Timeline of nuclear risk

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This is a timeline of nuclear risk, which refers to the potential dangers and uncertainties associated with the possession, development, deployment, and potential use of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. Nuclear risk encompasses a range of threats, including the accidental or unauthorized detonation of nuclear weapons, the proliferation of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear states or non-state actors, the possibility of intentional nuclear attacks during conflicts, and the risks posed by nuclear accidents or disasters at nuclear power plants or other nuclear facilities.

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Time period Development summary More details
1940s-1950s Dawn of the Nuclear Age This period marks the inception of the nuclear age, defined by transformative events and the emergence of a global power dynamic centered around nuclear capabilities. The 1940s witnesses the unprecedented development of nuclear weapons during World War II, a culmination that underscores their destructive potential through the devastating bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Subsequently, the 1950s usher in the Cold War, an ideological and political standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union. This era is characterized by an arms race, wherein both superpowers engage in vigorous testing and enhancement of nuclear weaponry. The mushroom clouds that rise from their nuclear tests symbolize the intensifying global competition and the emergence of nuclear weapons as a dominant force shaping geopolitics, security doctrines, and international relations.
1960s-1970s Escalation and tensions During the 1960s and 1970s, the world confronts heightened tensions among nuclear-armed nations, spurring extensive global endeavors to mitigate the risk of nuclear warfare. The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, a seminal episode between the United States and the Soviet Union, brings the globe to the brink of nuclear conflict, illustrating the perils of the arms race and potential devastation. Simultaneously, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) emerges in 1968 as a vital instrument to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Throughout the 1970s, pivotal negotiations between the superpowers result in significant nuclear arms control agreements. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) encompasses SALT I (1972) and the unratified SALT II, which aims to restrict strategic nuclear weapons development. Additionally, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972 aims to prevent the establishment of defensive systems that could undermine deterrence. This period exemplifies a delicate equilibrium among nuclear-armed states, accompanied by concentrated diplomatic endeavors to stave off nuclear conflict, notably underscored by the Cuban Missile Crisis.
1980s-1990s Global proliferation concerns In this period, the international landscape is marked by heightened apprehensions about nuclear proliferation, leading to a shifting focus on non-traditional sources of risk. In the 1980s, the arms race between major powers intensifies, accentuated by popular anti-nuclear movements and technological strides in nuclear capabilities by diverse nations. This era also sees pivotal negotiations aimed at reducing nuclear armaments, exemplified by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Subsequently, the 1990s witnesses a transformative event—the conclusion of the Cold War—which prompts substantial reductions in nuclear arsenals. Consequently, attention shifts towards the emergence of "rogue states" and non-state actors as potential nuclear threats, necessitating a recalibration of international efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation. This period witnesses a pivotal transition from superpower rivalries to more nuanced concerns surrounding unconventional sources of nuclear risk.
2000s-present Post-Cold War challenges The period spanning the 2000s to the present is characterized by unique challenges and persistent global efforts in the realm of nuclear risk. In the 2000s, concerted endeavors persist to curtail nuclear proliferation, encompassing disarmament agreements and initiatives aimed at preventing the unauthorized acquisition of nuclear materials by terrorists. As the timeline progresses into the 2010s and beyond, mounting apprehensions emerge regarding the nuclear capabilities of North Korea and Iran. This era is marked by ongoing tensions among nuclear-armed nations, with a strong international focus on averting potential nuclear conflicts and promoting disarmament. Diplomatic channels and negotiations play a pivotal role in addressing these contemporary challenges, underscoring the imperative of collective efforts to navigate the complex landscape of nuclear risk in an ever-evolving global context.

Full timeline

Year Month and date Related risk type Event type Details Involved country
1939 April Intentional (state) Program launch German nuclear weapons program begins with a secret conference in Berlin, which results in the Ministry of Education initiating a formal uranium research program and banning the export of uranium to other nations. The program launches five months before U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt reads Einstein's letter warning of the potential for nuclear weapons. However, the German atomic weapons program during World War II would not come close to developing a usable weapon. Despite early efforts, various challenges, including scientific miscalculations, bureaucratic inefficiency, doubts among German scientists, and disruptions caused by Allied actions, would hinder its progress. By around 1942, German researchers would become pessimistic about the feasibility of nuclear weapons. The Alsos Mission would be conducted by the Allies towards the end of the war confirming that the German program have not advanced beyond research and development stages. The German uranium would be captured only weeks before Germany's surrender, alleviating any remaining fears of a Nazi atomic bomb.[1] Germany
1943 August 19 Intentional (state) The Quebec Agreement is signed between the United Kingdom and the United States, with the purpose to expedite the Tube Alloys project during World War II, which aims to research and develop nuclear weapons. The Quebec Agreement is based on the recognition that pooling British and American resources would accelerate progress while avoiding unnecessary duplication of facilities. The agreement includes provisions to prevent the use of Tube Alloys against each other or third parties without consent. It also addresses the division of post-war industrial and commercial advantages and establishes a Combined Policy Committee to oversee collaboration, allocate resources, and ensure information sharing across various aspects of the project.[2] United Kingdom, United States
1945 Intentional (state) Nuclear test In the New Mexico desert, American scientists conduct "Trinity," the first nuclear weapons test, marking the beginning of the atomic age.[3] A plutonium implosion device named "Gadget" is detonated atop a 100-foot tower, releasing 18.6 kilotons of power. The explosion vaporizes the tower and turns the surrounding area into green glass, known as "trinitite." Witnesses from as far as 200 miles away report seeing the flash and feeling the heat.[4] United States
1945 September Intentional (state) Organization The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is founded by Albert Einstein and former Manhattan Project scientists as a response to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It aims to educate the public about the dangers of nuclear arms and the potential destruction of atomic warfare. The Bulletin would introduce the symbolic Doomsday Clock in 1947 to represent threats to humanity from nuclear weapons, climate change, and disruptive technologies. Over the years, the clock's setting would be adjusted to reflect changing global circumstances. The organization also contributes to the formation of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs and continues to inform people about global security issues and nuclear weapons.[5] United States
1946 Comprehensive Organization The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is established as the federal regulator of nuclear power and materials in Canada, replacing the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB). Today, its mandate, under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act of 1997, is to regulate nuclear energy, substances, and equipment to reduce safety, environmental, and national security risks, and to comply with international obligations such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The CNSC reports to the Parliament of Canada through the Minister of Natural Resources.[6] Canada
1946 March Nuclear security The Acheson-Lilienthal Report is created during the early Cold War, proposing a plan to prevent a nuclear arms race by advocating the sharing of nuclear energy knowledge and implementing inspections for peaceful use. The report recommends international cooperation with an agency possessing affirmative powers and inspection capabilities. It also suggests a progressive disclosure of nuclear information. The report emphasizes the importance of maintaining U.S. security during international discussions and the gradual transfer of authority over nuclear-related activities. However, Bernard Baruch would later modify the plan as the Baruch Plan, which would be rejected by the Soviet Union.[7][8] United States, Soviet Union
1946 June Program launch The United States government proposes the Baruch Plan to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission.[9] The plan aims to achieve global cooperation on nuclear control by decommissioning all US atomic weapons and sharing nuclear technology with other countries, on the condition that they pledge not to produce atomic weapons and accept strict inspections and sanctions. The plan also proposes creating an International Atomic Development Authority under the United Nations to control nuclear energy. However, the Soviet Union rejects the plan, fearing it would maintain the US nuclear monopoly, and the Cold War nuclear arms race ensues. The Baruch Plan would remain significant in discussions about international nuclear cooperation and arms control.[10] United States
1946 Organization Albert Einstein and Leó Szilárd establish the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists (ECAS) with the goal of warning the public about the dangers of nuclear weapons and promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy.[11] The committee, consisting of eight members, including prominent scientists like Linus Pauling and Hans Bethe, advocated for world peace to prevent the use of nuclear weapons.[12] ECAS would oppose the development of the hydrogen bomb and would conduct lecture tours and produce materials to support their message.[13][14][15][16] Despite initial fundraising success, the committee would be disbanded in 1950, with members continuing to campaign against nuclear war and participating in the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.[17] United States
1949 August 29 Nuclear weapon program Test launch The Soviet Union conducts its first nuclear weapon test using the RDS-1, also known as Izdeliye 501 or First Lightning.[18] The bomb has a yield of 22 kilotons TNT equivalent and was an implosion-type weapon with a solid plutonium core.[19] The test's effects are more destructive than anticipated.[20] Western powers become surprised by the test, as they had underestimated the Soviet Union's nuclear capabilities.[21] The United States, in response, begins tracking nuclear fallout debris to confirm the test. President Harry S. Truman publicly acknowledges the Soviet test on September 23, 1949, marking a pivotal moment in the early stages of the Cold War and leading to increased pressure to develop hydrogen bombs.[22] Soviet Union
1952 June 13 Organization The Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) is established as the primary nuclear regulatory authority of Israel. Concealed from the public until 1954, the IAEC oversees two research centers and advises the government on nuclear policy, representing Israel internationally. Key units include the Department for Nuclear Engineering (promoting reactor and nuclear power infrastructure, including desalination research), the Licensing and Safety Department (formulating safety policies, managing nuclear power stations and waste, and overseeing radiation dangers), and the Unit for Diplomatic Relations. Since 1966, the IAEC Chairman would be the Prime Minister.[23][24] Israel
1952 October 3 Nuclear weapon program Nuclear test Operation Hurricane is conducted in the Montebello Islands, Western Australia, as the first British nuclear test, driven by the desire to maintain its status as a global power and not rely solely on the United States for atomic capabilities. The decision to develop the bomb is initially kept secret, with only a few officials aware of it. The test takes place off the coast of Australia to avoid mainland contamination. The bomb is detonated on the anchored frigate HMS Plym, resulting in a massive explosion that vaporizes the ship and sends debris into the air. The operation is deemed successful, and no casualties are reported.[25] United Kingdom, Australia
1953 December 8 The Atoms for Peace speech is delivered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to the United Nations General Assembly. In the speech, Eisenhower discusses the language of atomic warfare and proposes an international program called "Atoms for Peace." The program aims to share nuclear technology, equipment, and information for peaceful purposes like research, medicine, and energy production. It seeks to assure the world that the United States intends to use nuclear energy for constructive purposes and not for war.[26][27] However, the program would also face criticism for being a propaganda component of the Cold War strategy of containment and for contributing to the nuclear arms race.[28][29][30][31]
1955 Nuclear security Organization The UK Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary is established as the armed security police force of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.[32] It would operate until 1 April 2005.[33] United Kingdom
1955 The Mainau Declaration emerges from a meeting of Nobel laureates in response to the growing nuclear threat. Inspired by Albert Schweitzer and Werner Heisenberg, the laureates from various countries and backgrounds urge political leaders in both East and West to reject the use of force as a means of politics. They specifically warn against the catastrophic consequences of atomic weapons, highlighting the potential for global devastation and the peril of even small conflicts escalating. The declaration emphasizes that nations must renounce force as a last resort, or they risk their own existence. Initially signed by eighteen laureates, the declaration calls for a commitment to peace amid the nuclear age.[34] Germany
1956 Comprehensive Organization (state agency) The Brazilian National Commission for Nuclear Energy (CNEN) is established to oversee all nuclear activities in Brazil. It would undergo reorganization with its responsibilities defined by new laws and amendments. CNEN would subsequently evolve into the regulatory authority responsible for regulating, licensing, and monitoring nuclear energy, while nuclear electricity generation is transferred to the electricity sector.[35] Brazil
1957 July 29 Organization The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is established[36] with the mission to promote and oversee the peaceful use of nuclear technology.[37] Headquartered in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA aims to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy while preventing its military application. It is created in response to global concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation, particularly during the Cold War era. The IAEA fosters cooperation in nuclear technology, safety, and science, along with implementing safeguards to verify non-military usage of nuclear energy. It plays a vital role in assisting member states, providing technical expertise, and monitoring nuclear facilities to ensure safety and security.
