Nuclear powers are updating their arsenals and delivery capabilities despite a fall in the number of nuclear warheads, a Swedish think tank says.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in its annual report that nine nuclear powers possessed a total of some 15,400 warheads as of January, compared with 15,850 last year.
Russia holds 7,290 of the world’s nuclear warheads, followed by the US with 7,000. The two countries possess about 93 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
France is the third nuclear power with 300 nuclear weapons, ahead of China, the UK, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.
The Stockholm-based think tank said the US and Russia “have extensive and expensive nuclear modernization programs under way.”
Washington plans to spend $348 billion before 2024 on maintaining and updating its nuclear forces, SIPRI said.
According to some estimates, Washington’s nuclear weapon modernization program may cost up to $1 trillion over the next 30 years,” it added.
“The ambitious US modernization plan presented by the Obama administration is in stark contrast to President Barack Obama’s pledge to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and the role they play in US national security strategy,” said Hans Kristensen, one of the authors of the report.
The other states with smaller nuclear arsenals have either begun to deploy new nuclear weapons or declared their intention to do so, SIPRI also said.
China, it said, modernizes its arsenal and appears to be gradually increasing its nuclear forces.
India and Pakistan are modernizing their stockpiles and missile delivery capabilities, it added.
According to the SIPRI report, Israel holds 80 nuclear weapons and North Korea has enough fissile material for some 10 nuclear warheads.
The report described the outlook for progress toward nuclear disarmament as “gloomy” since none of the states planned to give up their arsenals.
The United States and its main rival, Russia, reportedly still have some 2,000 atomic weapons ready to fly at a moment’s notice to destroy each other.
This state of alert is now causing new concerns that the lack of trust between Washington and Moscow might significantly increase the risk of a miscalculation and lead to a nuclear disaster.
Last year, leading American political analyst and philosopher Noam Chomsky said the world is racing toward a nuclear “precipice” and the United States poses the “greatest threat” in this regard.