Number of usable nuclear warheads increased in 2022 — report
The world's stockpile of usable nuclear warheads increased by over 130 in 2022, Norwegian People's Aid has reported. The authors have warned of the risk that nuclear weapons pose to humanity.
The number of nuclear warheads that states could deploy reached a total of 9,576 at the beginning of 2023, up from 9,440 the previous year, according to a report published by the NGO Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) on Wednesday.
The Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor report, said that the weaponized nuclear power amounted to a "collective destructive power of more than 135,000 Hiroshima bombs."
The issue of nuclear weapons has become its most prominent since the end of the Cold War thanks in part to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and subsequent aggressive rhetoric, as well as fears over Iran's nuclear program and North Korea's renewed missile tests.
Warhead build-up is a 'worrying trend'
Wednesday's report pointed out that the total number of warheads has decreased because the US and Russia dismantle some of their older weapons every year.
However, NPA's Grethe Ostern warned that the construction of new warheads may soon outpace the dismantling of old ones.
"This increase is worrying, and continues a trend that started in 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," she said.
Some five countries are responsible for the increase in ready-to-use warheads, according to Hans M. Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists and contributor to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor.
"Russia, China, India, North Korea, and Pakistan continued to expand their stockpiles of warheads in 2022, bringing about a corresponding increase of 136 warheads also in the global total of stockpiled warheads available for use by the military," Kristensen said.
Nuclear tensions threatening the planet
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently ramped up nuclear tensions by announcing that so-called "tactical" nuclear weapons would be deployed in Belarus, on the EU's border.
He justified the move by pointing to the presence of US nuclear weapons in various countries close to Russia over the years, including Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.
Russia has the world's largest nuclear weapons stockpile.
The total number of nuclear warheads reached a peak of 70,000 in 1986 at the height of tensions between the US and the Soviet Union, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
This number was down to 12,512 in 2023, but still enough to bring an end to life on the planet as we know it.
"The Ukraine crisis has demonstrated that nuclear weapons do not create peace and stability. They don't deter aggression, but enable conventional wars and incentivize risk-taking that could lead to nuclear war," NPA's Secretary General Henriette Westhrin said.