1957 September 29 Nuclear weapon program Accident The Kyshtym disaster occurs when buried nuclear waste explodes at a plutonium-processing plant near Kyshtym, Chelyabinsk oblast, Russia (then in the U.S.S.R.). The Soviet government initially denies the event, which contaminates about 9,000 square miles of land, leads to over 10,000 evacuations, and likely causes hundreds of deaths due to radioactivity. It would be classified as a Level 6 accident on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. The disaster results from a malfunctioning cooling system in a waste tank, leading to a nonnuclear explosion equivalent to 70 tons of TNT. Fallout contains cesium-137 and strontium-90, impacting hundreds of thousands of people. It would remain largely unknown until 1976.[38]
1957 November Nuclear disarmament Program launch The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is launched as a program dedicated to advocating for nuclear disarmament. CND would become a prominent movement and play a crucial role in raising awareness about the dangers of nuclear weapons and pushing for global nuclear disarmament efforts. The campaign's focus is on promoting peace and eliminating the threat posed by nuclear arms, aiming to create a world free from the devastating impact of nuclear weapons.[39]
1958 May 17 Organization The Institute of Nuclear Materials Management (INMM) is founded, initially gathering 55 members. The first INMM Annual Meeting, jointly sponsored by the INMM and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), would take place on May 26, 1959. Born from discussions during three years of AEC joint meetings with Management and Operating (M&O) contractor representatives, INMM aims to provide expertise in nuclear materials management. Today, with over 1,200 members, 16 Professional Chapters, 24 Student Chapters, and collaborations worldwide, INMM serves as an international resource for nuclear materials management expertise.[40]
1958 October 17 Nuclear security Ireland proposes the first resolution at the United Nations to prohibit the “further dissemination of nuclear weapons.”[37] Ireland
1959 Nuclear power program Notable case A reactor in Italy becomes the last nuclear project financed by the World Bank.[41] Italy
1960 February 13 Nuclear weapon program Nuclear test France conducts its first nuclear test explosion, becoming the world’s fourth nuclear state, after the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom.[37] France
1960 June 1 During its Forty-fourth Session, the General Conference of the International Labour Organization convenes in Geneva and adopts the Radiation Protection Convention. This convention applies to all activities involving worker exposure to ionising radiations and outlines measures to protect workers' health and safety. It sets maximum permissible doses and amounts for radiation exposure, prohibits the employment of workers under 16 in radiation work, and mandates medical examinations for workers involved in radiation work. Member countries ratifying the convention are obligated to provide appropriate inspection services to supervise its application. The convention becomes binding upon registration of ratifications and allows for periodic revision.[42]
1960 General Notable case The first Israeli nuclear reactor goes on line, with the second in 1962.[41] Israel
1961 December 4 The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopts Resolution 1665, which is built upon an earlier draft resolution from Ireland. The resolution urges for negotiations to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional states. Its key provisions require countries already possessing nuclear weapons to commit to retaining control over them and refraining from sharing information for their production with non-nuclear states. Simultaneously, countries without nuclear weapons agree not to acquire or develop such weapons. These fundamental principles lay the groundwork for the creation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a landmark international agreement aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and promoting disarmament.[37]
1961 December 20 Intentional (state) Treaty The McCloy–Zorin Accords are agreed upon by the United States and the USSR, as a basis for future multilateral negotiations on disarmament. The goal is to achieve general and complete disarmament, with war no longer being an instrument for settling international problems. The program proposes a phased approach to disarmament, including the disbanding of armed forces, elimination of weapons stockpiles, and cessation of military expenditures. Strict and effective international control would ensure all parties' compliance, and measures to strengthen institutions for maintaining peace were to accompany disarmament. The goal is to achieve the widest possible agreement on the total disarmament program at the earliest possible date.[43] Soviet Union, United States
1962 Intentional (state) Concept development The concept of Mutual assured destruction (MAD) emerges as a strategic doctrine during the Cold War. MAD is based on the belief that if two nuclear-armed adversaries possess enough weapons to guarantee mutual destruction in the event of a nuclear war, it would deter both sides from initiating such an attack. The idea is that the fear of catastrophic retaliation would prevent any rational actor from launching a nuclear strike. This concept would play a significant role in shaping nuclear policies and arms control efforts during the tense period of the Cold War.[44]
1962 October Intentional (state) Notable case The Cuban Missile Crisis marks a critical moment in the Cold War when the United States and the Soviet Union come perilously close to nuclear conflict. Following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and Soviet-Cuban secret agreements, the U.S. discovers evidence of Soviet nuclear missile installations in Cuba. President Kennedy orders a naval "quarantine" of Cuba and communicates directly with Soviet Premier Khrushchev, emphasizing that any nuclear attack from Cuba would be considered an attack by the USSR. As tensions escalate, Khrushchev offers to remove the missiles in exchange for a pledge not to invade Cuba. Despite some setbacks and miscommunications, the crisis ends peacefully, leading to improved U.S.-Soviet communication and progress towards a nuclear Test Ban Treaty.[45] Cuba, United States, Soviet Union
1963 March 21 United States President John F. Kennedy highlights the looming threat of a world where numerous nations, possibly 15 to 25, could possess nuclear weapons by the 1970s. This concern arise following a confidential Department of Defense memo that projects Canada, China, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and West Germany as potential nuclear-capable countries within a decade. Kennedy's warning underscores the severe danger and potential hazards associated with nuclear proliferation, emphasizing the urgent need to address the proliferation issue and prevent the widespread access to nuclear weapons.[37]
1963 August 5 Nuclear disarmament Treatment The Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) is signed in Moscow by the governments of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States before it is opened for signature by other countries.[46][47] The treaty aims to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons by prohibiting atmospheric, outer space, and underwater nuclear test detonations, except for those conducted underground.[48] Its inception is driven by rising public concerns over the environmental and health impacts of nuclear tests, particularly those involving hydrogen bombs. The PTBT lays the foundation for arms control efforts and paves the way for subsequent agreements, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1968.[49] Soviet Union, United Kingdom, United States
1964 October 16 Nuclear weapon program Nuclear test Project 596 marks China's inaugural nuclear weapons test. It is conducted at the Lop Nur test site. Utilizing a uranium-235 implosion fission device constructed from enriched weapons-grade uranium, it yields 22 kilotons. This event establishes China as the fifth nuclear power globally and the first in Asia, further launching a series of 45 successful nuclear tests at Lop Nur between 1964 and 1996. China's nuclear program began in response to Cold War conflicts with the United States, reflecting Mao Zedong's belief that nuclear capabilities would bolster national security. Despite initial Soviet support, the Soviet Union withdrew aid in 1959, prompting China's self-reliance in nuclear development.[50][51][37] China
1965 August 17 Nuclear security The United States submits to the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee its first draft proposal to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union submits its first draft a month later.[37] United States, Soviet Union
1967 January 27 Intentional (state) Treaty The Outer Space Treaty is ratified by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Rooted in the 1962 Declaration of Legal Principles for Outer Space, it outlines fundamental principles of international space law, including that space activities must benefit all nations, space is open to exploration by all states, space cannot be claimed as national territory, weapons of mass destruction are prohibited in space, celestial bodies like the Moon must be used for peaceful purposes, astronauts represent all of humanity, states are responsible for their space activities, they are liable for space object damage, and they must prevent space and celestial body contamination. It would become effective in October 1967.[52] Soviet Union, United Kingdom, United States
1967 February 14 Nuclear security Treaty The Treaty of Tlatelolco is opened for signature, establishing Latin America and the Caribbean as a nuclear-weapon-free zone. It is the first of five such regional zones to be negotiated. The other zones cover Africa, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, and Central Asia.[37] Latin America and the Caribbean
1967  ? Intentional (state) Nuclear weapon program Israel secretly acquires the capability to build a nuclear explosive device.[37] Israel
1967 August 24 Intentional Treaty The United States and Soviet Union separately introduce identical draft treaties to the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.[37] United States, Soviet Union
1968 June 12 Intentional The UN General Assembly approves Resolution 2373, endorsing the preliminary text of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The resolution passed with a majority vote of 95 in favor, while 4 countries—Albania, Cuba, Tanzania, and Zambia—voted against it. Additionally, 21 countries chose to abstain from the vote. The NPT aimed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and promote disarmament efforts among nations. This endorsement marked a significant step towards establishing a framework for nuclear nonproliferation and cooperation.[37]
1968 June 19 Intentional (state) The United Nations Security Council Resolution 255 is adopted, addressing measures to protect non-nuclear-weapon states that are parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The resolution aimed to safeguard these non-nuclear-armed nations by providing security assurances against the threat or use of nuclear weapons. It was adopted with a vote of 10 in favor, 0 against, and 5 abstentions during the 1433rd meeting. The resolution reflects the international community's commitment to promoting disarmament and preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons among states.[53]
1968 July 1 Comprehensive Treaty The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is signed. It is an international agreement aiming to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and technology, encourage peaceful nuclear energy cooperation, and promote disarmament. Negotiated between 1965 and 1968, it would enter into force on March 5, 1970, with 190 parties. The treaty recognizes five nuclear-weapon states (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China), and seeks to prevent non-nuclear-weapon states from acquiring nuclear weapons, while obliging nuclear-weapon states to work towards disarmament. Despite criticisms, the NPT remains a significant tool in global efforts to control nuclear proliferation and promote peaceful nuclear cooperation.[54][37]
1968 Intentional (state) The Operation Plumbat is conducted. It would be believed to be a clandestine Israeli mission aimed at acquiring yellowcake (processed uranium ore) to support their nuclear weapons program. After France halts uranium fuel supplies to Israel's Dimona reactor post the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel is thought to procure around 200 tons of yellowcake from Belgium's Union Minière. The operation involves creating a fake company, purchasing a freighter, and transferring the yellowcake at sea. Mossad agents orchestrates the covert transfer, eventually reaching the Dimona nuclear facility for processing. The affair would be exposed in 1977 and would gain public attention through books like The Plumbat Affair and Ken Follett's fictional work Triple.
