading, Berkshire. These were the only two Royal Ordnance Factories (ROFs) not privatised in the 1980s.

ROF Cardiff, which closed in 1997, was involved in nuclear weapons programmes since 1961. The site was used for the task of recycling old nuclear weapons and precisely shaping uranium 235 (U235) and metallic beryllium components for the boosted fission devices used as primaries or 'triggers' in modern thermonuclear weapons. ROF Burghfield was a former Filling Factory, opened in 1942, and run as an Agency Factory, by Imperial Tobacco, to fill Oerlikon 20 mm ammunition.

UK nuclear posture during the cold war was informed by interdependence with the United States. Operational control of the UK Polaris force was assigned to SACLANT, while targeting policy for its missiles was determined, as for the V-bomber force before it, by NATO's SACEUR, while maintaining an independent wholly-UK targeting policy for some circumstances when a critical national emergency required it to be used alone, without the UK's NATO allies. In these circumstances, the 'Moscow criterion' referred to the ability of the UK to strike back at the highly-centralised Soviet decision-making apparatus concentrated in the Moscow area, intended to destroy the ability of the Soviet leadership to remain in control of a Soviet Union otherwise untouched. The early beginnings of studies to increase the likelihood of successful penetration of the Polaris warheads to Moscow can be traced back to 1964, before the Polaris system was deployed, in order to preserve this capability in the face of anti-ballistic missile batteries around Moscow. These studies later materialised as Chevaline.

Current UK posture as outlined in the Strategic Defence Review of 1998 is as it has been for many years. Only the delivery methods have changed. Trident SLBMs still provide the long-range strategic element as they have done for some years. Until 1998 the free-fall WE.177A, WE.177B and WE.177C bombs provided an aircraft-delivered sub-strategic option in addition to their designed function of tactical battlefield weapons. With the retirement of WE.177, a sub-strategic warhead is stated by Ministers to be incorporated into some (but not all) Trident missiles deployed. The exact mix of weapons on each submarine is unknown as is the numbers and warhead yield. Current UK thinking is that the capacity to launch a very limited strike is a more credible deterrent in the current world situation than use of a MIRVed strategic system.

The precise details of how a British Prime Minister would authorise a nuclear strike remain secret, although the principles of the Trident control system is believed to be based on the plan set up for Polaris in 1968, which has now been declassified. A closed-circuit television system was set up between 10 Downing St and the Polaris Control Officer at the Northwood headquarters of the Royal Navy. Both the Prime Minister and the Polaris Control Officer would be able to see each other on their monitors when the command was given. If the link failed – for instance during a nuclear attack or when the PM was away from Downing St – the Prime Minister would send an authentication code which could be verified at Northwood. The Commander in Chief would then broadcast a firing order to the Polaris submarines via the Very Low Frequency radio station at Rugby. The UK has not deployed control equipment requiring codes to be sent before weapons can be used, such as the U.S. Permissive Action Link, to preclude the possibility that military officers could launch British nuclear weapons without authorisation. Until 1998, when it was withdrawn from service, the WE.177 bomb was armed with a standard tubular pin tumbler lock (as used to secure mountain bikes) and a standard allen key was used to set yield and burst height. Currently, British Trident commanders are able to launch their missiles without authorisation, whereas their American colleagues cannot. At the end of the Cold War the US Fail Safe Commission recommended installing devices to prevent rogue commanders persuading their crews to launch unauthorised nuclear attacks. This was endorsed by the Nuclear Posture Review and Trident Coded Control Devices were fitted to all US SSBNs by 1997. These devices prevented an attack until a launch code had been sent by the Chiefs of Staff on behalf of the President. The UK took a decision not to install Trident CCDs or their equivalent on the grounds that an aggressor might be able to wipe out the British chain of command before a launch order had been sent.

In December 2008 the BBC Radio 4 made a programme titled The Human Button, providing new information on the manner in which the United Kingdom could launch its nuclear weapons, particularly relating to safeguards against a rogue launch. Former Chief of the Defence Staff (most senior officer of all British armed forces) and Chief of the General Staff (most senior officer in the British Army), General The Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, explained that the highest level of safeguard was against a prime minister ordering a launch without due cause: Lord Guthrie stated that the constitutional structure of the United Kingdom provided some protection against such an occurrence, as while the prime minister is the chief executive and so practically commands the armed services, the ultimate commander-in-chief is the monarch, to whom the chief of the defence staff could appeal: "the chief of the defence staff, if he really did think the prime minister had gone mad, would make quite sure that that order was not obeyed... You have to remember that actually prime ministers give direction, they tell the chief of the defence staff what they want, but it's not prime ministers who actually tell a sailor to press a button in the middle of the Atlantic. The armed forces are loyal, and we live in a democracy, but actually their ultimate authority is the Queen." The same interview pointed out that while the prime minister would have the constitutional authority to fire the Chief of the Defence Staff, he/she could not appoint a replacement as the position is appointed by the monarch. This check on the prime minister's authority to launch may be said to provide a better safeguard than the US system, where the President is commander-in-chief and so could order a launch unilaterally. During the cold war the prime minister was also required to name a senior member of the cabinet as his/her designated-survivor, who would have the authority to order a nuclear response in the event of an attack incapacitating the prime minister, and this system was re-adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

The process by which a Trident submarine would determine if the British government continues to function includes establishing that BBC Radio 4 continues broadcasting.

The 1958 'Agreement For Cooperation on the Uses of Atomic Energy for Mutual Defence Purposes' also known as the 'Mutual Defence Agreement' was renewed in 1994 and again in 2005.

The UK's possession of nuclear weapons has appeared essential for successive governments in order to maintain the UK's diplomatic influence abroad; and this policy has had continuous majority support in the population, despite a large number of people opposed to the possession of nuclear weapons. For thirteen years from 1945 until 1958, four years after the first US thermonuclear test in 1952, there was no significant opposition to nuclear weapons in the UK. All significant parts of the Press representing all shades of opinion supported the government's policy, and continued to do so when in 1954 the UK government decided to develop and test a thermonuclear weapon. One newspaper, the Guardian, not noted for its support for the then government, or of nuclear weapons in later years, urged the government to go further and develop ballistic missiles, rather than rely on bombers for delivery. Only in 1958 did the Committee of 100 initiate the first large scale protest with its Aldermaston March. Successive Labour governments, while paying lip-service to nuclear disarmament issues have resolutely maintained and renewed the UK's nuclear forces, with majority popular support. Polaris, Chevaline and the early planning for Trident conducted by the Callaghan Labour government are testament to that. Callaghan went further; he ensured that his government's planning papers for Trident were made available ostensibly 'on national security grounds' to the successor Thatcher government. A most unusual departure from the usual Civil Service procedure. A later Labour Party leader, Neil Kinnock, although a supporter of unilateral nuclear disarmament, changed his stance after the arrival of the Gorbachev regime, on the grounds that a negotiated reduction in nuclear arms was then possible. Perhaps Kinnock also had understood the reality; that a unilateralist Labour Party would never be elected to government. The New Labour administration of Tony Blair also recognised that reality. In the near future, decisions about the replacement of Trident will need to be made (because of the long lead time before a replacement could enter service). It seems that the current Labour government will decide to replace Trident. More likely, because the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement often referred to as the 1958 Bi-lateral, is still in force (and renewed 2005) and pre-dates the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it will be used to justify further legal purchases from the U.S., and further exchanges of data.

