Nuclear Weapons 101

Once considered an asset, nuclear weapons are now a security liability.

The world has changed

Nuclear weapons were built during World War II for their unique destructive power, and stockpiled as a deterrent during the Cold War.

Over 17,000 nuclear weapons remain in the world today.

Scattered across nine countries, with many kept at hair-trigger alert, the strategic and tactical value of nuclear weapons has decreased—but significant risks remain.

In fact, in the face of modern security threats—such as emerging nuclear states and terrorism—nuclear weapons have become a serious security liability, not an asset.

Nuclear weapons carry significant risks

The large number of nuclear weapons in the world, along with the policies governing how and when they're used, creates significant opportunities for accidents, theft, and rash decision making in a crisis. This ever-present risk is inherently harmful to U.S. security.

Moreover, nuclear weapons may actually exacerbate modern security threats. Emerging states use nuclear weapons as a motivation for developing their own weapons programs, while the threat of nuclear terrorism increases with nuclear proliferation. Related issues like missile defense also complicate important relationships with major powers, including China.

We have better ways of ensuring our security

As the world’s threats change, so should security strategies and priorities. In today’s world, nuclear weapons are outdated and counterproductive.

To aid U.S. security—and better address today's nuclear threats—the U.S. should reduce its nuclear stockpiles step-by-step, as well as make significant policy shifts on missile defense, nuclear terrorism, and related issues.

Learn more about our nuclear weapons program here.

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