1969 Comprehensive The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is established by faculty and students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This nonprofit science advocacy organization, based in the U.S., focuses on critical examination of governmental policies in areas where science and technology hold significance. The UCS addresses environmental and social issues, advocating for solutions through research and policy. It is co-founded by physicist Henry Kendall and would gain recognition for initiatives like the World Scientists' Warning to Humanity. Today, with over 200,000 members, including scientists and citizens, the UCS promotes stances on topics such as nuclear disarmament, climate change, deforestation, and sustainable practices, while actively engaging in policy discussions and raising public awareness.
1969 November Nuclear disarmament The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) begins as bilateral conferences between the United States and the Soviet Union. SALT I, initiated in Helsinki, leads to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and an interim agreement. SALT II, launched in 1972, aims to reduce strategic nuclear weapons. Although an agreement would be reached in 1979, the US Senate wouldn't ratify it due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The talks would lay groundwork for the START treaties, particularly START I in 1991 and START II in 1993, focusing on arms reduction. SALT I and SALT II would pave the way for arms control efforts during the Cold War.[55]
1971 Organization The Zangger Committee is founded, consisting in major nuclear suppliers aiming to clarify the implementation of Article III.23 of the NPT. In 1974, they would release a "Trigger List" that identifies items requiring safeguards and guidelines for their export to non-nuclear-weapon States (NNWS) not part of the NPT. These guidelines include three conditions: assurance of non-explosive use, adherence to IAEA Safeguards, and re-transfer provisions, requiring recipient states to apply the same conditions during re-export. These Trigger List and Guidelines are documented as IAEA document INFCIRC/209, subject to periodic amendments.[56]
1972 May 26 Intentional (state) Treaty The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is signed[57] as an arms control treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union on the limitation of the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems used in defending areas against ballistic missile-delivered nuclear weapons. It is intended to reduce pressures to build more nuclear weapons to maintain deterrence.[58] United States, Soviet Union
1973 February 27 Comprehensive Organization The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) is established[59] with aims to promote use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.[60] BAEC would play a crucial role in promoting peaceful uses of atomic energy and developing nuclear power projects. Initially facing resource limitations, BAEC would expand its research facilities, including the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE) with a research reactor. It would extend its services in nuclear medicine, radiation testing, and mineral extraction. However, concerns would emerge about its preparedness to build and operate nuclear power plants.[61] Bangladesh
1974 May 18 Nuclear weapon program Nuclear test Using a reactor provided by Canada for “peaceful” purposes[41], India becomes the first non-nuclear-weapon state to conduct a nuclear test, called Operation Smiling Buddha. A non–NPT member, New Delhi insists the test is a “peaceful” nuclear explosion to mollify international criticism.[37] Nuclear materials were supplied by the United States, and the Canadian reactor was used to produce plutonium for the nuclear explosive. This case can be seen as an example of how early civilian nuclear assistance could lead to the foundation of nuclear weapon programs.[41] India
1974 July 3 Treaty The Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT) is initiated between the United States and the Soviet Union. This treaty sets a limit by prohibiting nuclear tests exceeding 150 kilotons. It specifically restricts the testing of nuclear weapons beyond the fractional-megaton range. Both the United States and the Soviet Union agree to verification measures involving hydrodynamic yield measurements, seismic monitoring, and on-site inspections. TTBT would enter into force on 11 December 1990, marking an important milestone in nuclear arms control efforts between these two major powers.[62][63] Soviet Union, United States
1974 Organization The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is formed.[64] It is an international organization consisting of nuclear supplier countries formed in response to India's 1974 nuclear tests, which highlights the risk of nuclear proliferation. It initially has seven member countries but would grow to include 48 participating governments. NSG aims to control the export of materials and technology related to nuclear weapons development through a set of guidelines. These guidelines are divided into Part 1 and Part 2, covering nuclear-use items and nuclear-related dual-use items. India's attempts to join the NSG would be thwarted due to its non-signatory status to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and opposition from countries like China.[65]
1974 September 3 The International Atomic Energy Agency publishes the “trigger list” developed by the Zangger Committee, identifying nuclear items that require IAEA safeguards as a condition of export.[37]
1975 January 19 Nuclear security Organization The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is formed as an independent U.S. government agency, through the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974. It is responsible for safeguarding public health and safety in matters related to nuclear energy. The NRC oversees reactor safety, security, and licensing, manages radioactive materials, and handles the storage, security, recycling, and disposal of spent nuclear fuel. After the dissolution of the Atomic Energy Commission, the NRC was formed to provide impartial oversight of nuclear energy, medicine, and safety. The NRC's mission encompasses regulating commercial reactors, nuclear materials use, and nuclear waste management. It is led by appointed commissioners, including Chairman Christopher T. Hanson.[66] United States
1975 May 30 Nuclear security Conference The 91 states-parties to the NPT hold the treaty’s first review conference.[37]
1975 Intentional (state program) Nuclear cooperation Taiwan receives nuclear assistance from France.[67][41] In the same year, the CIA reports, “Taipei conducts its small nuclear program with a weapon option clearly in mind, and it will be in a position to fabricate a nuclear device after five years or so.”[68] Taiwan
1976 Intentional (state program) Nuclear cooperation Iraq signs an agreement for nuclear cooperation with France, which provides Osiris-class nuclear reactor.[41] Intended for peaceful scientific research[69], in 1981 it would be destroyed by the Israelis, who believe it was designed to make nuclear weapons. Iraq
1977 Program launch The Jimmy Carter administration launches the International Fuel Cycle Evaluation to discuss the options the establishment of joint regional fuel-cycle facilities and practical aspects of multilateral cooperation on storage of plutonium.[70] United States
1978 January 11 Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) member states provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with the first NSG Guidelines, a common set of guidelines they would follow in making nuclear exports. They are published as an Information Circular to apply to nuclear transfers to non-nuclear weapons states for peaceful purposes to help ensure that such transfers would not be diverted to unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycle or nuclear explosive activities.[71][37]
1978 Accidental Organization (Nonprofit) The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) is founded. It is an anti-nuclear-energy advocacy group based in {{w|Takoma Park, Maryland}. A 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, NIRS would be part of a coalition opposing nuclear power in a letter to Congress seeking "100 percent decarbonization" while denouncing nuclear energy as "dirty." It would also express opposition to the "American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020," considering nuclear power a false solution to climate change. In 2021, NIRS would label nuclear energy as "dirty" and call for a renewable electricity standard, excluding nuclear and promoting weather-dependent power sources.[72][73] United States
1978 Security National law The United States Congress passes the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act to put further restrictions on US nuclear exports.[70] United States
1979 General Statistics Peak of the nuclear power sector’s growth in the world. At this time, there are 233 power reactors being simultaneously under construction, a number had fallen to 120 by 1987.[41] Worldwide
1979 September 22 The Vela incident occurs when an unexplained double flash of light is detected by an American Vela Hotel satellite, near the South African territory of Prince Edward Islands in the Indian Ocean. While the exact cause of the flash remains officially unknown, many independent researchers would believe it is an undeclared joint nuclear test conducted by South Africa and Israel. Despite some speculation about natural causes, the consensus would lean towards a clandestine nuclear test, with Israel and South Africa as possible culprits. The incident would remain shrouded in mystery and controversy to this time, with ongoing debates and investigations.[74] South Africa, Israel, United States
1979 October 26 The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material is adopted in Vienna. It would enter into force on 8 February 1987.
1979 (November 9) A frightening incident occurs at around 11:00 a.m., where computer screens at the Pentagon and North American Aerospace Defense Command indicate that the United States is under attack. The source of panic is believed to be Soviet missiles launched from submarines and land. Fighter planes were immediately deployed to investigate, and air raid sirens blar across Strategic Air Command bases. Air traffic controllers are alerted that commercial flights might need to be grounded. Fortunately, it would be later discovered that a technician had mistakenly inserted a training tape into a computer used for a war game exercise simulating a Soviet attack. The incident highlights the importance of verification during the relatively low-tension period of the Cold War.[75][76] United States, Soviet Union
1979 December The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) is established in Atlanta, Georgia, by the U.S. nuclear power industry in response to the Three Mile Island accident and recommendations from the Kemeny Commission Report. INPO focuses on enhancing operational excellence and sharing operational experience among nuclear power plants. It sets industry-wide performance objectives and conducts evaluations at nuclear stations, identifying strengths and areas for improvement. The evaluations are not publicly disclosed, and INPO assigns scores between one and four to each site, with "INPO 1" being the best score. INPO's Advisory Council includes experts from the nuclear industry and related fields, promoting safe nuclear power plant operation. United States
1980 Organization The Committee on International Security and Armament Control (CISAC) is established at the United States National Academy of Sciences, with the purpose to maintain bilateral contacts with an analogous group at the Soviet Academy of Science.[77] United States, Russia
1980 Intentional (state program) Statistics At this time there are sixty-five nuclear engineering programs in the United States, a number that would be reduced to only thirty-one by 2008.[41][78].
