The total number of ready-to-use nuclear warheads from the world’s nine nuclear-armed countries increased in 2022, and together they have the collective destructive power of 135,000 Hiroshima bombs, according to a new report released Wednesday.
Russia, China, India, North Korea, and Pakistan expanded their stockpiles last year, bringing the total number of usable nuclear warheads to 9,576 in 2023, the report from the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor said.
Researchers found that all nine of the world’s nuclear-armed states had a combined inventory of 12,512 nuclear warheads at the start of 2023 — 9,576 of which were available for use. In 2022, there were 9,440 operational nuclear warheads.
The additional 136 warheads were all attributed to Russia, as Moscow continues to threaten the use of nuclear weapons in connection to its invasion of Ukraine. Russia currently has the largest inventory of nuclear weapons in the world — with 5,889 active warheads.
Although nuclear-armed states like Russia and the U.S. dismantle a small number of their older warheads every year, the number of operational nukes has been on the rise since 2017.
“If this does not stop, we will soon see an increase also in the total number of nuclear weapons in the world, for the first time since the Cold War,” said Grethe Østern, editor of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor.
The report also said that the fear of nuclear war has surged to its highest levels since the Cold War.
China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S. make up the world’s nine nuclear-armed states.
The Ban Monitor noted that the conduct of these countries was not compatible with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) given that they continue to produce and stockpile weapons and have shown no intent to pursue nuclear disarmament.
In 2022, Sweden and Finland joined NATO in voting against the TPNW — an indication that more countries, especially in Europe, are leaning towards the use of nuclear weapons as a security tactic.
The report also highlighted that 35 non-nuclear-armed states have been assisting in the procurement of weapons on the nuclear states’ behalf.