Photographer: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

World Nuclear Powers Improve Bombs While Reducing Arsenals

Updated on
  • U.S. modernization program may cost as much as $1 trillion
  • North Korea has enough material for 10 to 20 nuclear weapons

The world’s global nuclear warheads fell in the past year, as states that possess them pursue arsenal modernization, according to the first study of nuclear forces data published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institution.

As of July, the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea had about 4,150 deployed nuclear weapons, Sipri said. If all assets are counted, these states possess about 14,935 nuclear weapons, down from 15,395 at the same time last year, Sipri said.

The pace of reduction -- about 3 percent -- remains slow, despite the implementation of the U.S.-Russian bilateral Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms since 2011, Sipri said. Both the U.S. and Russia are modernizing, with the U.S. planning to spend $400 billion by 2026 maintaining and updating its nuclear forces. Sipri said some estimates valued the U.S. program at as much as $1 trillion over the next three decades.

“The current U.S. administration is continuing the ambitious nuclear-modernization plans set out by President Barack Obama,” Sipri Associate Senior Fellow Hans Kristensen said in a statement. “The projected increases in U.S. spending are not unexpected.”

North Korea was estimated to possess enough fissile material for about 10-20 nuclear warheads, an increase on the estimates of previous years, Sipri said. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un says his country is in the final stages of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that will be capable of delivering a nuclear warhead as far away as the U.S.

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All states possessing weapons have either begun to deploy new nuclear-weapon-delivery systems or announced their intention to do so, Sipri said. China has started a long-term modernization program focused on making qualitative improvements to its nuclear arsenal, while India and Pakistan are both expanding their nuclear-weapon stockpiles and developing their missile-delivery capabilities, Sipri said.

“This suggests that none of these states will be prepared to give up their nuclear arsenals for the foreseeable future,” Senior SIPRI Researcher Shannon Kile said in a statement.

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(Updates with Shannon quote in last paragraph. A previous version of this story corrected spending figure in third paragraph.)
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