1980 Organization The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) is established by the United Nations General Assembly. UNIDIR serves to inform nations and the global community about international security matters and to support disarmament efforts. Operating autonomously within the UN structure, it conducts objective research on disarmament and security challenges, addressing issues such as nuclear weapons, conventional arms, new weapon technologies, and gender perspectives. It fosters dialogue among researchers, diplomats, and NGOs, aiming to bridge the gap between research and policy. UNIDIR's work aims to enhance security, economic development, and social well-being, contributing to global disarmament and peace efforts.[79][80]
1980 December The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) is established by Dr. Bernard Lown and Dr. Yevgeny Chazov, aiming to prevent nuclear war and raise awareness about the medical consequences of atomic warfare. Comprising national medical organizations from 63 countries, IPPNW advocates for nuclear disarmament and peace. Its affiliates range from small groups to large organizations, promoting activities related to war prevention, health, social justice, and the environment. The organization would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for its efforts in spreading information about nuclear warfare's catastrophic consequences. IPPNW's work would expand to address other forms of armed violence, culminating in the launch of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in 2007, which would also receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.
1980 The Albert Einstein Peace Prize is established by the Albert Einstein Peace Prize Foundation, commemorating the centenary of Albert Einstein's birth and inspired by the Russell-Einstein Manifesto advocating nuclear disarmament. William M. Swartz, a key figure in the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, founds the Foundation with support from Einstein's estate trustees. Prize winners, primarily engaged in nuclear disarmament, receive a $50,000 award. Notable laureates would include Alva Myrdal for her nuclear arms control advocacy, George F. Kennan for reducing US-Soviet tensions, and Mikhail Gorbachev for his role in promoting peace. The prize recognizes individuals for their significant contributions to global peace efforts.
1981 Intentional (state program) Notable case The Israeli Air Force destroys the unfinished Iraqi Osirak reactor during the Operation Opera.[81] This attack would be widely viewed to be a stopgap measure, delaying but not preventing Iraqi nuclear aspirations.[41]
1982 Intentional (state program) Nuclear weapon development South Africa develops and builds its first nuclear explosive device,[82] with its scientists having been trained by the United States as a result of government-backed programs.[41] South Africa
1982 Organization The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) is established as a non-profit international organization focused on education and advocacy.[83] NAPF's mission is to promote a just and peaceful world free from nuclear weapons. With consultative status to the UN Economic and Social Council and recognition as a Peace Messenger Organization, NAPF educates and advocates for nuclear disarmament.[84] Notably, in 2014, NAPF would collaborate with the Marshall Islands to file lawsuits against nine nuclear-armed nations, alleging failure to uphold international obligations for disarmament. This includes a historic case against the U.S., marking the first time a nation is charged domestically for violating a disarmament treaty.[85]
1982–1983 Intentional (state program) Notable case India smuggles Chinese heavy water through German nuclear-materials broker Alfred Hempel, who manages to ship 60 tons of heavy water to Bombay.[86][41] India
1983 March 23 Program launch A greater challenge to Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) arises when United States President Ronald Reagan declares his intention to establish a missile defense system, known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which envisions using advanced technology, including space-based lasers, to intercept and destroy incoming ballistic missiles. Reagan believes SDI could eliminate the need for nuclear weapons, potentially ending the Cold War. Critics, however, raise concerns about its high cost, potential to undermine deterrence, and violation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The Soviet Union objects, complicating arms negotiations. Ultimately, SDI's impact on the Cold War would be mixed, facing substantial opposition and skepticism.[87] Concerns would persist until the program, nicknamed "Star Wars," concludes ten years later. During this time, there are apprehensions that the initiative could heighten the risk of nuclear conflict by weakening the concept of nuclear deterrence.[76][77] United States
1984 Sample case India buys beryllium from a German company.[88][41] Beryllium is a neutron reflector used in nuclear weapons.[89] It is a substitute for gold or natural uranium reflectors in early devices, with the purpose of saving much weight and money.[90] India
1985 Nuclear security Organization The Atomic Energy Licensing Board is established.[91] It is a Malaysian regulatory body directly involved in controlling the radiation safety and activities concerning atomic energy.[92] It operates a radiation detection equipment aimed to support nuclear security training and detection capabilities at major public events in Asia and the Pacific.[93] Malaysia
1985 August 6 The Treaty of Rarotonga, also known as the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, is signed on the island of Rarotonga. This treaty establishes a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the South Pacific, encompassing nations such as Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, and others. It prohibits the use, testing, and possession of nuclear weapons within the zone's borders. The treaty came into force on December 11, 1986, with ratification by 13 parties. The treaty's protocols, binding the declared nuclear states, outline agreements regarding manufacturing, stationing, testing, and use of nuclear weapons within the zone and globally.[94]
Rarotonga Participation.svg
1986 April 26 Accidental Background The Chernobyl disaster occurs. This incident would have a devastating effect on nuclear industries around the world, as a result of decline in demand for nuclear power.[41] Ukraine
1986 Intentional The Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control is established as a non-profit organization focused on halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, chemical/biological weapons, and long-range missiles. It operates under the University of Wisconsin in Washington, D.C. Led by Emeritus Professor Gary Milhollin and later Valerie Lincy, the Project conducts research, public education, and advocacy. It publishes The Risk Report, a database used to screen business transactions related to sensitive products and technologies. The Project tracks WMD proliferation through websites like Iraq Watch and Iran Watch. It would play a role in revealing proliferation threats, aiding U.S. trade restrictions, and influencing sanctions against organizations linked to nuclear and missile activities. United States
1986 October 11–12 Intentional (state) The Reykjavík Summit brings together U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in Iceland. While the talks collapse due to differences over the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), progress is made. Gorbachev proposes eliminating all nuclear weapons within a decade if SDI research remains in labs for ten years. Reagan wants SDI testing flexibility. Despite no formal agreement, the summit reveals the extent of concessions each side is willing to make and discusses human rights. The Reykjavík Summit is seen as a breakthrough that paves the way for the 1987 INF Treaty, which would lead to the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear forces.[95] Iceland, United States, Soviet Union
1987 Accidental A nuclear incident occurs in Goiania, Brazil, stemming from the radioactive contamination of an abandoned hospital machine containing Cs-137. Two men find and sell the machine to a local junkyard, where it is dismantled, releasing Cs-137. This radioactive isotope, produced spontaneously from nuclear fission, spreads throughout Goiania. Many residents fall ill, with 249 individuals found to have significant levels of radioactive material in or on their bodies out of 112,000 examined. International experts from the United States and the Soviet Union assist in containing the situation. The incident raises awareness about nuclear dangers and equipment containing radioactive materials in Brazil.[96] Brazil
1987 April 1 Intentional (state) The Nuclear Risk Reduction Center (NRRC) becomes operational in Washington, DC, and Moscow. This initiative stems from discussions between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev, with Senators Sam Nunn and John Warner playing key roles. These centers aim to enhance communication between the U.S. and Soviet governments to reduce the risk of nuclear war. They utilize high-speed satellite links to exchange information and notifications related to arms control treaties. Two protocols define the notifications exchanged and technical specifications. Regular meetings ensure the smooth functioning of these centers, separate from the "Hot Line," focusing on transparency and confidence-building measures. In 2013, its scope would be expanded to include conveying inquiries and messages about cybersecurity incidents.[97][98] In 2016, the NRRC would be used to demand an end to Russian interference in the US Presidential election.[99][100] United States, Soviet Union
1987 December 8 Intentional (state) The United States and the Soviet Union sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), aimed at eliminating their intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles. The treaty bans nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile launchers with ranges of 500–1,000 kilometers (310–620 mi) (short medium-range) and 1,000–5,500 km (620–3,420 mi) (intermediate-range). While contributing to stability and disarmament during the Cold War, eliminating thousands of missiles, the treaty would face challenges. In 2019, the U.S. would withdraw from the treaty, citing Russian non-compliance and concerns about China's growing missile capabilities, leading to the formal termination of the treaty.[101]
1991 April 3 Intentional (state) Resolution 687 of the UN Security Council is approved, demanding Iraq's termination of its concealed nuclear weapons initiative, exposed post its loss in the Gulf War. Iraq had pursued this program against its obligations as an NPT member. With the implementation of Resolution 687, the IAEA obtains enhanced insights into Iraq's covert project and proceeded to disassemble and secure its residual elements.[37] Iraq
1991 July 10 Intentional (state) South Africa accedes to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Two years later, the South African government admits having covertly built six completed nuclear devices and then dismantled them before joining the accord.[37] South Africa
1991 July 18 Comprehensive Organization The Brazilian–Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC) is established[102] as a binational safeguards agency. Headquartered in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, ABACC plays a crucial role in verifying the peaceful use of nuclear materials that could potentially be used for weapons of mass destruction. It is formed as a result of nuclear cooperation between Argentina and Brazil, with a focus on ensuring the exclusive peaceful use of nuclear materials in the region and globally. ABACC is unique as the world's only binational safeguards organization, working to prevent nuclear weapon proliferation. Argentina, Brazil
1991 July 31 Intentional (state) Treaty The United States and the Soviet Union sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, a bilateral agreement aimed at reducing and limiting strategic offensive arms. Effective from December 5, 1994, the treaty prohibits the deployment of more than 6,000 nuclear warheads and a total of 1,600 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and bombers. It negotiates the largest arms control treaty to date, ultimately eliminating around 80% of existing strategic nuclear weapons. Proposed by President Ronald Reagan, it would be named START I when negotiations begin on START II. The treaty would expire on December 5, 2009, paving the way for the New START Treaty signed on April 8, 2010, further reducing strategic nuclear arms.[103] United States, Soviet Union
1991 December 12 Intentional (state) The Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991 is enacted by the 102nd United States Congress and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush. This legislation aims to address the changing landscape after the Cold War and authorize measures to reduce the Soviet nuclear threat. It allows for the transfer of Soviet military armaments and ordnances to NATO countries in coordination with the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE). The Act also facilitates the Nunn–Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, providing assistance for the transportation, storage, safeguarding, and destruction of nuclear and other weapons in the Soviet Union and its republics.