The current Trident system cost £12.6bn (at 1996 prices) and costs £280m a year to maintain. Options for replacing Trident range from £5bn for the missiles alone to £20-30bn for missiles, submarines and research facilities. At minimum, for the system to continue safely after around 2020, the missiles will need to be replaced.

The use of the Trident system would breach customary international law, in particular because it would infringe the "intransgressible" requirement that a distinction must be drawn between combatants and non-combatants.

The compatibility with international law, in particular the jus ad bellum, international humanitarian law (‘IHL’) and Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (‘NPT’), of the current UK strategy on the use of Trident...The compatibility with IHL of deploying the current Trident system... the compatibility with IHL and Article VI NPT of the following options for replacing or upgrading Trident: (a) Enhanced targeting capability; (b) Increased yield flexibility; (c) Renewal of the current capability over a longer period.

Given the devastating consequences inherent in the use of the UK’s current nuclear weapons, we are of the view that the proportionality test is unlikely to be met except where there is a threat to the very survival of the state. In our view, the ‘vital interests’ of the UK as defined in the Strategic Defence Review are considerably broader than those whose destruction threaten the survival of the state. The use of nuclear weapons to protect such interests is likely to be disproportionate and therefore unlawful under Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.

A broadening of the deterrence policy to incorporate prevention of nonnuclear attacks so as to justify replacing or upgrading Trident would appear to be inconsistent with Article VI; b) Attempts to justify Trident upgrade or replacement as an insurance against unascertainable future threats would appear to be inconsistent with Article VI; c) Enhancing the targeting capability or yield flexibility of the Trident system is likely to be inconsistent with Article VI; d) Renewal or replacement of Trident at the same capability is likely to be inconsistent with Article VI; and e) In each case such inconsistency could give rise to a material breach of the NPT.

Article VI of the NPT imposes an obligation on all states: “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". The NPT Review Conference held in 2000 agreed, by consensus, 13 practical steps towards nuclear disarmament. The UK remains committed to these steps and is making progress on them. We have been disarming. Since the Cold War ended, we have withdrawn and dismantled our tactical maritime and airborne nuclear capabilities. We have terminated our nuclear capable Lance missiles and artillery. We have the smallest nuclear capability of any recognised nuclear weapon state accounting for less than one per cent of the global inventory. And we are the only nuclear weapon state that relies on a single nuclear system.

The subsequent vote was won overwhelmingly, including unanimous support from the opposition Conservative Party.

The Government position remains that it is abiding by the NPT legally in renewing Trident and Britain has the right to possess nuclear weapons, a position reiterated by Tony Blair in PMQs on February 21 2007..

In contrast, the report by Sands was commissioned solely by Greenpeace and the report by Singh and Chinkin by the Peace Rights group, both notable groups in opposition to renewal, use or proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, the British Government and NATO do not recognise advisory opinion of the ICJ, as interpreter of IHL and referred to by Sands et al., (see Advisory Opinion) with regard to use of nuclear weaponry as legally binding.

This position is held in common with all 5 nuclear states as defined in the NPT. However, only the United Kingdom has expressed its opposition to the establishment of a new legally binding treaty to prevent the threat or use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states by its vote in the United Nations General Assembly in 1998.

This legal position is further discussed in the article International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons.

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Nuclear weapons and Israel

Location of Israel

Israel is widely believed to be the sixth country in the world to develop nuclear weapons and to be one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the others being India, Pakistan and North Korea. International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei regards Israel as a state possessing nuclear weapons, but Israel maintains a policy known as "nuclear ambiguity" (also known as "nuclear opacity"). Israel has never officially admitted to having nuclear weapons, instead repeating over the years that it would not be the first country to "introduce" nuclear weapons to the Middle East, leaving ambiguous whether it means it will not create or will not use the weapons.

Israel began investigating the nuclear field just one year after its 1948 founding and with French support secretly began building a nuclear reactor and reprocessing plant in the late 1950s. Although Israel first built a nuclear weapon in 1967-68 it was not publicly confirmed from the inside until Mordechai Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician, revealed details of the program to the British press in 1986. Israel is currently believed to possess between 75 and 200 nuclear warheads with the ability to deliver them by ground, aircraft, and submarine.

Israel first showed interest in procuring nuclear materials in 1949, when a unit of the Israel Defense Forces Science Corps, known by the Hebrew acronym HEMED GIMMEL, carried out a two year geological survey of the Negev. While a preliminary study was initially prompted by rumors of petroleum fields, one objective of the longer two year survey was to find sources of uranium; some small recoverable amounts were found in phosphate deposits. That same year, the Science Corps (HEMED) funded six Israeli physics graduate students to study overseas, including one to go to the University of Chicago and study under Enrico Fermi, who had overseen the world's first artificial and self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.

In early 1952 HEMED was moved from the IDF to the Ministry of Defense and was reorganized as the Division of Research and Infrastructure (EMET). That June, Ernst David Bergmann, the chief of research at the Defense Ministry and Prime Minister David Ben Gurion's scientific advisor, was appointed by Ben-Gurion to be the first chairman of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC). HEMED GIMMEL was renamed Machon 4 during the transfer, and was used by Bergmann as the "chief laboratory" of the IAEC; by 1953, Machon 4, working with the Department of Isotope Research at the Weizmann Institute, developed the capability to extract uranium from the phosphate in the Negev and new technique to produce indigenous heavy water. Bergmann, who was interested in increasing nuclear cooperation with the French, sold both patents to the Commissariat à l'énergie atomique (CEA) for 60 million francs. Although they were never commercialized, it was a consequential step for future French-Israeli cooperation. At the same time Israeli scientists were also observing France's own nuclear program, and were the only foreign scientists allowed to roam "at will" at the nuclear facility at Marcoule.

After US President Dwight Eisenhower announced the Atoms for Peace initiative, Israel became the second country to sign on (following Turkey), and signed a peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States on 12 July 1955. This culminated in a public signing ceremony on 20 March 1957 to construct a "small swimming-pool research reactor in Nachal Soreq," which would be used to shroud the construction of a much larger facility with the French at Dimona.

This deal was finalized on 3 October 1957 in two agreements: one political that declared the project to be for peaceful purposes and specified other legal obligations, and one technical that described a 24 megawatt EL-102 reactor. The one to actually be built was to be two to three times as large and be able to produce 22 kilograms of plutonium a year.

