Nuclear Weapons

The Cold War is over, but the United States and Russia still keep thousands of nuclear weapons on alert and in reserve. Understand the issues with our technical and political analysis.


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Latest Nuclear Weapons Posts

No President Should Be Able to Start a Nuclear War Single-Handedly

, analyst

Among the general craziness of the 2016 presidential campaign, you can be forgiven if you missed one particular crazy piece of information: the president of the United States currently has the authority to order the launch of nuclear weapons without input from anyone. This has actually been the case for decades, but the campaign brought it to the attention of the general public, many of whom were hearing it for the first time and were understandably surprised, and even somewhat alarmed, at the idea. Read more >

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New START is a Winner

, Washington representative and senior analyst

U.S. military leaders continue to strongly support New START, the arms control treaty between the United States and Russia that limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed, long-range nuclear weapons by 2018.

The problem is that President Donald Trump is apparently unwilling to listen to their sage advice. Read more >

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Fake News about Chinese Nuclear Weapons

, China project manager and senior analyst

On the left, a still from a video shot at an intersection in the Chinese city of Daqing. On the right, a picture of the Russian Topol-M taken during a military parade in Moscow. Both are carried on eight-axel TEL vehicles, indicating they are approximately the same size.

A video recently discovered on a Chinese internet service appears to show a new Chinese road-mobile missile making a turn at an intersection in the city of Daqing. The discovery generated sensational claims about changes in Chinese nuclear strategy. However, a careful search of Chinese sources shows that none of those claims can be substantiated. Some are obvious distortions.

Read more >

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Trump and the Nuclear Codes: How To Launch a Nuclear Weapon

, co-director and senior scientist

There has been a lot of talk about the fact that after his inauguration, Donald Trump will have his finger on the “button” used to launch nuclear weapons. But the president does not actually have a “button.”

Instead when he becomes president he will be given nuclear codes that enable him to launch a nuclear strike.

What does that actually mean? Read more >

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Reflections on the IAEA Nuclear Security Conference: More Participants, Less Focus

, senior scientist

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the conference on nuclear security in Vienna sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The conference was enormous, with 2,000 participants from 130 countries. The US official delegation alone had over 100 people. I heard (but have not substantiated) that the ministerial meeting that preceded the technical meeting attracted a larger number of national delegations than any other IAEA conference in its history. By one measure—inclusivity—the conference seems to have been a success.

However, that success came at a price: a reduction of focus on the most serious nuclear threat—the theft of fissile materials (highly-enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium) that terrorists could use to make improvised nuclear weapons. Read more >

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