While compiling information for Nuclear Files today, I came across a timeline entry from a document from the Carnegie Endowment that helped visualize just how many countries are involved in nuclear affairs:
“December 2001 - The German cargo ship BBC China is intercepted en route to Libya with components for 1,000 centrifuges. The parts were manufactured in Malaysia by SCOPE and shipped through Dubai.”
In a single event, four separate countries and one company are implicated in the illegal transfer of nuclear technology. More than that, none of these countries are typically “counted” when discussing nuclear proliferation.
Those who like to argue that nuclear weapons and technology are safe and that proliferation has been relatively successful point to the fact that, in nearly 70 years of existence, only 9 nations (United States, Russia, India, China, Pakistan, The United Kingdom, France, Israel, and North Korea) currently have nuclear weapons. What they don’t like to point out, however, is how many nations, companies, and groups are capable of creating nuclear weapons or transferring radioactive material.
In 1996, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty began the signing and ratification process. It lists Annex II countries which, at the time, were capable of creating a nuclear weapon and had to sign the treaty in order for it to take effect. The list contains:
Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Romania, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Vietnam, Zaire
This list does not include nations formerly holding nuclear weapons, including Belarus and Kazakhstan. It also does not include new nuclear powers, such as Armenia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, and Taiwan. Most importantly, it does not cover the hundreds of private nuclear companies in countries worldwide that are capable of proliferation violations on their own.
In all, over 50 countries handle or currently have nuclear material in their possession. These nations represent nearly 80% of the entire world’s population. Four out of five citizens in the world have nuclear material capable of weaponization in their country. We are no longer trying to prevent proliferation; we are trying to prevent catastrophe.
Security measures can no longer protect the world from weapons development and nuclear terrorism. The only option is abolition.