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This is a summary of a March 1998 NRDC report providing, for the first time, authoritative estimates of the sizes and locations of the nuclear arsenals of the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China. The report contains detailed descriptions, including maps and tables, of today's arsenals, and describes the events that have led to the consolidation of weapons storage sites. The authors also project likely trends for the future. The full report can be downloaded in Adobe Acrobat format.

Though the end of the Cold War has transformed relations with Russia, and disarmament agreements have resulted in significant reductions in nuclear weapons worldwide, NRDC estimates that some 36,000 nuclear bombs still remain in the arsenals of the five nuclear powers -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China.

In the past decade, large scale reductions in the size of the nuclear arsenals have resulted in significant shifts in weapons locations, shifts unequaled since the earliest days of nuclear deployments. Until now, however, no authoritative estimates of the sizes, locations and characteristics of worldwide nuclear arsenals have been available.

In the mid-1980s the five powers possessed nearly 70,000 nuclear weapons, widely dispersed in the Soviet Union, Eastern and Western Europe and Asia, as well as on and beneath the high seas. Since then, an extensive consolidation has taken place, with a five-fold decrease in the number of storage sites, to under 150.

NRDC assesses the nuclear arsenals of the five countries as follows:

The United States: Nearly 12,000 nuclear weapons are located in 14 states. New Mexico, Georgia, Washington, Nevada, and North Dakota are the top five and account for about 70 percent of the total. The other nine are Wyoming, Missouri, Montana, Louisiana, Texas, Nebraska, California, Virginia, and Colorado. The number of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe has shrunk dramatically, from over 6,000 of many types in the early 1980s to some 150 B61 bombs at ten air bases in seven countries (Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, and the United Kingdom) by the end of 1997. The United States is the only country with nuclear weapons deployed outside its borders.

Russia: Some 22,500 weapons are deployed at about 90 sites in Russia. In a little-appreciated logistical feat, Soviet, and then Russian, members of the 12th Main Directorate consolidated, over the past decade, a far-flung arsenal of tens of thousands of nuclear weapons at hundreds of locations in Eastern Europe and 14 republics to under a hundred sites in Russia today.

Great Britain: The British stockpile is about to be composed of a single weapon type -- the Trident II missile on Vanguard-class submarines. By the end of March 1998, the last WE 177 gravity bombs are scheduled to be retired, and the Tornado bombers that once carried them will have only conventional missions.

France: The French stockpile totals some 450 warheads of three types at four locations, down from a dozen bases at the beginning of the 1990s.

China: The Chinese stockpile is estimated at about 400 located at some 20 sites.

While facts regarding stockpiles and locations of nuclear weapons remain official secrets, the authors have been tracking developments in nuclear deployments and locations for nearly twenty years. This report is a more comprehensive and revised update to a 1992 report from NRDC's nuclear program dealing only with U.S. deployments.


last revised 3/1/1998

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