Before construction began it was determined that the scope of the project would be too large for the EMET and IAEC team, so Shimon Peres recruited Colonel Manes Pratt, then Israeli military attaché in Burma, to be the project leader. Building began in late 1957 or early 1958, bringing hundreds of French engineers and technicians to the Beersheba and Dimona area. In addition, thousands of newly immigrated Sephardic Jews were recruited to do digging; to circumvent strict labor laws, they were hired in increments of 59 days, separated by one day off.

When Charles de Gaulle became French President in late 1958 he wanted to end French-Israeli nuclear cooperation, and said that he would not supply Israel with uranium unless the plant was opened to international inspectors, declared peaceful, and no plutonium was reprocessed. Through an extended series of negotiations, Shimon Peres finally reached a compromise with Foreign Minister Maurice Couve de Murville over two years later, in which French companies would be able to continue to fulfill their contract obligations and Israel would declare the project peaceful. Because of this, French assistance did not end until 1966.

In 1959 Israel bought 20 tons of heavy water from the United Kingdom, with the Norwegian company Noratom acting as a broker (it was originally bought by the UK from Norsk Hydro, but found to be surplus), and the nuclear reactor at Dimona went critical in 1962. By 1965 the Israeli reprocessing plant was completed and ready to convert the reactor's fuel rods into weapons grade plutonium.

The exact cost for the construction of the Israeli nuclear program are unknown, though Peres later said that the reactor cost $80 million in 1960 dollars, half of which was raised by foreign Jewish donors, including many American Jews. Some of these donors were given a tour of the Dimona complex in 1968.

Israel is believed to have begun full scale production of nuclear weapons following the 1967 Six-Day War, although it may have had bomb parts earlier. A CIA report from early 1967 stated that Israel had the materials to construct a bomb in six to eight weeks and some authors suggest that Israel had two crude bombs ready for use during the war. According to US journalist Seymour Hersh, everything was ready for production at this time save an official order to do so. Moshe Dayan, then Defense Minister, convinced the Labor Party's economic boss Pinchas Sapir of the value of commencing the program by giving him a tour of the Dimona site in early 1968, and soon after Dayan decided that he had the authority to order the start of full production of 4 to 5 nuclear warheads a year. Hersh stated that it is widely believed that the words "Never Again" were welded, in English and Hebrew, onto the first warhead.

In order to produce plutonium the Israelis needed a large supply of uranium ore, some of which was procured by the Mossad on the pretense of buying it for an Italian chemical company in Milan. Once the uranium was shipped from Antwerp it was transferred to an Israeli freighter at sea and brought to Israel. The orchestrated disappearance of the uranium, named Operation Plumbat, became the subject of the 1978 book The Plumbat Affair.

Estimates as to how many warheads Israel has built since the late 1960s have varied, mainly based on the amount of fissile material that could have been produced and on the revelations of Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu. The CIA believed that the number of Israeli nuclear weapons stayed from 10 to 20 from 1974 through the early 1980s. Vanunu's information in October 1986 said that based on a reactor operating at 150 megawatts and a production of 40 kg of plutonium per year, Israel had 100 to 200 nuclear devices. Furthermore, Vanunu revealed that between 1980-1986 Israel attained the ability to build thermonuclear weapons. By the mid 2000s estimates of Israel's arsenal ranged from 75 to 200 nuclear warheads.

Several reports have surfaced claiming that Israel has some uranium enrichment capability at Dimona. Vanunu asserted that gas centrifuges were operating in Machon 8, and that a laser enrichment plant was being operated in Machon 9 (Israel holds a 1973 patent on laser isotope separation). According to Vanunu, the production-scale plant has been operating since 1979-80. The scale of a centrifuge operation would necessarily be limited due to space constraints. Laser isotope separation, however, if developed to operational status, could be quite compact. If highly enriched uranium is being produced in substantial quantities, then Israel's nuclear arsenal could be much larger than estimated solely from plutonium production. Uranium enrichment could also be used to re-enrich reprocessed uranium into reactor fuel to more efficiently use Israel's uranium supply.

In 1991 alone, as the Soviet Union dissolved, nearly 20 Jewish top Soviet scientists reportedly emigrated to Israel, some of whom had been involved in operating nuclear power plants and planning for the next generation of Soviet reactors. In September 1992, German intelligence was quoted in the press as estimating that 40 Soviet nuclear scientists had emigrated to Israel since 1989.

On 2 November 1966, Israel may have carried out a non-nuclear test, speculated to be zero yield or implosion in nature. The only suspected nuclear test conducted by Israel has become known as the Vela Incident. On 22 September 1979, a US Vela satellite, built in the 1960s to detect nuclear tests, reported a flash resembling a nuclear detonation in the southern Indian Ocean. In response the Carter administration set up a panel led by MIT professor Jack Ruina to analyze the reliability of the Vela detection; they concluded in July 1980 that the flash "was probably not from a nuclear explosion," although the original intelligence community estimate was that it was 90% likely to be a nuclear test and a secret study by the Nuclear Intelligence Panel agreed with that initial finding. According to journalist Seymour Hersh, the detection was actually the third joint Israeli-South African nuclear test in the Indian Ocean, and the Israelis had sent two IDF ships and "a contingent of Israeli military men and nuclear experts" for the test.

The Israeli nuclear program was first revealed publicly on 13 December 1960 in a small Time article, which said that a non-Communist non-NATO country had made an "atomic development." On December 16, the Daily Express revealed this country to be Israel, and on December 18, US Atomic Energy Commission chairman John McCone appeared on Meet the Press to officially confirm the Israeli construction of a nuclear reactor and announce his resignation. The following day The New York Times, with the help of McCone, revealed that France was assisting Israel.

The first extensive details of the weapons program came in the London based Sunday Times on 5 October 1986, which printed information provided by Mordechai Vanunu, a technician formerly employed at the Negev Nuclear Research Center near Dimona. For publication of state secrets Vanunu was kidnapped by the Mossad in Rome, brought back to Israel, and sentenced to 18 years in prison for treason and espionage. Although there had been much speculation prior to Vanunu's revelations that the Dimona site was creating nuclear weapons, Vanunu's information indicated that Israel had also built thermonuclear weapons.

The State of Israel has never made public any details of its nuclear capability or arsenal. The following is a history of estimates by many different reputable sources on the size and strength of Israel's nuclear arsenal.

Israeli military forces possess land, air, and sea based methods for deploying their nuclear weapons, thus forming a rudimentary nuclear triad, although it should be noted that the Israeli triad is mainly short to medium ranged, the backbone of which is submarine launched cruise missiles and medium ranged ballistic missiles, with Israeli Air Force tactical aircraft fulfilling the role normally played by strategic bombers in the Russian and American strategic deterrent.