Early 1990s Intentional Sample case Many nuclear smugglers are thought to be moving directly from the former Soviet Union to Western Europe by road or rail.[41]
1992 March 9 China accedes to the NPT.[104] China
1992 May 23 The Lisbon Protocol is signed by representatives of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan that recognize the four states as successors of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and all of them assume obligations of the Soviet Union under the START I treaty. Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine sign the Lisbon Protocol committing to join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as non-nuclear-weapon states. All three had nuclear weapons when they were Soviet republics.[37]
1992 Program launch The Cooperative Threat Reduction Program begins.[41]
1992 The United States Congress passes the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act, prohibiting the transfer of controlled goods or technology that could knowingly and materially contribute to Iran's proliferation of advanced conventional weapons.[105]
1992 August 3 Intentional France accedes to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, becoming the last of the five recognized nuclear-weapon states to do so.[37] France
1992 September The World Uranium Hearing is conducted in Salzburg, Austria, serving as a platform for global anti-nuclear advocates, including indigenous representatives and scientists. They address the health and environmental hazards linked to uranium mining, nuclear power, weaponry, tests, and radioactive waste disposal. Speakers like Thomas Banyacya, Katsumi Furitsu, Manuel Pino, and Floyd Red Crow Westerman expressed concerns about the inherently destructive nature of the nuclear supply chain, reflecting on events like Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and nuclear testing sites. They emphasize the threat of radioactive contamination, especially to indigenous communities, advocating self-determination, cultural values, and renewable energy. The event's outcomes are captured in a published book and the Declaration of Salzburg, which is accepted by the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations.
1992 October 23 The Former Soviet Union Demilitarization Act of 1992 is enacted by the 102nd United States Congress. Also known as the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1993, this federal law aims to coordinate disarmament efforts with the former Soviet Union. The act facilitates armament retooling, chemical demilitarization, and nonproliferation initiatives. It acknowledges the geopolitical changes of the early 1990s, including the collapse of communism, dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the Gulf War. The act's five subtitles provide authority, funding, and logistical support for various programs, such as transportation and destruction of weapons, establishing safeguards against proliferation, and supporting defense industry demilitarization and civilian conversion.
1993 January 3 Nuclear disarmament Treaty Presidents George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin sign START II (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty II), a bilateral agreement between the United States and Russia aimed at limiting and reducing strategic nuclear arms.[106] This treaty prohibits the use of multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Despite being ratified by the US Senate in 1996 and by Russia in 2000, the treaty would never come into effect due to the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002. Instead, the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) would take its place in 2002, setting new reduction targets for strategic nuclear warheads. United States, Russia
1993 April 1 The International Atomic Energy Agency declares North Korea in noncompliance with its safeguards obligations and refers Pyongyang to the United Nations Security Council.[37] North Korea
1993 The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) is established as a nonprofit think tank focused on nuclear nonproliferation.[107] Led by founder David Albright, a former United Nations IAEA nuclear inspector, ISIS specializes in analyzing IAEA findings and technical data related to nuclear proliferation programs.[108] The organization's main objectives include preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and technology, enhancing transparency of nuclear activities globally, reinforcing non-proliferation regimes, and reducing nuclear arsenals. ISIS would gain recognition for its technical analyses, particularly regarding nuclear programs in North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, and Syria.[109] The institute would be funded by various organizations and government entities, and its work would be respected in non-proliferation circles and international media.[110] United States
1993 September 27 Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty: In a 27 September 1993 speech before the UN, President Clinton called for a multilateral convention banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear explosives or outside international safeguards.
1993 December The UN General Assembly passes resolution 48/75L, advocating for the negotiation of a comprehensive Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or explosive devices. The Conference on Disarmament would establish a committee in March 1995 to negotiate the treaty, but substantive discussions would have yet to occur. The United States initially opposes including a verification mechanism in the treaty but later shifts its stance. In 2009, President Barack Obama would propose negotiating a verifiable treaty to halt fissile material production. Despite international pressure, Pakistan would block efforts to implement the treaty, citing concerns about its specific targeting.
1994 January 11 Kremlin accords United States President Bill Clinton and President Boris Yeltsin of Russia sign the Kremlin accords, a set of agreements with a the purpose to put an end to the preprogrammed targeting of nuclear weapons at specific targets in any country (known as United States – Russia mutual detargeting). The treaty also includes provisions for the dismantling of Russia's nuclear arsenal that is stationed in Ukraine. United States, Russia, Ukraine
1994 Former President Jimmy Carter and North Korean leader Kim Il Sung reach an agreement known as the U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework. As part of this agreement, North Korea makes a commitment to freeze its plutonium-based weapons program.[111] North Korea, United States
1994 The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC) is established as a think tank and research organization focused on nonproliferation policy issues. It aims to promote education and awareness about the challenges of nuclear proliferation and ways to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and related technologies. NPEC conducts research, publishes reports, and hosts conferences and events to engage policymakers, experts, and the public in discussions on nuclear nonproliferation strategies. The organization aims to contribute to informed policy decisions that strengthen international efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and promote global security and stability.
1994 Covert operation Project Sapphire is conducted by the United States government in collaboration with the Kazakhstan government. Its purpose is to mitigate nuclear proliferation risks by extracting weapons-grade enriched uranium from Kazakhstan. This effort is part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, authorized by the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991. The operation focuses on securing 1,322 pounds of highly enriched uranium stored in a poorly documented and vulnerable warehouse. The operation involves a specialized team airlifting the uranium to the United States. This mission exemplifies international cooperation to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons left behind by the Soviet Union and contributes to Kazakhstan's journey towards nuclear disarmament.
1995 April 11 United Nations Security Council Resolution 984 "The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 984 acknowledging the unilateral pledges by the five nuclear-weapon states not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclearweapon states-parties to the NPT. The move is seen as a way to win greater support for the possible indefinite extension of the treaty"[37]
1995 May 11 States-party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) convene to decide on the treaty's extension. Article X of the NPT mandated this conference 25 years after the treaty's initiation to determine if it would continue indefinitely or for further periods. There was initial uncertainty about the extension's nature. Non-nuclear-weapon states, particularly those from the Nonaligned Movement, were dissatisfied with the slow progress in nuclear disarmament. They feared that an indefinite extension would allow nuclear-armed states to retain their arsenals indefinitely without being held accountable for disarmament. Ultimately, the states-parties agreed to the NPT's indefinite extension despite these concerns.[37]
1995 Sample case Customs officials catch a man trying to smuggle highly enriched uranium through a land checkpoint in Bulgaria.[41] Bulgaria
1995 November The Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons is established by the Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating. This commission aims to address nuclear proliferation issues and develop strategies for global nuclear disarmament. The resulting Canberra Report would be published in August 1996 and presented to the United Nations and the Conference on Disarmament in subsequent months. The Commission, which includes prominent figures like Nobel Peace Prize recipient Professor Joseph Rotblat and former US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, concludes that nuclear weapons are immensely destructive, their use catastrophic, and emphasizes the need for global disarmament and robust verification mechanisms.
1995 December 5 Ukraine accedes to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.[37] Ukraine
1995 December 15 Member states of ASEAN sign the Treaty of Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ Treaty, also Bangkok Treaty) as a commitment to preserve the Southeast Asian region as a region free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.[112]
1996 Nuclear power program Policy The World Bank adopts a more official policy proscription against loans for nuclear power plants.[41]
1996 April 12 Nuclear security Treaty The African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, also known as the Treaty of Pelindaba, is signed in Cairo, Egypt. This treaty establishes a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Africa, prohibiting the development, testing, possession, and deployment of nuclear weapons within the territory of its parties. The treaty would come into effect on July 15, 2009, after the 28th ratification. It aims to ensure peaceful nuclear activities in Africa, while also establishing mechanisms for compliance verification. The treaty covers the entire African continent and several islands, with the goal of promoting regional security and preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.[113]
1996 July 8 Intentional (state) The International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivers an Advisory opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons. The opinion states that while there is no explicit authorization or comprehensive prohibition of nuclear weapons' threat or use, it concludes that such actions would generally be contrary to international humanitarian law. The opinion notes that legality might vary in extreme circumstances of self-defense, where a state's survival is at stake. The Court emphasizes that nuclear disarmament is an obligation.[114] The opinion is in response to a request from the United Nations General Assembly, addressing issues related to the legality of nuclear weapons' threat or use under international law.[115]
1996 July Nuclear security Organization The Wassenaar Arrangement is formally established as a Multilateral export control regime with (MECR) with 41 participating states that promotes transparency of national export control regimes on conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies.[116][117] It is the successor to the Coordinating Committee on Multilateral Export Control (COCOM), which coordinated western restrictions on trade with communist states during the Cold War.[118] In December 2013, the list of export restricted technologies would be amended to include internet-based surveillance systems.[119]
Wassenaar Arrangement members map.svg
1996 September 24 Nuclear security Treaty The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty is signed. Since then, it would become one of the most adhered to arms control instruments in the world. The Treaty bans all nuclear explosions in any environment. As of 2017, 183 countries would have signed the CTBT, with 166 of these having set their commitment to that principal in stone through ratification.[77]:167 "The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty outlawing nuclear explosions is opened for signature. The treaty has yet to enter into force because not all of the requisite states, including China, India, Pakistan, and the United States, have ratified it."[37]
1997 January Organization The International Nuclear Regulators' Association (INRA) is established.[120] This association comprises senior officials from nuclear regulatory authorities in countries such as Canada, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, among others. The INRA aims to bolster and advance global nuclear safety by leveraging the regulatory expertise of its members. It collaborates to influence and improve nuclear safety regulations both within its membership and on a worldwide scale. This association operates in conjunction with other international nuclear organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency.
1997 May 15 Nuclear security The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) adopts the Model Additional Protocol, an optional safeguards agreement enabling the agency to enhance its verification capabilities and ensure no unauthorized nuclear weapons activities within a state. This protocol emerged as a response to Iraq and North Korea violating the nuclear treaty. On May 11 and 13, 1998, India conducts its second nuclear test.[37]
1998 January The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) is established as part of the United Nations Secretariat's efforts to reform the organization. Led by an Under-Secretary-General and High Representative, UNODA's objective is to advance nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, and strengthen disarmament regimes related to weapons of mass destruction. It also addresses conventional weapons issues such as landmines and small arms. UNODA provides support for disarmament initiatives, promotes regional disarmament, and aids in post-conflict disarmament efforts. Its structure includes branches focused on disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, conventional arms, and outreach, along with regional disarmament centers.
