Center for Arms Control

Fact Sheet: The History of Global Nuclear Stockpiles

August 2012

By Lesley McNiesh

*When the Soviet Union dissolved, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine inherited the nuclear weapons that had been stored on their territory. However, all three states agreed to return these weapons to Russia, with Ukraine being the last to do so in 1994. **South Africa had an extremely secretive nuclear program in the 1980’s. Its government did not admit to having such a program until 1993 after it had already dismantled its weapons.

Since the stockpiles of the United States and Russia/the Soviet Union have dwarfed those of other states, here’s a closer look at the very small portion at the bottom of the graph above:

Nuclear weapons programs are generally shrouded in secrecy and all of the information in these charts should be considered estimates. The data is primarily based on based on “Global nuclear weapons inventories, 1945–2010” by Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen with additional information from "US Nuclear Forces, 2012," "Russian Nuclear Forces, 2012," "Indian Nuclear Forces, 2012," "British Nuclear Forces, 2011," and “Pakistan Nuclear Forces, 2011.”Where estimates for 2012 were not available, the inventory was assumed to stay at the most recent estimated level (no earlier than 2010).

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