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Global Nuclear Weapon Stockpiles Remain High

The world’s inventory of nuclear weapons remains very high, despite sizeable reductions since the end of the Cold War, with nine countries possessing approximately 12,700 warheads.

FEMA News Photo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Around 90 percent of all nuclear warheads are owned by Russia and the United States (roughly 4,000 warheads each), with other nuclear states seeing no need for more than a few hundred nuclear weapons each.

Overall inventories have been declining since the height of the Cold War in 1986, when collectively, there were an astonishing 70,374 nuclear warheads stockpiled. However, since the late 1990s, the rate of decline has been slowing down, with some nations like Russia starting to increase them again – they now have an estimated 4,477 nuclear warheads, compared to the U.S.’s 3,708.

Of the world’s 12,700 nuclear warheads, more than 9,400 are in military stockpiles ready for use by missiles, aircraft, ships, and submarines. The remaining warheads have been retired but are still relatively intact and awaiting dismantlement.

Of those stockpiled 9,440 warheads, approximately 3,730 are deployed with operational forces (on missiles or bomber bases) – 2,000 are on high alert, ready for use at short notice.

Note: All numbers are estimates made by the Federation of American Scientists.