1998 May 28 Nuclear weapon program Nuclear test Pakistan, a nonsignatory to the NPT but a non-nuclear-weapon state by the treaty’s terms, conducts its first set of nuclear test explosions.[37] Pakistan
1998 June 3 Hacktivist group milw0rm gains international attention by infiltrating India's primary nuclear research facility, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai. The group, composed mainly of teenagers, conducted political hacks, including a significant attack on BARC's computers, where they accessed confidential emails and documents related to nuclear weapons development. Milw0rm used the breach to promote an anti-nuclear weapons agenda and peace message. The attack raised debates about information security, hacktivism ethics, and the need for advanced security measures in a world where countries were developing nuclear weapons. The incident prompted increased cybersecurity measures and discussions about the power and risks of hacker activism. India
1998 June The New Agenda Coalition (NAC) is formed by Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and South Africa, aiming to promote global nuclear disarmament as mandated by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The coalition emerges due to dissatisfaction with the lack of progress in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation discussions within the NPT framework. They officially launched in Dublin with a Joint Declaration, advocating for the elimination of nuclear weapons. In 2000, the NAC would play a pivotal role in crafting the 13 Steps agreement during the NPT Review Conference, emphasizing the need for nuclear disarmament independent of general disarmament and outlining practical steps for achieving it.[121][37]
1999 May 25 The redacted version of the Cox Report is released to the public. The report, led by U.S. Representative Christopher Cox, focuses on China's covert operations within the U.S. during the 1980s and 1990s. It alleges that China stole design information for advanced thermonuclear weapons, enabling rapid development of its own nuclear arsenal. The report would lead to significant reforms, including the creation of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Despite controversy and claims of groundlessness from the Chinese government, subsequent assessments and prosecutions of companies like Loral Space and Communications Corp. and Hughes Electronics Corp. would support the report's findings.
2000 February 2 Organization The Strategic Plans Division Force (SPD Force) is formed. It is a paramilitary organization in Pakistan established as part of the National Command Authority. It is responsible for safeguarding nuclear materials and providing security for Pakistan's tactical and strategic nuclear weapons stockpile. Led by Lieutenant-General Yusuf Jamal, it has around 60,000 personnel. The force is heavily armed to defend against potential threats to nuclear material-holding sites. SPD Force initially relied on Pakistan's Armed Forces for manpower but began hiring and training its own personnel at the Pakistan Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security (PCENS). It also includes the Special Response Force (SRF), a special forces unit.[122] Pakistan
2000 May 22 During the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, a set of 13 practical steps is established to guide the systematic and progressive implementation of Article VI of the Treaty. Article VI focuses on nuclear disarmament. The 13 steps are included in the Final Document of the conference and were proposed mainly by the New Agenda Coalition, comprising nations like Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa, and Sweden. These steps encompass various measures, such as urging the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, initiating negotiations on a treaty banning fissile material production, and calling for transparency and disarmament efforts by nuclear-weapon states.
2000 Philip E. Tetlock For successfully developing a semantic measure of cognitive complexity predictive of foreign policy decisions and for applying psychological analysis and knowledge to nuclear policy problems.
2000 Nuclear security Organization The National Nuclear Security Administration is established by the United States Congress.[123] United States
2000 The Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement is signed between the United States and Russia. This treaty aims to address the surplus weapons-grade plutonium possessed by both nations. An updated version was signed in 2010 and took effect in 2011. The US and Russia each declared excess plutonium, with the agreement stipulating the elimination of 34 tons of such material from both sides. The deal involved converting non-essential plutonium into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for electricity generation. However, the US canceled its MOX facility construction in 2016, leading to suspension of the agreement by Russia due to unmet obligations.
2001 Organization The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority is formed.[124] Pakistan
2001 Nuclear power program Organization The World Nuclear Association is established[125] as an international organization promoting nuclear power and supporting companies within the global nuclear industry. Its membership encompasses all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining to electricity generation. Responsible for 70% of the world's nuclear power and a significant portion of uranium production, the Association's mission includes facilitating technical, commercial, and policy interactions among members, as well as promoting public understanding of nuclear technology. The Association also emphasizes its commitment to nuclear disarmament and operates with a Charter of Ethics. Its activities involve industry interaction, meetings, representation at international forums, and public information dissemination through various channels.
2001 Nuclear security Organization The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) is established[126] in Japan as a regulatory body responsible for nuclear safety oversight under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). However, NISA would face criticism for its perceived conflict of interest, being part of the same ministry that promoted nuclear power. This criticism would further intensify following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. As a result, in 2012, NISA would be dissolved and replaced by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) under the Ministry of the Environment. The NRA would take on the task of overseeing nuclear safety and addressing the shortcomings identified during the Fukushima disaster. Japan
2001 September 11 Nuclear terrorism Notable case Al-Qaeda considers flying airplanes into nuclear facilities in the United States as part of the September 11 attacks[127][41] United States
2002 May 24 Nuclear disarmament Treaty The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty is signed as a treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation.[128] Añso known as the Moscow Treaty, it mandates that the United States and Russia reduce their strategic nuclear weapons to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by December 31, 2012. The treaty would enter into force on June 1, 2003, and lapse on February 5, 2011, when the New START Treaty enters into force.[129] United States, Russia
2002 August The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political wing of the terrorist organization Mujahideen-e Khalq (MeK), holds a press conference and declares Iran has built nuclear facilities near Natanz and Arak.[105][130] Iran
2002 November Organization The International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (also known as the Hague Code of Conduct (HCOC)) is established as an arrangement to prevent the proliferation of ballistic missiles.[131]
Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.png
2003 January 11 North Korea announces its withdrawal from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.[132] Not all states, however, recognize the legality of this withdrawal from the treaty.[105] North Korea
2003 May United States President George W. Bush launches the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a global effort to prevent the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their delivery systems, and related materials to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern. The PSI would gain endorsement from 105 nations, including major players like Russia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Proposed by John R. Bolton, the initiative would be sparked by the discovery of Scud missiles on an unflagged North Korean ship. Initially including 11 core states, PSI would since expand to include operational experts and endorsing states.
2003 Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi makes the decision to decommission his country's nuclear weapons program. This decision comes after years of negotiations and international pressure. As part of this process, Libya agrees to dismantle its nuclear weapons program and to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify and monitor the disarmament. In exchange for this action, Libya received sanctions relief and an opportunity to re-engage with the international community. This move was seen as a significant step towards non-proliferation efforts and regional stability.[76] Lybia
2003 The Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) is established as a program under the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). It aims to promote discussions on the role of nuclear technology in global affairs. PONI's key goals include building a network of young nuclear experts from various sectors and generating new ideas and discussions on nuclear issues. The program addresses the challenge of sustaining a capable workforce to support the U.S. nuclear deterrent post-Cold War, as many nuclear experts retire. PONI is initiated out of concern for the future leadership and expertise in the nuclear community, seeking to address the potential crisis.
2003 Walter Enders and Todd Sandler "For their joint work on transnational terrorism using game theory and time series analysis to document the cyclic and shifting nature of terrorist attacks in response to defensive counteractions."
2003 December 19 Libya announces that it will dismantle its weapon of mass destruction programs, including a secret nuclear weapons program, and agrees to International Atomic Energy Agency inspections and adherence to an additional protocol.[37] Libya
2004 April 24 The United Nations Security Council adopts Resolution 1540 to address the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).[133] This resolution imposes obligations under Chapter VII of the UN Charter for all member states to enact legal and regulatory measures against the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiological weapons, as well as their means of delivery. Notably, it recognizes the threat posed by non-state actors and obliges states to modify their internal legislation accordingly. The resolution establishes the 1540 Committee to oversee its implementation, emphasizing collaboration and participation rather than sanctions enforcement.[134] It marks a departure from previous nonproliferation arrangements by imposing universal and mandatory obligations.
2004 Charles D. Ferguson, William C. Potter, and Amy Sands publish The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism, which delves into the subject of nuclear terrorism. It explores various dimensions and potential scenarios related to nuclear terrorism, offering insights into the multifaceted nature of this global security concern. With 376 pages, the book provides an in-depth examination of the challenges, risks, and potential consequences associated with the threat of nuclear terrorism. The authors discuss these aspects within the context of international security and nuclear proliferation.
