Luxembourg is next to goThe US, Russia, the UK, France, and China all have nuclear weapons and get to deal with all the attendant politics thereof. Since their development, nuclear weapons have been used in warfare by one nation only two times: the United States against Japan in the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima on August 6, and Nagasaki on August 9. The sheer destructive effectiveness of these weapons shocked the entire world, including the US itself, and since then the only nuclear detonations have been tests or demonstrations. In theory, only the Permanent Five (P5) members of the United Nations Security Council — the US, Russia, United Kingdom, France, and China — are even allowed to have nuclear weapons, per the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). That said, international law being what it is — i.e., highly voluntary — several states currently have, previously had, or may be or have been developing nuclear weapons. For the most part, the non-P5 states that have or had nuclear weapons either did not sign the Treaty in the first place (India, Pakistan, Israel, South Africa) or withdrew from it (North Korea).How is this possible? The states that are suspected of developing weapons are generally parties to the NPT, and the shadiness about them is caused by their attempts to circumvent the controls they agreed to under the terms of the NPT.
And (who knows?) maybe Monaco.
And (who knows?) maybe Monaco.
— Tom Lehrer, "Who's Next"
Israel - The Samson Option
- Israel must be like a mad dog - too dangerous to bother.
India - The Smiling Buddha
- We must have the capability. We should first prove ourselves and then talk of Gandhi, non-violence and a world without nuclear weapons.-Jawaharlal Nehru
Pakistan - Mutually Assured Destruction: The Remix
- If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass and leaves for a thousand years, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own...After all, the Christians have the bomb, the Jews have the bomb, and the Hindus will soon have the bomb. Why not the Muslims too?-Zulfikar Ali-Bhutto
North Korea - The Hooves of Chollima
- Our test... usher in a new age of prosperity in the Songun idea, a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great prosperous powerful socialist nation!-Korea Central News Agency
South Africa - The Next Mfecane
- Why do they need them anyway?-Nelson Mandela
Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan - Regifting
- 25,000 nuclear warheads. One is missing.-The Sum of All Fears, tagline.
Developing Hell/Development Hell
Iran - The Fist of God
- The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons.-Ali Khamene'i
Syria - A Great Big Hole in the Desert
- All the Israelis have done is dig a hole in the desert!-Bashar Al-Assad, after Operation Orchard.
Taiwan - Trying Again?
- Everyone knows we had the plan before. Perhaps we should try again.-Lee Teng-Hui during the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis
Had programs, but no longer
ArgentinaArgentina developed a short-lived, secret program during its military dictatorship, but it never got very far, and all such work stopped completely when civilian government took power again. This was probably, in part, due to its rivalry with Brazil. How far they got is unknown, though there are persistent rumors that the British were worried enough about it to deploy an SSBN to the South Atlantic during the Falklands War.
BrazilVirtually the same as Argentina, including the rivalry part. The military dictatorship pursued a nuclear weapons program covertly, but never got very far, and since the restoration of democracy, the program has been completely disbanded. The Brazilian government remains touchy about its refinement technology, though, leading to a bit of a spat with the IAEA monitoring a plant, but this isn't because anyone seriously suspects of an illegal program; it's just that the government (rightly or wrongly) believed that inspections would be tantamount to industrial spying on their secret centrifugal axis technology, based on electromagnetism. And it was all sorted out in the end, to everyone's satisfaction. Meanwhile Brazil's nuclear power program never slowed down, and now they're building their first nuclear submarine.
Egypt - The Other Staff of RaEgypt flirted with nuclear weapons in The '60s (Tom Lehrer wasn't entirely joking), but the project was always half-hearted, and it was completely abandoned by 1980. Egypt does have a peaceful civilian nuclear program, which has been gathering steam of late and has drawn some extra attention after the Revolution of 2011, but as long as Israel doesn't officially declare its weapons, Egypt will almost certainly make no attempt to weaponize its program.
Germany - Atomwaffen nicht einsatzbereit!During World War II, the Third Reich commissioned a heavy water production scheme for potential nuclear weapons use. That is, until the Norwegian resistance movement successfully sabotaged it in 1943. Even without the sabotage, the Third Reich would still have been a long way off producing any warheads. According to Luft46, which has deleted the article in the meantime, they might or they might not have had a quasi-gun-type nuclear device (stacked plates of uranium separated by hydrogen-rich kerosene, to be compacted together in a critical mass upon impact instead of being fired at each other) in construction stage by the early months of 1945. Even then, the Nazi nuclear program was limited by a number of key factors; the lack of space to test a weapon, Hitler's lack of interest (which meant little funding), the loss of many prime scientists to other programs or Nazi repression, a perilous military situation (which necessitated frequent relocations of the project), and finally, a lack of delivery systems. Indeed, the Nazis' only aircraft close to nuclear capability was the Heinkel He-177 Greif long-range bomber, a notoriously unreliable tub of a plane that would have been just as likely to crash into Germany as drop a bomb on Moscow or London. Their program was also hobbled from the start by the regime's own racist policies, rejecting Einstein's work as "Jewish science"; he and many other academics who could have advanced the Nazi program fled Germany, either because of fears of persecution due to their own Jewish roots, because they sympathised with their Jewish colleagues, or simply on general principle. This gives their failure to build anything remotely resembling a working bomb a sense of Poetic Justice to it — they were undone by their own bigotry. When German nuclear physicists were debriefed after the war, it quickly became clear that the Nazi program had been a shambles and Hitler was never close to obtaining the Bomb. Nonetheless, the prospect of Nazis with Nukes remains a popular subject of speculative fiction.