Ernst David Bergmann was the first to seriously began thinking about a ballistic missile capability and Israel test-fired its first Shavit II missile in July 1961. It was not until 1963 when Israel actually put a large-scale project into motion, spending $100 million to jointly develop and build 25 medium-range missiles with the French aerospace company Dassault. The Israeli project, codenamed Project 700, also included the construction of a missile field at Hirbat Zacharia, a site west of Jerusalem. The missiles that were first developed with France became the Jericho I system, first operational in 1971; they were updated to Jericho II in the mid 1980s and Jericho III in the mid 2000s.

In 2003 it was reported that Israel's three Dolphin class submarines were armed with US Harpoon missiles and tipped with nuclear warheads, giving Israel a secure second strike capability.

Seymour Hersh reports that Israel developed the ability to miniaturize warheads small enough to fit in a suitcase by the year 1973.

Israel’s refusal to admit it has nuclear weapons or to state its policy on use of them make it necessary to gather details from other sources, including unauthorized statements by its political and military leaders.

In a December 2006 interview, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came close to breaking with Israel's policy of nuclear opacity, saying that Iran aspires "to have a nuclear weapon as America, France, Israel and Russia." Olmert's office later said that the quote was taken out of context; in other parts of the interview, Olmert refused to confirm or deny Israel's nuclear weapon status.

Israel's nuclear doctrine is shaped by its lack of strategic depth: a subsonic fighter jet could cross in four minutes the 40 nautical miles (74 km) from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. It additionally relies on a reservist-based military which magnifies civilian and military losses in its small population. Israel tries to compensate for these weaknesses by emphasising intelligence, manoeuverability and firepower.

As a result, its strategy is based on the premise that it cannot afford to lose a single war, and thus must prevent them by maintaining deterrence, including the option of preemption. If these steps are insufficient, it seeks to prevent escalation and determine a quick and decisive war outside of its borders.

Strategically, Israel's long-range missiles, nuclear capable aircraft, and possibly its submarines present an effective second strike deterrence against unconventional and conventional attack, and if Israel's defences fail and its population centres be threatened, the Samson Option, an all out attack against an adversary, would be employed. Its nuclear arsenal can also be used tactically.

Although nuclear weapons are viewed as the ultimate guarantor of Israeli security, as early as the 1960s the country has avoided building its military around them, instead pursuing absolute conventional superiority so as to forestall a last resort nuclear engagement.

1. A successful Arab military penetration into populated areas within Israel's post-1949 (pre-1967) borders. 2. The destruction of the Israeli Air Force. 3. The exposure of Israeli cities to massive and devastating air attacks or to possible chemical or biological attacks. 4. The use of nuclear weapons against Israeli territory.

On 8 October 1973 just after the start of the Yom Kippur War, Golda Meir and her closest aides decided to put eight nuclear armed F-4s at Tel Nof Airbase on 24 hour alert and as many nuclear missile launchers at Sedot Mikha Airbase operational as possible. Seymour Hersh adds that the initial target list that night "included the Egyptian and Syrian military headquarters near Cairo and Damascus." This nuclear alert was meant not only as a means of precaution, but to push the Soviets to restrain the Arab offensive and to convince the US to begin sending supplies. One later report said that a Soviet intelligence officer did warn the Egyptian chief of staff, and colleagues of US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger said that the threat of a nuclear exchange caused him to urge for a massive Israeli resupply. Hersh points out that before Israel obtained its own satellite capability, it engaged in espionage against the United States to obtain nuclear targeting information on Soviet targets.

Israeli military and nuclear doctrine increasingly focused on preemptive war against any possible attack with conventional, chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, or even a potential conventional attack on Israel's weapons of mass destruction.

Louis René Beres, who contributed to Project Daniel, urges that Israel continue and improve these policies, in concert with the increasingly preemptive nuclear policies of the United States, as revealed in the Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations.

After Iraq attacked Israel with Scud missiles during the 1991 First Gulf War, Israel went on full-scale nuclear alert and mobile nuclear missile launchers were deployed. In the build up to the United States 2003 invasion of Iraq, there were concerns that Iraq would launch an unconventional weapons attack on Israel. After discussions with President George W. Bush then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned "If our citizens are attacked seriously - by a weapon of mass destruction, chemical, biological or by some mega-terror attack act - and suffer casualties, then Israel will respond." Israeli officials interpreted President Bush's stance as allowing a nuclear Israeli retaliation on Iraq, but only if Iraq struck before the US military invasion.

Alone or with other nations, Israel has used diplomatic and military efforts as well as covert action to prevent other Middle Eastern countries from acquiring nuclear capabilities.

On 7 June 1981, Israel launched a preemptive air strike against Saddam Hussein's breeder reactor in Osirak, Iraq, in Operation Opera. The Mossad is also said to have assassinated professor Gerald Bull, an artillery expert, who was allegedly building a massive cannon or "super gun" for Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, which was capable of delivering a tactical nuclear payload.

On 6 September 2007, Israel launched an air strike dubbed Operation Orchard against a target in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria. While Israel refused to comment, unnamed US officials said Israel had shared intelligence with them that North Korea was cooperating with Syria on some sort of nuclear facility. Both Syria and North Korea denied the allegation and Syria filed a formal complaint with the United Nations. Journalist Seymour Hersh speculates that this air strike may have been intended as a trial run for striking alleged Iranian nuclear weapons facilities. On January 7, 2007 The Sunday Times reported that Israel had drawn up plans to destroy three Iranian nuclear facilities with low-yield nuclear bunker-busters that would be launched by aircraft through "tunnels" created by conventional laser-guided bombs. These tactical nuclear weapons would then explode underground to reduce radioactive fallout. Israel denied the specific allegation. However, its military leaders admit that it rules out no option. The death of the Iranian physicist Ardeshir Hassanpour, who may have been involved in the nuclear program, has been reported by the intelligence group Stratfor to have been a Mossad assassination. Iran is currently conducting atomic research that Israel fears is aimed at building a nuclear weapon. Israel has pressed for United Nations economic sanctions against Iran, and has repeatedly threatened to launch a military strike on Iran if the United States does not do so first.

Israel was originally expected to sign the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and on 12 June 1968 Israel voted in favor of the treaty in the UN General Assembly. But when the invasion of Czechoslovakia in August by the Soviet Union delayed ratification around the world, Israel's internal division and hesitation over the treaty became public. The Johnson administration attempted to use the sale of 50 F-4 Phantoms to pressure Israel to sign the treaty that fall, culminating in a personal letter from Lyndon Johnson to Israeli PM Levi Eshkol. But by November Johnson had backed away from tying the F-4 sale with the NPT after a stalemate in negotiations, and Israel would neither sign nor ratify the treaty. After the series of negotiations, US assistant secretary of defense for international security Paul Warnke was convinced that Israel already possessed nuclear weapons. In 2007 Israel sought an exemption to non-proliferation rules in order to import atomic material legally.

