Nuclear Powers

In the final year of his presidency Obama’s vision of a nuclear-free world proposed in 2009 seems far from becoming a reality. Although the countries with the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons (Russia and the USA) reducing their inventory, a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) states that China, France, Russia, and the UK “are either developing or deploying new weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so.” The state of the nuclear world therefore has changed very little in recent years, as SIPRI shows: “At the start of 2015, nine states — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) — possessed approximately 15 850 nuclear weapons, of which 4300 were deployed with operational forces. Roughly 1800 of these weapons are kept in a state of high operational alert.” The following cartogram shows who the nuclear powers are in the world:

Cartogram of the World's Nuclear Weapons
(click for larger version)

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A Nuclear Planet

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is warning that “Iran appears to be on a structured path to building a nuclear weapon”. Are they…are they not? The possession of nuclear weapons is a well kept secret, also for those countries that are known to be part of the club of world nuclear forces. The Federation of American Scientists states that “the exact number of nuclear weapons in each country’s possession is a closely held national secret. Despite this limitation, however, publicly available information and occasional leaks make it possible to make best estimates about the size and composition of the national nuclear weapon stockpiles”. Using their data suggests, that there may be a total inventory of about 20,500 nuclear weapons that separates us from the vision of a nuclear-free world outlined by US President Obama in 2009 (meanwhile, priorities appear to have changed, with expert outlines for steps toward a nuclear-free world having been moved to an archive of the US foreign policy website). The reality looks very different, and Iran would only be one more member in a bipolar world that still very much reflects the nuclear arms race of the cold war. The following map is an update to the Worldmapper Nuclear Weapons cartogram using the 2011 estimates for the possession of nuclear weapons by the FAS:

Map / Cartogram of the World Nuclear Forces(click for larger map)

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