Sources: Federation of American Scientists: Status of World Nuclear Forces.
List Notes: All data is estimated. A strategic nuclear weapon refers to a nuclear weapon which is designed to be used on targets as part of a strategic plan, such as nuclear missile. A non-strategic nuclear weapon (or tactical nuclear weapon) refers to a nuclear weapon which is designed to be used on a battlefield in military situations. The mathematical symbol ~ means "roughly similar to".
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In 2010 The world's combined stockpile of nuclear warheads was more than 23,000. At it's peak during the Regan/Gorbachev administrations in 1986, the Soviet Union had stockpiled 40,159 nuclear weapons. The United States stockpile peaked in 1967 during the Johnson/Brezhnev Administrations with 31,255 nuclear weapons.
U.S. and Russian stockpiles were greatly reduced after the end of the cold war however 8,000 active warhead remain with approximately 2,000 U.S. and Russian warheads on high alert and ready for use on short notice. In 1960 the first "Single Integrated Operational Plan" or SIOP (pronounced sigh-op) was devised by the U.S. military headed by the Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC) to lay out the plan of a nuclear war with Russia and China (until then each branch of the military - the Army, the Navy and the Air Force - had been building it's own nuclear arsenal and writing it's own war plan). The SIOP determined which weapons would be fired or dropped on specific targets. Under plan I-A if the United States launched a Pre-emptive first strike the attack would involve 3,423 nuclear weapons totaling 7,847 megatons killing 285 million "communists" and injuring 40 million more (estimates do not include deaths and injuries from radioactive fallout and/or nuclear winter).*
According to the Federation of American Scientists: "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"
Under the 2010 START Treaty the United States and Russia will be limited to the following:
1,550 nuclear warheads - (Warheads on deployed ICBMs and deployed SLBMs count toward this limit and each deployed heavy bomber equipped for nuclear armaments counts as one warhead toward this limit. This limit is 74% lower than the limit of the 1991 START Treaty and 30% lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty).
A combined limit of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.
A separate limit of 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments - (This limit is less than half the corresponding strategic nuclear delivery vehicle limit of the START Treaty).
The United States spent over $52 billion on nuclear weapons and related programs in the fiscal year 2008. More than half of all nuclear power plants (55%) are located in countries which are known to have nuclear weapons.
*Editor's note: these estimates were obtained by Fred Kaplan under a Freedom of Information request in 1982
Top 5 facts sources (in no particular order):
Federation of American Scientists: Status of World Nuclear Forces
U.S Departments of Defense and Energy
Natural Resources Defense Council.
Kaplan, F. No More Nukes? (September 27th, 2010) Time, VOL 176 NO. 13, 24-27.
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