In 1996 the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East. Arab nations and annual conferences of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) repeatedly have called for application of IAEA safeguards and the creation of a nuclear-free Middle East. Arab nations have expressed their disgust that the United States practices a double standard in criticizing Iran's nuclear program while ignoring Israel's possession of nuclear weapons. According to a statement by the Arab League, Arab states will withdraw from the NPT if Israel acknowledges having nuclear weapons and then does not open its facilities to international inspection and destroy its arsenal.

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List of states with nuclear weapons

U.S. and USSR/Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles, 1945–2006.

Nations that are known or believed to possess nuclear weapons are sometimes referred to as the nuclear club. There are currently nine states that have successfully detonated nuclear weapons. Five are considered to be "nuclear weapons states", an internationally recognized status conferred by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In order of acquisition of nuclear weapons these are: the United States, Russia (successor state to the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom, France, and China.

Since the NPT entered into force in 1970, three states that were not parties to the Treaty have conducted nuclear tests, namely India, Pakistan, and North Korea. North Korea had been a party to the NPT but withdrew in 2003. Israel is also widely believed to have nuclear weapons, though it has refused to confirm or deny this. The status of these nations is not formally recognized by international bodies as none of them are currently parties to the NPT. South Africa has the unique status of a nation which developed nuclear weapons but has since disassembled its arsenal before joining the NPT.

In 2005, the IAEA Board of Governors found Iran in non-compliance with its NPT safeguards agreement in a rare non-consensus decision. The UN Security Council imposed sanctions against Iran three times when it refused to suspend its previously undeclared enrichment. Iran has argued that the sanctions are illegal and compel it to abandon its rights under the NPT to peaceful nuclear technology. IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei states the agency is unable to resolve "outstanding issues of concerns" while also noting the Agency has "not seen any diversion of nuclear materials... nor the capacity to produce weapons usable materials".

The following is a list of states that have admitted the possession of nuclear weapons, the approximate number of warheads under their control in 2002, and the year they tested their first weapon. This list is informally known in global politics as the "Nuclear Club". With the exception of Russia and the United States (which have subjected their nuclear forces to independent verification under various treaties) these figures are estimates, in some cases quite unreliable estimates. Also, these figures represent total warheads possessed, rather than deployed. In particular, under the SORT treaty thousands of Russian and U.S. nuclear warheads are in inactive stockpiles awaiting processing. The fissile material contained in the warheads can then be recycled for use in nuclear reactors.

From a high of 65,000 active weapons in 1985, there were about 20,000 active nuclear weapons in the world in 2002. Many of the "decommissioned" weapons were simply stored or partially dismantled, not destroyed. As of 2007, the total number was expected to continue to decline by 30%-50% over the next decade.

Operating India’s eight unsafeguarded PHWRs in such a regime would bequeath New Delhi with some 12,135–13,370 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium, which is sufficient to produce between 2,023–2,228 nuclear weapons over and above those already existing in the Indian arsenal. Although no Indian analyst, let alone a policy maker, has ever advocated any nuclear inventory that even remotely approximates such numbers, this heuristic exercise confirms that New Delhi has the capability to produce a gigantic nuclear arsenal while subsisting well within the lowest estimates of its known uranium reserves.

Below are countries which have been accused by Israel or the United States of currently attempting to develop nuclear weapons technology.

Nuclear weapons have been present in many nations, often as staging grounds under control of other powers. However, in only a few instances have nations given up nuclear weapons after being in control of them; in most cases this has been because of special political circumstances. The fall of the USSR, for example, left several former Soviet-bloc countries in possession of nuclear weapons.

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Nuclear weapons and the United States

Since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons have remained highly controversial and contentious objects in the forum of public debate.

The United States was the first country in the world to develop nuclear weapons, and is the only country to have used them as actual weapons, during the two bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. Before and during the Cold War it conducted over a thousand nuclear tests and developed many long-range weapon delivery systems. It maintains an arsenal of about 5,500 warheads to this day, as well as facilities for their construction and design, though many of the Cold War facilities have since been deactivated and are sites for environmental remediation.

The United States of America first began developing nuclear weapons during World War II under the order of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1939, motivated by a fear that they were engaged in a potential race with Nazi Germany to develop such a weapon. After a slow start under the direction of the National Bureau of Standards, at the urging of British scientists and American administrators the program was put under the Office of Scientific Research and Development, where in 1942 it was officially transferred under the auspices of the U.S. Army and became known as the Manhattan Project. Under the direction of General Leslie Groves, over thirty different sites were constructed for the research, production, and testing of components related to bomb making. These included the scientific laboratory, Los Alamos (in New Mexico), under the direction of physicist Robert Oppenheimer, a plutonium production facility, Hanford (in Washington), and a uranium enrichment facility, Oak Ridge (in Tennessee).

By investing heavily both in breeding plutonium in early nuclear reactors, and in both the electromagnetic and gaseous diffusion enrichment processes for the production of uranium-235, the United States was able by mid-1945 to develop three usable weapons. A plutonium-implosion design weapon was tested on 16 July 1945 ("Trinity"), with around a 20 kiloton yield. On the orders of President Harry S. Truman, on 6 August of the same year a uranium-gun design bomb ("Little Boy") was used against the city of Hiroshima, Japan, and on 9 August a plutonium-implosion design bomb ("Fat Man") was used against the city of Nagasaki, Japan. The two weapons killed approximately 250,000 Japanese civilians outright, and thousands more have died over the years from radiation sickness and related cancers.

Between 1945 and 1990, more than 70,000 total warheads were developed, in over 65 different varieties, ranging in yield from around .01 kilotons (such as the man-portable Davy Crockett shell) to the 25 megaton B41 bomb.

Between 1940 and 1996, the U.S. spent at least $5.8 trillion (in 1996 dollars) on nuclear weapons development. Over half of this was spent on building delivery mechanisms for the weapon. $365 billion was spent on nuclear waste management and environmental remediation.

After the end of the Cold War following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. nuclear program was heavily curtailed, halting its program of nuclear testing, ceasing in the production of new nuclear weapons, and reducing its stockpile by half by the mid-1990s under President Bill Clinton. Many of its former nuclear facilities were shut down, and their sites became targets of extensive environmental remediation. Much of the former efforts towards the production of weapons became involved in the program of stockpile stewardship, attempting to predict the behavior of aging weapons without using full-scale nuclear testing. Increased funding also was put into anti-nuclear proliferation programs, such as helping the states of the former Soviet Union eliminate their former nuclear sites, and assist Russia in their efforts to inventory and secure their inherited nuclear stockpile. As of February 2006, over $1.2 billion were paid under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 to U.S. citizens exposed to nuclear hazards as a result of the U.S. nuclear weapons program, and by 1998 at least $759 million was paid to the Marshallese Islanders in compensation for their exposure to U.S. nuclear testing, and over $15 million was paid to the Japanese government following the exposure of its citizens and food supply to nuclear fallout from the 1954 "Bravo" test.