2005 April 1 Organization The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is established[135] in the United Kingdom as a non-departmental public body under the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. It originates from the Coal and Nuclear Liabilities Unit of the Department of Trade and Industry and was formed by the Energy Act 2004. The NDA's mission is to safely and cost-effectively decommission and clean up the UK's civil nuclear legacy, with a focus on reducing hazards. The NDA oversees subsidiaries that employ around 15,000 staff across the NDA estate. It uses competitions to introduce innovation and expertise to accelerate cleanup programs. United Kingdom
2005 April 1 Nuclear security Organization The Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) is established as a special police force in the United Kingdom. Its primary responsibility is to provide law enforcement and security at nuclear sites and for the protection of nuclear materials during transit within the country. Comprising over 1,500 police officers and support staff, the force is authorized to carry firearms due to the unique demands of safeguarding the nuclear industry. The CNC replaces the Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary that had been in place since 1955. Its core role is to ensure the security of civil nuclear establishments, materials, and maintain readiness against potential threats.[136] United Kingdom
2005 April 15 Nuclear security Organization The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is established[137] by the United States to enhance the nation's capability to detect and respond to unauthorized attempts involving nuclear or radiological material.[138] It coordinates federal efforts against nuclear and radiological terrorism, developing the global nuclear detection architecture strategy. DNDO conducts research, testing, and evaluation of detection technologies, acquires necessary systems, and provides threat assessments, technical support, and training. Criticized for unsuccessful programs like the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal Monitor and Cargo Advanced Automated Radiography System, DNDO would face accusations of mismanagement and misleading Congress. In December 2017, it would become part of the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction office.[139] United States
2005 The Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations is discovered. It outlines conditions under which U.S. commanders can request the use of nuclear weapons. It is revised to align with the preemptive attack principles of the Bush doctrine. Eight scenarios are cited for requesting nuclear weapon use, including countering WMD threats, preventing biological attacks, striking enemy WMD facilities, halting overwhelming conventional enemy forces, ending a war favorably, ensuring the success of U.S. and international operations, deterring WMD use, and responding to enemy-supplied WMD. The doctrine stresses the integration of conventional and nuclear attacks for efficient force use but acknowledged the serious consequences of nuclear weapon use. In 2010, President Barack Obama would announce a stricter nuclear strike policy in a Nuclear Posture Review.[140]
2005 July 18 U.S. President George W. Bush and India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sign the India–United States Civil Nuclear Agreement.[141] This agreement, also known as the 123 Agreement, aims to enhance nuclear cooperation between the two nations. India agrees to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and place its civil nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. In return, the U.S. agrees to facilitate civil nuclear cooperation with India.[142] The agreement encounters political and diplomatic challenges due to India's non-membership in the NPT. After several stages of negotiation, including changes to U.S. domestic law and international safeguards agreements, the deal is approved and hailed as a landmark in U.S.-India relations.[143] India, United States
2005 September 14 The International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism is signed. Later called Nuclear Terrorism Convention, it originates from a proposal by the Russian Federation to address gaps in countering nuclear terrorism beyond the 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM). The convention defines nuclear terrorism as the use or threat to use nuclear materials, installations, or devices for harmful purposes and obligates parties to cooperate in preventing and prosecuting such acts. Despite concerns, including issues related to the use of nuclear weapons, the convention becomes the first anti-terrorism treaty adopted since the 9/11 attacks, strengthening the international legal framework against terrorist acts. It would enter into force on July 7, 2007.[144][145]
2005 September 19 Nuclear security Commitment North Korea commits to abandoning its nuclear weapons and programs and returning to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards in an agreement of the six-party talks on North Korean denuclearization.[37] North Korea
2006 February Oleg Khinsagov, a Russian national, is apprehended in Georgia, accompanied by three Georgian accomplices. They are found in possession of 79.5 grams of highly enriched uranium (HEU) with a concentration of 89 percent. This incident would raise concerns about the illicit trafficking of nuclear materials and the potential risks associated with the unauthorized possession of such dangerous substances.[146] Georgia, Russia
2006 April 11 Iran declares its first successful enrichment of uranium to about 3.5 percent at the Natanz plant. On June 6, 2006, the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, UK, US) proposes an offer to Iran, aiming to halt its enrichment efforts. The UN Security Council on July 31, 2006, adopts Resolution 1696, making the IAEA's demands for Iran's suspension of enrichment legally binding. In August, Iran responds to the P5+1 proposal with reservations. By December 23, 2006, the Security Council enforces Resolution 1737, imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt enrichment, prohibiting technology transfers, and freezing assets of organizations and individuals linked to Iran's nuclear and missile programs.[105] Iran
2006 June 13 Organization The Autorité de sûreté nucléaire (ASN), or Nuclear Safety Authority, is established in France through law 2006-686.[147] It replaces the General Direction for Nuclear Safety and Radioprotection. The ASN is an independent administrative authority responsible for regulating nuclear safety and radiation protection. Its role is to ensure the safety of nuclear activities and protect workers, the public, patients, and the environment from associated risks. It also contributes to public information. The ASN would gain international attention during the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and would face challenges related to nuclear safety issues and steel quality concerns.
2006 Nuclear security Treaty The countries of Central Asia established a NWFZ
2006 Intentional Organization The International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) is established, consisting of nuclear experts from 17 countries including the United States, Russia, and China.[148] The panel's primary goal is to promote international efforts in securing and reducing stocks of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, essential materials for nuclear weapons, while limiting their further production.[149] Co-chaired by experts from Princeton University and Nagasaki University, the IPFM produces an annual Global Fissile Material Report detailing global stocks and production of fissile materials. The panel contributes to nuclear non-proliferation efforts by providing valuable information and analysis on fissile materials.[150][149]
2006 July 16 Nuclear security Program launch Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin jointly announce the organization of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). This international organization, co-chaired by the United States and Russia, involves 89 countries committed to nuclear security principles against terrorism. GICNT's goals include preventing terrorist acquisition of nuclear materials, strengthening security at nuclear facilities, detecting and preventing illicit trafficking of radioactive substances, and ensuring proper response and investigation in case of nuclear terrorism incidents. The initiative promotes cooperation, information sharing, and the development of legal frameworks. GICNT would evolve over the years, adding key coordinators, endorsing countries, and contributing to global efforts against nuclear terrorism.[151] United States, Russia
2006 September 8 Intentional (state) Treaty The Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ) treaty is signed by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It prohibits the manufacture, acquisition, testing, and possession of nuclear weapons. Ratified by all five states, it would become effective on March 21, 2009. The zone aims to enhance regional security, address environmental concerns, and promote stability and development. Verification is conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, with commitments to safeguards and nuclear protection standards. Notably, CANWFZ is the only zone bordered by nuclear-weapon states and where nuclear weapons were deployed in the past. The idea originated in a 1997 conference, and the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan serves as the signing location.[152] Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan
2006 October 9 Nuclear weapon program Nuclear test North Korea conducts its first nuclear test with an estimated yield of about one kiloton.[111] North Korea
2006 November 1 Intentional (state terrorism) Notable case Former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko falls critically ill after meeting with two ex-KGB officers, Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, in London. Litvinenko had accused the Russian government of orchestrating his persecution due to his revelations about the FSB's alleged involvement in various incidents, including bombings and assassinations. He had also exposed the connections between the Russian mafia in Europe and the government. His illness worsens, and he is hospitalized, eventually dying on November 23. His death is attributed to being the first confirmed case of lethal polonium-210-induced acute radiation syndrome. Litvinenko's public accusations against Putin would lead to global media coverage and diplomatic tensions between the UK and Russia.[153][154][155] United Kingdom, Russia
2007 Intentional (terrorist) Notable case An armed attack on the Pelindaba nuclear facility in South Africa occurs when four armed men break in and head towards a control room in the eastern block, and manage to deactivate several layers of security, including a 10,000-volt electrical fence, suggesting insider knowledge of the system.[156][157] This incident highlights that even single points have security weaknesses and can be subject to concerted attacks.[41] South Africa
2007 Intentional Organization The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is launched as a global coalition with a mission to eliminate nuclear weapons through the enactment of international laws banning them. ICAN would play a pivotal role in the United Nations' Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. Formed from the initiative of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, ICAN would grow to include over 450 partner organizations across 100 countries. It focuses on raising awareness, conducting research on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, and advocating for international legislation against them, ultimately aiming to stigmatize, prohibit, and eliminate these weapons.[158]
2007 June The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) publicly reveals the name of Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah. He is alleged to be the operations leader involved in developing tactical plans for detonating nuclear bombs in multiple American cities simultaneously. This disclosure raises concerns about the potential nuclear terrorism threat and highlights the importance of counterterrorism efforts to prevent such catastrophic scenarios. United States
2007 September State program Notable case Israel destroys a nuclear reactor under construction in Syria. The facility was not under IAEA safeguards and it is unclear whether its purpose was military or civilian.[41] Israel, Syria
2007 Michael A. Levi publishes On Nuclear Terrorism, which delves into the subject of nuclear terrorism, examining the decisions a terrorist leader might make when attempting a nuclear attack. Levi highlights numerous obstacles that such a plot might face, leading to various potential ways it could be thwarted. Professor John Mueller's 2010 book, Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism From Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda, further explores this theme. Michael Levi is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, specializing in energy and environmental issues.
2007 November Literature Jonathan Schell publishes The Seventh Decade in which he scrutinizes emerging nuclear perils. Schell highlights the United States' adoption of fresh nuclear policies during the Bush administration, including a first-strike approach and novel nuclear weaponry development. He argues that these changes triggered arms proliferation in countries like Iran and North Korea, intensified worldwide nuclear arms trade, and heightened the risk of nuclear terrorism. The book provocatively examines the evolving landscape of nuclear security, delving into the implications of these policy shifts.
2008 Research According to Hastings, when smuggling goods, illicit nonstate actors face a trade-off between the security and efficiency of the route.[41]
2008 Nuclear security Organization The World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) is established as an international non-governmental organization based in Vienna, Austria. Its mission is to promote best security practices among those responsible for managing the security of radioactive material. WINS provides a variety of services, including workshops, training courses, and round-table discussions worldwide, focusing on nuclear security management at the operational level. The organization offers the WINS Academy, the world's first international certification program for nuclear security management. It also publishes numerous documents on nuclear material management in its Knowledge Centre and offers evaluation services to help organizations assess their security programs' effectiveness.[159]
2008 July 9 The International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) is established as a collaborative effort between the Australian and Japanese governments. Proposed by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and agreed upon by Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, the Commission aims to address nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament challenges. Australia, Japan
2008 December Global Zero is launched. It is an international non-partisan organization, founded by 300 world leaders with the aim of completely eliminating nuclear weapons. Their plan involves phased reductions and verification of nuclear arsenals held by both official and unofficial nuclear-armed countries. The campaign seeks U.S.-Russia bilateral negotiations to reduce warheads to 1,000 each and commitments from other nuclear states for multilateral reductions. The plan spans four phases, culminating in global zero total warheads by 2030. Launched in Paris, the group would gain momentum when Presidents Obama and Medvedev commit to nuclear disarmament in 2009. Critics would argue for caution, highlighting potential risks in a world entirely devoid of nuclear weapons.