Japan - The Power of a Thousand Rising SunsSimilar to Germany, Imperial Japan during World War II attempted to develop a nuclear weapon. Also similar to Germany, the program was pretty much doomed from the start, and it didn't get very far. Today, Japan does theoretically have the resources to produce nuclear weapons (see below) in a matter of months (or even less, according to some estimates) given its resources and status as an economic juggernaut. The very advanced rockets they use for launching unmanned spacecraft could be re-purposed into ICBMs in a matter of hours. They've never pursued the idea for two reasons. One, they're under the protection of the most powerful military in the world already. Two, as the only country ever to have nuclear weapons used against them, the idea of a nuclear weapons program is abhorrent to them. There is occasionally some speculation that if North Korea's nuclear and missile programs reach the point of a truly viable weapon, Japan would be forced to field its own nuclear deterrent, but even then they'd likely consider their alliance with the United States to be sufficient. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011 has also left a sour taste in the mouth of many Japanese with regard to nuclear technology in general; there is a lot of political pressure to decommission all nuclear power plants in Japan. Should that happen, sourcing suitable material for a Japanese nuclear weapon would become incredibly difficult, as weapons-grade uranium and plutonium is normally bred in uranium reactors. However, the environmental damage caused by burning hundreds of thousands of tons of coal to make up the power generation shortfall, not to mention the sheer cost of importing the coal in the first place (Japan is very resource-poor when it comes to minerals such as coal), could force a re-think. Nonetheless, the appetite for a home-grown Japanese nuclear weapon is not great.
Italy -Sol InvictusIn the mid to late 1930s, the fascists provided funding for nuclear research by a team of physicists headed by Enrico Fermi, but he (along with many others) left for the United States when Mussolini passed anti-Semitic laws to bring fascism ideologically closer to Nazism. A team at the University of Milan picked up where they left off, but funding was cut when Italy joined the war.
IraqIn the 1980's, the Iraqis did have a nuclear program which went through two phases. The first "phase" began some time in the 1970s was based around the Osirak Reactor, which was dismantled with extreme prejudice by the Israeli Air Force before it could get very far. From there, the second phase was a somewhat more distributed project based around uranium enrichment. Then the Gulf War happened and the program was utterly demolished by American air strikes. After that war, the program never amounted to anything more than, in the words of one military analyst, "a bunch of papers buried in a physicist's backyard."
LibyaMuammar Gaddafi admitted to trying to develop nukes when he was briefly on the West's good side. It doesn't seem to have gotten much further than a feasibility study and some lab experiments before being abandoned as more trouble than it was worth.
Romania - Even Our Enemies Shall Kneel.During the Communist era, Nicolae Ceaucescu's State Sec, the Securitate, conducted Operation Danube, a program to try and create Romanian nuclear weapons, in an explicit violation of the NPT treaty. At the same time, the Romanian government funneled money and heavy water to other non-NPT compliant states such as India. The Romanian security services and foreign office were also extremely active in the anti-nuclear movement — both civilian and governmental, internal and external — while at the same time attempting to develop intermediate-range ballistic missiles, as well as chemical and biological weapons. It's not clear how far the program actually got before it was dismantled by the first post-revolutionary government in 1989, but Hungarian foreign minister Gyula Horn reported that Romanian officials actually threatened to build and use them if Hungary did not help them clamp down on the unrest in the Eastern Bloc.
Sweden - Extra Neutral NeutronsDespite the country not having been at war since 1814, Sweden started a covert nuclear weapons program after WWII. It was effectively abandoned in the late 1960s and put on budgetary life support, but it was only officially abandoned in 1972 in favor of development of the Saab 37 Viggen. The reasoning behind Sweden's program was maintenance of its neutrality; since Sweden declined to join NATO, it could not expect to fall under the American military and nuclear umbrella. A Swedish Bomb would have probably been an effective deterrent to the Soviet Union trying to involve Stockholm in the Cold War.
Yugoslavia - BalkanuclearizationYugoslavia started a nuclear weapons program in The Fifties, but abandoned it after the thawing of Soviet-Yugoslav relations in The '60s, and Yugoslavia subsequently became a firm proponent of non-proliferation. The program was revived again after India detonated its first bomb, only to be abandoned again in 1987 due to the Chernobyl disaster, financial trouble, and the country's impending breakup.