During the presidency of George W. Bush, and especially after the 11 September terrorist attacks of 2001, rumors have circulated in major news sources that the U.S. has been considering design of new nuclear weapons ("bunker-busting nukes"), and potentially the resumption of nuclear testing for reasons of stockpile stewardship, and non-nuclear missile defense has received additional funding as well. Statements by the U.S. government in 2004, however, imply that by 2012 the arsenal will drop to around 5,500 total warheads. According to recent reports, much of that reduction was already accomplished by January 2008.

Between 16 July 1945, and 23 September 1992, the United States maintained a program of vigorous nuclear testing, with the exception of a moratorium between November 1958 and September 1961. A total of (by official count) 1,054 nuclear tests and two nuclear attacks were conducted, with over 100 of them taking place at sites in the Pacific Ocean, over 900 of them at the Nevada Test Site, and ten on miscellaneous sites in the United States (Alaska, Colorado, Mississippi, and New Mexico). Until November 1962, the vast majority of the U.S. tests were atmospheric (that is, above-ground); after the acceptance of the Partial Test Ban Treaty all testing was regulated underground, in order to prevent the dispersion of nuclear fallout.

The U.S. program of atmospheric nuclear testing exposed a number of the population to the hazards of fallout. Estimating exact numbers, and the exact consequences, of people exposed has been medically very difficult, with the exception of the high exposures of Marshallese Islanders and Japanese fisherman in the case of the "Castle Bravo" incident in 1954. A number of groups of U.S. citizens — especially farmers and inhabitants of cities downwind of the Nevada Test Site and U.S. military workers at various tests — have sued for compensation and recognition of their exposure, many successfully. The passing of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 allowed for a systematic filing of compensation claims in relation to testing as well as those employed at nuclear weapons facilities. As of March 2006 over a billion dollars total has been given in compensation, with over $485 million going to "downwinders".

The original weapons ("Little Boy" and "Fat Man") developed by the United States during the Manhattan Project were relatively large (the latter had a diameter of 5 feet) and heavy (around 5 tons each) weapons which required specially modified bomber planes to be adapted for their bombing missions against Japan, each of which could only carry one such weapon and only within a limited range. After these initial weapons, a considerable amount of money and research was conducted towards the goal of standardizing ("G.I. proofing") nuclear warheads (so that they did not require highly specialized experts to assemble them before use, as in the case with the idiosyncratic wartime devices) and miniaturization of the warheads for use in more variable delivery systems.

Through the aid of brainpower acquired through Operation Paperclip at the tail end of the European branch of World War II, the United States was able to embark on an ambitious program in rocketry. One of the first products of this was the development of rockets capable of holding nuclear warheads. The MGR-1 Honest John was the first of such weapons, developed in 1953 as a surface-to-surface missile with a 15 mile/25 kilometer maximum range. Because of their limited range, their potential use was heavily constrained (they could not, for example, threaten Moscow with an immediate strike).

Development of long-range bombers, such as the B-29 Superfortress, during World War II was continued during the Cold War period. The development of the B-52 Stratofortress in particular was able by the mid-1950s to carry a wide arsenal of nuclear bombs, each with different capabilities and potential use situations. Starting in 1946, the U.S. based its initial deterrence threat around the Strategic Air Command, which, by the late 1950's maintained a number of nuclear-armed bombers in the sky at all times, prepared to receive orders to attack the USSR whenever needed. This system was, however, tremendously expensive, both in natural resources and human resources, and raised the possibility of accidental or purposeful beginning of nuclear war, parodied famously in the 1964 film by Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove.

During the 1950s and 1960s, elaborate computerized early warning systems such as Defense Support Program were developed to detect incoming Soviet attacks and to coordinate response strategies. During this same period, intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) systems were developed which could deliver a nuclear payload across vast distances, allowing the U.S. to house nuclear forces capable of hitting the Soviet Union in the American Midwest. Shorter-range weapons, including small "tactical" weapons, were fielded in Europe as well, including nuclear artillery and man-portable Special Atomic Demolition Munition. The development of submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) systems allowed for hidden nuclear submarines to covertly launch missiles at distant targets as well, making it virtually impossible for the Soviet Union to successfully launch a first strike attack against the United States which would not guarantee a deadly response.

Improvements in warhead miniaturization in the 1970s and 1980s allowed for the development of MIRVs — missiles which could carry multiple warheads, each of which could be separately targetable. The question of whether these missiles should be based on constantly rotating train tracks (so as to avoid being easily targeted by opposing Soviet missiles) or based in heavily fortified silos (to possibly withstand a Soviet attack) was a major political controversy in the 1980s (eventually the silos won out). MIRVed systems allowed the U.S. to make the Soviet missile defense economically unfeasible, as each offensive missile would require between three and ten defensive missiles to counter.

Additional developments in weapons delivery included cruise missile systems, which allowed a plane to fire a long-distance, low-flying nuclear-tipped missile towards a target from a relatively comfortable distance. This innovation would make missile defense additionally difficult, if not impossible.

The current delivery systems of the U.S. makes virtually any part of the Earth's surface within the reach of its nuclear arsenal. Though its land-based missile systems have a maximum range of 10,000 kilometers (less than worldwide), its submarine-based forces extend its reach from a coastline 12,000 kilometers inland. Additionally, the ability to refuel long-range bombers in flight and the use of aircraft carriers extends the possible range virtually indefinitely.

From the public debut of nuclear weapons during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they were a highly controversial technology among the citizens of the United States. While it appears that most Americans in the postwar period believed that they had, as claimed by the government, hastened the end of the war with Japan, even at that early period there were questions about the ethics of their use. In the immediate postwar period, much of the public debate was on the question of whether or not the U.S. should attempt to have a monopoly on the weapons — potentially encouraging a nuclear arms race — or whether or not it should relinquish them to an intergovernmental body (such as the newly created United Nations) or contribute to some other form of international control or information dispersal. According to the historian of science Spencer Weart, it was not until the development of multi-megaton hydrogen bombs in the 1950s that a belief that nuclear weapons could potentially end all life on the planet (especially through means of nuclear fallout, highlighted by the "Castle Bravo" accident) became common in American thought or cultural expression. For the most part, however, the vast majority of American citizens believed during this time that nuclear weapons were necessary in order to ward off the threat from the Soviet Union.

