A nuclear bomb is probably the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. The two times
it was used in war, it killed between 90,000 and 166,000 people in Hiroshima and
from 60,000 to 80,000 people in Nagasaki. The seemingly innocuous terms “Little
Boy” and “Fat Man” developed new meanings after those August bombings in Japan.
Unfortunately, mankind did not learn its lesson. Today, there are thousands of
nuclear weapons still around. Around 10 countries have conducted nuclear bomb
testing. South Africa used to have around six nuclear weapons back in the 80’s, but
voluntarily disassembled them in the 90’s. The Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan also had
nuclear weapons after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, but they had since
voluntarily disposed or transferred them to Russia.
In the west, NATO countries Belgium, Italy, Germany, Netherlands and Turkey
all have nuclear weapons in their territories, but the Americans own all of these.
Canada and Greece also used to have American weapons in their countries, but
they were removed in 1984 and 2001, respectively.
Other countries, however, still have their own arsenal. Here are the top countries
with nuclear warheads.
9. North Korea – less than 10 nuclear warheads
North Korea has always been belligerent and regularly uses its weapons as
bargaining chips whenever they want something from other countries. It was actually
a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, but they withdrew in
2003 after the United States cut off energy assistance because of North Korea’s
suspected uranium enrichment program. It conducted its first test in 2006. While the
Americans confirmed this, it is believed that it was not a complete success. More
tests followed in 2009 and 2013.
8. India – 80 to 100 nuclear warheads
India is not a party to the NPT. In 1974, it conducted its first nuclear test code named
the “Smiling Buddha,” the first one conducted after the NPT came into force in 1970.
India has rejected calls for its nuclear disarmament, insisting that everyone should
also do so. It rejected the NPT because of the discrimination that comes with it in
which the world would be divided into nuclear “haves” and “have-nots.” In the late
80’s, it weaponized 24 nuclear arms for delivery by air. In 1998, it tested some of its
weaponized warheads in what it dubbed as Operation Shakti. It came in the same
year that its archrival, Pakistan, tested its first nuclear weapon.
7. Pakistan – 90 to 110 nuclear warheads
Like India, Pakistan is not a party to the NPT. Pakistan had vowed in the 60’s to
develop its own nuclear weapon in case India gets one. The Pakistanis are believed
to have several in its arsenal ever since the 80’s. In 1998, however, after India
conducted five tests, Pakistan made six nuclear tests in what it called “Chagai-I.”
6. Israel – 80 to 200 nuclear warheads
Israel probably got a nuclear weapon way back in 1967. The weapon assembled
was probably crude and never got tested. However, in 1979, Israel was believed
to have conducted a test in the Indian Ocean in cooperation with South Africa.
Mordechai Vanunu, a technician who had photographs and detailed technical
information on how to separate lithium-6, confirmed the advanced state of the
Israeli nuclear weapon program in 1986. Separating lithium-6 is a key step for the
production of tritrium, which is essential in developing fusion-boosted fission bombs.
Israel is a signatory to the NPT.
5. United Kingdom – 225 nuclear warheads
The United Kingdom was able to test its first nuclear weapon in 1952 in what it
dubbed as “Hurricane.” The British made use of data largely gathered from the
Manhattan Project. It was the third country to have the bomb, even as it tried to
maintain its status as a great power by having its own deterrent against the Soviet
Union. It also tested its first hydrogen bomb in 1957’s “Operation Grapple.” Out of
the 225 nuclear warheads it has, 160 are still active. It is a party to the NPT.
4. China – 240 nuclear warheads
China tested its first nuclear weapon in 1964 in what it dubbed as “596.” It was
meant as a deterrent to both the United States and Soviet Union. It then tested a
hydrogen bomb in “Test No. 6” in 1967. It is a signatory of the NPT, though it never
ratified it. The country, however, has a strict “no first-use” policy, meaning it provides
an unqualified negative security assurance that it would only use the weapon when
an enemy strikes them with the bomb first.
3. France – 300 nuclear warheads
France had its first nuclear weapon test in 1960 in an operation dubbed as “Gerboise
Bleue.” It used its own research and they ramped up its development after the Suez
Crisis in the late 50’s. It was also meant to maintain its status as a great power,
like the United Kingdom. In 1968, it tested its first hydrogen bomb in what it calls
“Operation Canopus.” It voluntarily disarmed 175 weapons after the Cold War,
though 290 are still active. It is a party to the NPT.
2. United States – 7,700 nuclear warheads
The United States was the first country to develop nuclear missiles. It happened
during World War II when it collaborated with the United Kingdom and Canada in
the Manhattan Project as it raced against Nazi Germany to be the first to have the
bomb. It tested its first nuclear weapon in 1945 in what it dubbed as “Trinity.” It then
used the weapon twice against Japan. In 1952, it tested the hydrogen bomb in “Ivy
Mike,” before following it up with a deployable weapon in 1954’s “Castle Bravo.” It is
a signatory to the NPT. It has the most number of active nuclear weapons at 2,150.
1. Russia – 8,500 nuclear warheads
Russia tested its first nuclear weapon in 1949’s “RDS-1,” as it attempted to balance
out the West’s advantage during the Cold War. It tested its first hydrogen bomb in
1957’s “RDS-37.” It also had the most powerful bomb ever exploded in Tsar Bomba.
Before the Soviet Union collapsed, its arsenal included 45,000 nuclear warheads.
Russia has trimmed it down to 8,500, though only 1,740 are active. It is a party to the
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