Nuclear sharingSeveral non-nuclear members of NATO participate in nuclear weapons sharing with the US. In the event of World War III, some or all of the American bombs stationed in their territory would be turned over to the their governments to dispose of as they deemed necessary. Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey participate in the program, while Canada and Greece used to participate but have since withdrawn from the program (Canada in 1984, Greece in 2001).
Nuclear breakout capacityThis is a technical term referring to the ability to quickly build a nuclear weapon. It generally means that the country in question has all of the know-how needed to build a weapon and most if not all of the infrastructure, but have not for whatever reason actually built a weapon yet. Fortunately (or unfortunately), building a bomb is not easy and is in fact almost literally rocket science (delivery systems, my dear boy!). Experience has shown that a country needs:
- Technical know-how and the ability to convert the theoretical knowledge into a working programme. It is quite difficult to obtain that without rousing suspicion.
- A large industrial base. A nuclear weapons program covers so many fields that just setting up a reactor is not enough. You need hundreds of processes to convert that weapons material into a deliverable device. If your domestic industry cannot manufacture them, you're out of luck. The Manhattan Project had to develop an industrial infrastructure larger than the car industry to pull this off.
- Money, and lots of it. The Manhattan Project cost more than the American space program did.
- Good management. As we've learned over time, these projects cannot be subject to political timetables or coercion. Scientists and engineers need to be given the freedom to make mistakes in the lab, if you want avoid mistakes while actually building the things. Best case, the device won't work; worst case, you kill a lot of people by accident.
- Of the nuclear club, the P-5 already had them and that was that. But China and the Soviet Union did suffer somewhat from the politicization of their programs, which may have negatively affected the design — not by much, obviously, since they still work, but by enough. We can't know for sure, because weapons programs are secrets, but we can extrapolate through space programs; after all, an ICBM is not too different from an orbital launch vehicle. We know that Soviet rocket engineers were afraid of the political fallout from possible failure; many had served time in The Gulag and had no interest in going back. They preferred to use large numbers of small engines than small numbers of large ones (like NASA does), which would in theory reduce the chance of catastrophic failure but was also basically too heavy to get off the ground.
- Israel lucked out that they got information from Jewish scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project (many of whom remember had escaped Hitler's Germany and then Europe — this is the source of the Herr Doktor stereotype). They also had assistance from France, who was their main military supplier and a close ally in the 1950s and 1960s.note Finally, Israeli industrial infrastructure and management techniques were well-developed pre-independence. Being a democracy and the strategic situation helped, as well; the propaganda value of having a bomb was lessened by the fact that Israel's leaders were/are elected politicians, not megalomaniac autocrats, and their situation required that the bombs be an open secret rather than something to boast about.
- Both India and Pakistan had scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project (see a pattern?) as part of British India, and also the later British effort to develop an independent nuclear deterrent. The both had by the 1970's the industrial base and the monies to fund it. Relatively good administration was inherited from Britain as well.
- Iran has the funds. They possibly have the industrial infrastructure, though the jury is still out on that. It is in the technical know-how most people feel that it will be decided, although the management issue might pose problems (since it's a highly politicized project, and Iran's government is highly factionalized). The U.S. seems only to want to prevent them from outright developing nukes; Israel seems to be unwilling to even let Iran get as far as breakout capacity.
- Japan, Germany, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Canada, South Korea, and the Netherlands all have the infrastructure in place for breakout capability. Germany, though, is seriously considering dismantling it, and Japan would have to be in really dire straits before actually building a bomb.
- Brazil, Argentina, Taiwan, and Australia would need a few years to build up the infrastructure and collect enough fissile material. They also probably lack the know-how, but they could probably rectify that quickly.
- Saudi Arabia barely has the infrastructure or the know-how, but it does have a lot of money, meaning it could buy its way into the breakout-capacity club. There are fears that an Iranian bomb could provide the impetus for a Saudi nuclear program, and reports suggest that the Saudis provided extensive funding to Pakistan for their program (possibly in exchange for Pakistani warheads to be delivered to the Saudis on demand). However, it's full of hardline Islamists who don't necessarily trust science.
- South Korea, and many other countries under the U.S. umbrella of protection, don't really have breakout capacity because they don't feel that they need it. But given their proximity to North Korea, there have been calls in South Korea to get to breakout capacity on their own, although cooler heads eventually prevailed (if only because bombing North Korea is akin to bombing themselves — they do claim sovereignty over the whole peninsula, after all). This sort of thinking exposes a wider trend that some countries don't necessarily trust the U.S. not to sacrifice them for their own protection, even if they're nominally under the nuclear umbrella; this would drive some countries to get to breakout capacity on their own.