During the 1960s, following the rise of political activism in the civil rights movement, the controversy over the Vietnam War, and the beginnings of the environmentalism movement, public anxiety related to nuclear weapons began to rise to the point of direct protest. While there is little evidence that these sentiments were felt or expressed by any more than a minority of the U.S. population, their expression became increasingly amplified, especially in relation to the health hazards of nuclear testing. After the cessation of American atmospheric nuclear testing, however, the sentiment against nuclear weapons in general lost much of its momentum. During the period of détente in the 1970s, marked by weapons reduction and restriction treaties between the U.S. and the USSR, much of the anxiety over nuclear weapons in the populace and activists was transferred towards protesting civilian nuclear power plants, according to Spencer Weart's analysis.

During the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, public anti-nuclear weapons sentiment reached its highest point, spurred by the administration's strong anti-Soviet rhetoric, Strategic Defense Initiative, and apparent reinvigoration of the arms race. Again, however, the majority of the American populace generally felt the weapons were required for U.S. national security, even though they increasingly became the flashpoints of political controversies and concern. Anti-nuclear activists shifted to a strategy of describing in detail the results of a potential nuclear attack on the United States, and a number of prominent anti-nuclear films were developed during this period, typified by the controversial The Day After in 1983.

With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the cessation of the arms race, U.S. public attitudes towards nuclear weapons became less polarized on the whole. Following the 9/11 attacks of 2001, however, concerns over whether the U.S. should develop new weapons have reinvigorated some of the older debates over their practicality, morality, and danger. The debate over the ethical implications of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, begun in private amongst scientists and statesmen during the war, has continued to this day, in the general public as well as amongst historians, military experts, and other scholars.

The United States nuclear program has, since its inception, suffered from a number of accidents of varying forms, ranging from single-casualty research experiments (such as that of Louis Slotin during the Manhattan Project), to the nuclear fallout dispersion of the "Castle Bravo" shot in 1954, to the accidental dropping of nuclear weapons from aircraft ("broken arrows"). How close any of these accidents came to being "major" nuclear disasters is a matter of technical and scholarly debate and interpretation.

Weapons accidentally dropped by the United States include incidents near Atlantic City, New Jersey (1957), Savannah, Georgia (1958) (see Tybee Bomb), Goldsboro, North Carolina (1961), off the coast of Okinawa (1965), in the sea near Palomares, Spain (1966, see 1966 Palomares B-52 crash), and near Thule Air Base, Greenland (1968) (see 1968 Thule Air Base B-52 crash). In some of these cases (such as Palomares), the explosive system of the fission weapon discharged, but did not trigger a nuclear chain reaction (safety features prevent this from easily happening), but did disperse hazardous nuclear materials across wide areas, necessitating expensive cleanup endeavors. Eleven American nuclear warheads are thought to be lost and unrecovered, primarily in submarine accidents.

The nuclear testing program resulted in a number of cases of fallout dispersion onto populated areas. The most significant of these was the Castle Bravo test, which spread radioactive ash over an area of over one hundred miles, including a number of populated islands. The populations of the islands were evacuated but not before suffering radiation burns. They would later suffer long-term effects, such as birth defects and increased cancer risk. There were also instances during the nuclear testing program in which soldiers were exposed to overly high levels of radiation, which grew into a major scandal in the 1970s and 1980s, as many soldiers later suffered from what were claimed to be diseases caused by their exposures.

Many of the former nuclear facilities (see next section) produced significant environmental damages during their years of activity, and since the 1990s have been Superfund sites of cleanup and environmental remediation. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 allows for U.S. citizens exposed to radiation or other health risks through the U.S. nuclear program to file for compensation and damages.

The initial U.S. nuclear program was run by the National Bureau of Standards starting in 1939 under the edict of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Its primary purpose was to delegate research and dispense of funds. In 1940 the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) was established, coordinating work under the Committee on Uranium among its other wartime efforts. In June 1941, the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) was established, with the NDRC as one of its subordinate agencies, which enlarged and renamed the Uranium Committee as the Section on Uranium. In 1941, NDRC research was placed under direct control of Vannevar Bush as the OSRD S-1 Section, which attempted to increase the pace of weapons research. In June 1942, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took over the project to develop atomic weapons, while the OSRD retained responsibility for scientific research.

This was the beginning of the Manhattan Project, run as the Manhattan Engineering District (MED), an agency under military control which was in charge of developing the first atomic weapons. After World War II, the MED maintained control over the U.S. arsenal and production facilities and coordinated the Operation Crossroads tests. In 1946 after a long and protracted debate, the Atomic Energy Act was passed, creating the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) as a civilian agency which would be in charge of the production of nuclear weapons and research facilities, funded through Congress, with oversight provided by the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. The AEC was given vast powers of control over secrecy, research, and money, and could seize lands with suspected uranium deposits. Along with its duties towards the production and regulation of nuclear weapons, it additionally was in charge of stimulating development in civilian nuclear power while also regulating its safety uses. The full transference of activities was finalized in January 1947.

In 1975, following the "energy crisis" of the early 1970s and public and congressional discontent with the AEC (in part because of the impossibility to be both a producer and a regulator), it was disassembled into component parts as the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA), which assumed most of the AEC's former production, coordination, and research roles, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which assumed its civilian regulation activities.

ERDA was short-lived, however, and in 1977 the U.S. nuclear weapons activities were reorganized under the Department of Energy , which currently maintains such responsibilities through the semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration today. Some functions have also been taken over or shared by the Department of Homeland Security in 2002. The already-built weapons themselves are in the control of the Strategic Command, which is part of the Department of Defense.

In general, these agencies served to coordinate research and build sites. They generally operated their sites through contractors, however, both private and public (for example, Union Carbide, a private company, ran Oak Ridge National Laboratory for many decades; the University of California, a public educational institution, has run the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore laboratories since their inception, and will joint-manage Los Alamos with the private company Bechtel as of its next contract). Funding was received both through these agencies directly, but also from additional outside agencies, such as the Department of Defense. Each branch of the military also maintained its own nuclear-related research agencies (generally related to delivery systems).

This table is not comprehensive, as numerous facilities throughout the United States have contributed to its nuclear weapons program. It includes the major sites related primarily to the U.S. weapons program (past and present), their basic site functions, and their current status of activity. Not listed are the many bases and facilities at which nuclear weapons have been deployed. In addition to deploying weapons on its own soil, during the Cold War the United States also stationed nuclear weapons in 27 foreign countries and territories, including Okinawa, Japan (during the occupation immediately following WWII)), Greenland, Germany, Taiwan, and Morocco.

Early on in the development of its nuclear weapons, the United States relied in part on information-sharing with both the United Kingdom and Canada, as codified in the Quebec Agreement of 1943. These three parties agreed not to share nuclear weapons information with other countries without the consent of the others, an early attempt at nonproliferation. After the development of the first nuclear weapons during World War II, though, there was much debate within the political circles and public sphere of the United States about whether or not the country should attempt to maintain a monopoly on nuclear technology, or whether it should undertake a program of information sharing with other nations (especially its former ally and likely competitor, the Soviet Union), or submit control of its weapons to some sort of international organization (such as the United Nations) who would use them to attempt to maintain world peace. Though fear of a nuclear arms race spurred many politicians and scientists to advocate some degree of international control or sharing of nuclear weapons and information, many politicians and members of the military believed that it was better in the short term to maintain high standards of nuclear secrecy and to forestall a Soviet bomb as long as possible (and they did not believe the USSR would actually submit to international controls in good faith).

