There are nine countries in the world that possess nuclear weapons. Between them they hold an estimated 13,400 nuclear warheads. 9,340 of those are thought to be operational nuclear warheads.

The House of Commons Library has written a series of briefings examining, at a glance, the nuclear policies, capabilities and modernisation programmes of the nine nuclear weapon states.

Overview: where are all the world’s nuclear weapons?, House of Commons Library, 18 December 2020

Nuclear weapons at a glance: Russia, House of Commons Library, 18 December 2020

Nuclear weapons at a glance: China, House of Commons Library, 16 December 2020 

Nuclear weapons at a glance: United States, House of Commons Library, 11 December 2020 

Nuclear weapons at a glance: United Kingdom, House of Commons Library, 22 March 2021 

Nuclear weapons at a glance: Israel, House of Commons Library, 9 December 2020 

Nuclear weapons at a glance: France, House of Commons Library, 9 December 2020

Nuclear weapons at a glance: India and Pakistan, House of Commons Library, 7 December 2020 

Nuclear weapons at a glance: North Korea, House of Commons Library, 7 December 2020 

Transparency is a major challenge, however. Even in the most open of democracies nuclear weapons programmes are largely classified. Information is not widely available and, for those countries motivated either by threat perception or conventional military inferiority, the tendency to exaggerate the extent, or operational nature, of their nuclear arsenals is commonplace. As a result, there can be significant disparity in the estimates of each state’s active arsenal, reserve stockpiles of operational warheads and those warheads awaiting dismantlement. This lack of openness is a particular difficulty in relation to those states that operate outside the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

These papers replace Nuclear Weapons – Country Comparisons, House of Commons Library, 9 October 2017.

They will be updated periodically.

Aspirant/ threshold nuclear states

Over the years various states have been identified as nuclear threshold states, either by default because of the sophistication of their civilian nuclear programmes, or because of their nuclear weapon aspirations.

This series of papers does not examine those countries with a latent nuclear capability. However, they continue to have relevance to the overall nuclear debate. The following provide further detail on Iran’s alleged nuclear programme and the status of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA):


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