2009 February 3 Iran announces that having successfully carried out its first satellite launch, raising international concerns that the country's ballistic missile potential is growing.[105] Iran
2009 State program Nuclear cooperation The United States and South Africa sign an agreement on cooperation on nuclear energy research and development related to pebble bed modular reactor and Generation IV technologies that do not include a conditionality clause.[41] United States, South Africa
2009 May 15 The France–Pakistan Atomic Energy Framework is signed as a bilateral treaty focusing on nuclear energy cooperation.[160][161] This agreement, distinct from the Indo-American nuclear deal, aims to enhance nuclear safety and technology in Pakistan. France agrees to assist in improving the safety of Pakistan's nuclear power installations under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, and to provide civilian-based nuclear technology.[160][162] However, it differs from the Indo-US deal and focuses solely on "nuclear safety," as highlighted by the French Foreign Ministry.[163] This framework marks a departure from France's prior nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, which faced international scrutiny due to concerns about proliferation.[164][160] France, Pakistan
2009 State program The Obama administration mothballs the permanent disposal site of Yucca Mountain by reducing funding of the site to almost negligible levels.[165][41] United States
2009 September 24 The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1887 is adopted unanimously by the Security Council on nuclear issues.[37]
2009 October The Top Level Group of UK Parliamentarians for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation (TLG) is formed as a cross-party parliamentary organization in the UK. Comprising former senior Ministers of foreign affairs, defense, Chiefs of Defense, and ex-NATO Secretaries General, the TLG aims to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in the UK and globally. Today, it is administered by the European Leadership Network. The group engages in parliamentary activities, media contributions, and NGO conferences to influence and support the UK's commitment to nuclear disarmament, ratification of treaties, and other relevant initiatives. United Kingdom
2009 December 2 During the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly, the International Day against Nuclear Tests is established to take place annually on August 29. This observance aims to raise awareness about the harmful effects of nuclear weapon test explosions and advocate for their discontinuation as a step toward achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world. The resolution is introduced by Kazakhstan and other sponsors to commemorate the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site on August 29, 1991. In May 2010, state parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons would reaffirm their commitment to a world without nuclear weapons. Conferences and events would be held to promote discussions on nuclear weapons testing and disarmament. In the online game NationStates, the day is marked by simulated nuclear warfare among nations.
2010 April 8 Nuclear disarmament Treaty The New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is signed between the United States and the Russian Federation in Prague. This treaty, also known as Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, would enter into force on February 5, 2011, following ratification by both parties. New START succeeds the Treaty of Moscow (SORT) and aims to reduce the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers, limit deployed warheads, and establish a new inspection and verification regime. However, on February 21, 2023, Russia would suspend its participation in New START, although it would not withdraw from the treaty.[166] United States, Russia
2010 April 12–13 The United States hosts the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., with participation from 50 representatives. The summit focuses on enhancing the security of weapons-grade plutonium and uranium to prevent nuclear terrorism. The event follows the signing of the New START treaty on April 8, between the US and Russia. This summit is a response to the post-9/11 concern of terrorists exploiting nuclear materials. The gathering aims to secure vulnerable nuclear materials within four years and disrupt illicit trade. It was the largest assembly of heads of state since the 1945 United Nations Conference on International Organization.
2010 April 17–18 Iran hosts the Tehran International Conference on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation conference in Tehran. The conference focuses on the theme "Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for No One." It takes place shortly after the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC, and is considered a counterpoint to that summit. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for the elimination of all nuclear weapons during the conference. The timing also coincides with the signing of the New START treaty between the US and Russia, which aimed to reduce nuclear weapons. Experts and officials from about 60 countries attend the conference, emphasizing Iran's stance on nuclear disarmament.
2010 May 3–28 The 2010 NPT Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) takes place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Ambassador Libran N. Cabactulan of the Philippines presides over the conference. The event aims to address various issues, including nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, peaceful use of nuclear energy, regional disarmament, and engagement with civil society. The NPT, in force since 1970, promotes nuclear disarmament and peaceful nuclear technology. Despite previous conferences' challenges, the 2010 Review Conference seeks to strengthen the treaty's implementation and foster international cooperation, coinciding with other events like the New START treaty signing and nuclear security summit.
2010 June A series of significant international sanctions are imposed on Iran. The United Nations Security Council passes Resolution 1929, which expands sanctions by prohibiting Iran from conducting nuclear-capable ballistic missile tests, imposing an arms embargo on major weapon transfers to Iran, and tightening proliferation-related sanctions. On June 24, the U.S. Congress adopts the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, extending sanctions against firms investing in Iran's energy sector until 2016 and targeting companies selling refined petroleum to Iran. Subsequently, on July 26, the European Union also agrees to impose comprehensive sanctions on Iran, covering trade, financial services, energy, transport, and more, alongside visa bans and asset freezes.[105] Iran
2010 September 16 The malicious computer worm Stuxnet computer virus is first identified by a security expert as a directed attack against an Iranian nuclear-related facility, likely to be an enrichment plant in Natanz.[105] Although neither country would openly admit responsibility, the worm is widely understood to be a cyberweapon built jointly by the United States and Israel in a collaborative effort known as Operation Olympic Games.[167][168][169] Iran
2011 April 20 The United Nations Security Council passes Resolution 1977, extending the mandate of the committee established in Resolution 1540. This committee monitors efforts to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of terrorists or non-state actors. The resolution expresses concerns about the acquisition of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons by such groups, emphasizing the need for international cooperation in disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. The 1540 Committee's mandate would be extended for ten years, until April 25, 2021, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The resolution also addresses issues like assistance, co-operation with organizations, transparency, and resources for the committee's activities.
2011 Organization The Office for Nuclear Regulation is established.[170] It is the UK's independent nuclear regulator, with the mission to protect society by securing safe nuclear operations.[171] United Kingdom
2012 March 26–27 The 2012 Nuclear Security Summit is held in Seoul. It expands upon the Washington Summit, inviting six new countries: Azerbaijan, Denmark, Gabon, Hungary, Lithuania, and Romania. The summit, attended by 53 countries and 4 international organizations, focuses on combating nuclear terrorism, protecting nuclear materials and facilities, and preventing illicit trafficking of nuclear materials. The Seoul Communiqué identifies 11 priority areas, including minimizing highly enriched uranium use, ratifying the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, improving nuclear safety and security synergy, securing spent nuclear fuel, and protecting radioactive sources. The summit introduces 'gift baskets,' resulting in over 100 new commitments for nuclear security.[172]
2012 June 29 United Nations Security Council Resolution 2055 is adopted.
2012 November North Korea allegedly attempts to sell graphite rods to Syria.[111] North Korea, Syria
2015 July 14 The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal) is agreed upon in Vienna, between Iran and the P5+1 group (China, France, Russia, UK, US, plus Germany) and the European Union. Iran agrees to restrict its nuclear program and allow strict monitoring to prevent weapon development. In return, the US and other parties lift sanctions on Iran's economy. However, in 2018, US President Donald J. Trump would withdraw from the deal and re-impose sanctions, citing concerns. The JCPOA aims to limit Iran's enrichment program in exchange for sanctions relief and international oversight. The withdrawal would lead to tensions and uncertainties about the agreement's future.[76] Iran, China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Germany
2016 March 9 Iran test launches two different variations of the Qadr medium-range ballistic missile.[105] Iran
2016 March 31–April 1 Summit The 2016 Nuclear Security Summit takes place in Washington, D.C. This is the fourth summit in a series that began in 2010.[173] Notably absent are leaders from Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Belarus.[174] However, the summit sees significant participation from Asian leaders, including India and Singapore, indicating growing concerns about terrorist threats to nuclear facilities. Various countries make commitments to reduce highly enriched uranium stockpiles, while Japan agrees to ship additional separated plutonium to the U.S. Canada pledges $42 million for nuclear security, and a strengthened nuclear security agreement is approved. This summit would be declared the last of its kind.[175]
2016 September 9 North Korea conducts its fifth nuclear test, with an estimated explosive yield of 20-25 kilotons.[111] North Korea
2017 September 3 North Korea conducts its sixth nuclear test explosion, and declares being a hydrogen bomb. South Korea’s weather agency estimates the nuclear blast yield being between 50 and 60 kilotons, or five to six times stronger than North Korea’s fifth test in September 2016.[111][176] North Korea
2017 September 20 Treaty The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)[177], also known as the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, is opened for signature. This treaty is the first legally binding international agreement that comprehensively prohibits nuclear weapons, with the ultimate aim of their complete elimination. It was adopted on July 7, 2017, entered into force on January 22, 2021, and has been signed by 92 parties. The TPNW prohibits the development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use, and threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance to these activities. It provides a framework for negotiations leading to the verified and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons programs for states joining the treaty.
2018 June 12 A significant meeting occurrs between Kim Jong-un and United States President Donald Trump in Singapore, centering on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and enhancing bilateral ties. They ink a shared declaration to create "fresh US-DPRK relations," form a stable and enduring peace structure on the Korean peninsula, and locate POW/MIA remains. Kim also pledges to progress towards complete denuclearization, while Trump vowed security assurances for North Korea.[178][179] North Korea, United States
2019 June Nuclear weapon program Nuclear arsenal As of date, North Korea is estimated to have 20-30 warheads, and the fissile material for an estimated 30-60 nuclear weapons.[111] North Korea
2021 July Nuclear disarmament The United States–Russia Strategic Stability Dialogue (SSD) is initiated as a vital effort to curtail the risk of nuclear conflict between the United States and Russia. Prompted by a June 2021 meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, the SSD aims to establish stability that counters arms race dynamics and mitigates crises in which nuclear weapons might be employed. The dialogue encompasses plenary sessions and specialized working groups, addressing nuclear disarmament and cybersecurity of nuclear systems. Notably, the inaugural plenary meeting takes place in Geneva. An extraordinary meeting held in January 2022 discusses missile locations and addressed the Russo-Ukrainian crisis, reinforcing the significance of this strategic dialogue.[180][181]
2022 January 3 Intentional Joint statement The leaders of the five nuclear-weapon states - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States - gather in Hiroshima and issue a joint statement emphasizing their commitment to preventing nuclear war and avoiding arms races. They emphasize the importance of the 77-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons and expresse concern over Russia's nuclear rhetoric and actions. The leaders call for continued reduction in global nuclear arsenals, upholding the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and transparency in nuclear weapons reporting. They also urge negotiations for a treaty banning fissile material production and emphasize the importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). The G7 remain committed to non-proliferation and disarmament education and outreach efforts.[182] China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, United States

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How the timeline was built

Base literature

  • The Nuclear Renaissance and International Security, by Adam N. Stulberg and Matthew Fuhrmann.[41]
  • Nuclear Deviance: Stigma Politics and the Rules of the Nonproliferation Gameby Michal Smetana,[70]
  • International Cooperation for Enhancing Nuclear Safety, Security, Safeguards and Non-proliferation–60 Years of IAEA and EURATOM, by Luciano Maiani, Said Abousahl, and Wolfango Plastino.[77]

The initial version of the timeline was written by Sebastian.

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See also

External links


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