Since this path was chosen, the United States was, in its early days, essentially an advocate for the prevention of nuclear proliferation, though primarily for the reason originally of self-preservation. A few years after the USSR detonated its first weapon in 1949, though, the U.S. under President Dwight D. Eisenhower sought to encourage a program of sharing nuclear information related to civilian nuclear power and nuclear physics in general. The Atoms for Peace program, begun in 1953, was also in part political: the U.S. was better poised to commit various scarce resources, such as enriched uranium, towards this peaceful effort, and to request a similar contribution from the Soviet Union, who had far fewer resources along these lines; thus the program had a strategic justification as well, as was later revealed by internal memos. This overall goal of promoting civilian use of nuclear energy in other countries, while also preventing weapons dissemination, has been labeled by many critics as contradictory and having led to lax standards for a number of decades which allowed a number of other nations, such as India, to profit from dual-use technology (purchased from other nations other than the U.S.).

The United States is one of the five "nuclear weapons states" permitted to maintain a nuclear arsenal under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which it was an original signatory on 1 July 1968 (ratified 5 March 1970).

The Cooperative Threat Reduction program of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency was established after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 to aid former Soviet bloc countries in the inventory and destruction of their sites for developing nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and their methods of delivering them (ICBM silos, long range bombers, etc.). Over $4.4 billion has been spent on this endeavor to prevent purposeful or accidental proliferation of weapons from the former Soviet arsenal.

After India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998, President Bill Clinton imposed economic sanctions on the countries. In 1999, however, the sanctions against India were lifted; those against Pakistan were kept in place as a result of the military government which had taken over. Shortly after the September 11 attacks in 2001, President George W. Bush lifted the sanctions against Pakistan as well, in order to get the Pakistani government's help as a conduit for US and NATO forces for operations in Afghanistan.

The U.S. government has officially taken a silent policy towards the nuclear weapons ambitions of the state of Israel, while being exceedingly vocal against proliferation of such weapons in the countries of Iran and North Korea, something which has been called hypocritical by many critics. The same critics point out the fact that it is violating its own non-proliferation treaties in the pursuit of so-called "nuclear bunker busters". The 2003 invasion of Iraq by the U.S. was done, in part, on accusations of weapons development, and the Bush administration has said that its policies on proliferation were responsible for the Libyan government's agreement to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

In 1958, the United States Air Force had considered a plan to drop nuclear bombs on China during a confrontation over Taiwan but it was overruled, previously secret documents showed after they were declassified due to the Freedom of Information Act in April 2008. The plan included an initial plan to drop 10-15 kiloton bombs on airfields in Amoy (now called Xiamen) in the event of a Chinese blockade against Taiwan's so-called Offshore Islands.

The United States is one of the five recognized nuclear powers under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ("NPT"). It maintains a current arsenal of around 9,960 intact warheads, of which 5,735 are considered active or operational, and of these only a certain number are deployed at any given time. These break down into 5,021 "strategic" warheads, 1,050 of which are deployed on land-based missile systems (all on Minuteman ICBMs), 1,955 on bombers (B-52, B-1B, and B-2), and 2,016 on submarines (Ohio class), according to a 2006 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Of 500 "tactical" "nonstrategic" weapons, around 100 are Tomahawk cruise missiles and 400 are B61 bombs. A few hundred of the B61 bombs are located at seven bases in six European NATO countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and the United Kingdom), the only such weapons in forward deployment.

Around 4,225 warheads have been removed from deployment but have remained stockpiled as a "responsible reserve force" on inactive status. Under the May 2002 Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions ("SORT"), the U.S. pledged to reduce its stockpile to 2,200 operationally deployed warheads by 2012, and in June 2004 the Department of Energy announced that "almost half" of these warheads would be retired or dismantlement by then.

The SORT treaty does not make the U.S. reduce its tactical nuclear arsenal so there will be 500-800 active tactical nuclear weapons. Also the weapons taken from active states do not have to be destroyed so there will be at least 2400 responsive reserve warheads.

A 2001 nuclear posture review published by the Bush administration called for a reduction in the amount of time needed to test a nuclear weapon, and for discussion on possible development in new nuclear weapons of a low-yield, "bunker-busting" design (the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator). Work on such a design had been banned by Congress in 1994, but the banning law was repealed in 2003 at the request of the Department of Defense. The Air Force Research Laboratory researched the concept, but the United States Congress canceled funding for the project in October 2005 at the National Nuclear Security Administration's request. According to Fred T. Jane's Information Group, the program may still continue under a new name.

In 2006, the Bush administration also proposed the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, which is now in the process of design and development, to develop an entirely-new family of nuclear ICBMs. The program, intended to produce a simple, reliable, long-lasting, and low-maintenance future nuclear force for the United States, has encountered opposition due to the obligations of the United States under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which the United States has signed, ratified, and is bound by, and which obligates the five nuclear weapons states who are bound by it (of which the United States is such a state) to work in good faith towards nuclear disarmament.

The Reliable Replacement Warhead is designed to replace the aging W76 warhead currently in a life-extension program. It will incorporate a well-tested and verified primary SKUA9 and a new fusion secondary. The device will be built much much more robustly than its predecessors and should require longer periods between service and replacement. It will use insensitive high explosives, which are virtually impossible to detonate without the right mechanism. The new insensitive explosives can hit a concrete wall at Mach 4 and still not detonate. The device will also use a heavy radiation case for reliability. Since this weapon will supposedly never be tested via detonation, as has every weapon presently in the US arsenal, some fear that either the weapon will not be reliable, or will require testing to confirm its reliability, breaking the moratorium that has been observed by the recognized nuclear powers (the recognized nuclear powers include the US, Russia, the UK, the PRC, and France; they do not include the generally-recognized but undeclared Israel, nor the declared but unrecognized India, Pakistan, and North Korea) and is disliked by several elements of the Bush Administration, who believe nuclear tests ought to be conducted routinely; indeed, the Reliable Replacement Warhead is seen as the first step in the implementation of the US nuclear weapons laboratories' plan, called "Complex 2030", to rebuild dismantled nuclear weapons infrastructure so as to ensure that nuclear weapon design continues to be a field of research in the US through the mid-point of the 21st century.

In 2005 the U.S. revised its declared nuclear political strategy, the Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, to emphasize the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons preemptively against an adversary possessing weapons of mass destruction or overwhelming conventional forces. Whether the Single Integrated Operational Plan ("SIOP") has been revised accordingly is uncertain, but possible.

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Source : Wikipedia