15 Countries That Have Nuclear Weapons Or Nuclear Power Technology

In this article, we discuss the 15 countries that have nuclear weapons or nuclear power technology. To skip the detailed history and progression of nuclear weapons and technology, you can go directly to 5 Countries That Have Nuclear Weapons.


It was the German scientist Werner Heisenberg that discovered the possibility of nuclear fission chain reactions and the possibility of the nuclear bomb. The first nuclear reactor was built by Enrico Fermi and his colleagues in 1942. It was a breakthrough moment in the history of science and technology and global energy needs. However, the nuclear fission reaction discovery was made during World War II, and the initial use of nuclear power was through weapons of mass destruction.

German scientists started working on their nuclear program in 1939. However, the American scientists despite starting late in 1942, created the bomb first. The United States nuclear weapons program was called Project Manhattan and it was initiated in 1942. At its peak, the project had employed 130,000 workers and the US had spent over $2.2 billion on it. Shortly after conducting the first test on July 16, 1945, the US dropped its first bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. Three days later the United States dropped another bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, which led to Japan’s surrender to the United States, thus ending World War II. These two bombs combined resulted in almost 200,000 casualties.

Soon after the US, the Soviet Union conducted its first successful nuclear test in 1949. Since then, a nuclear stalemate known as the Cold War took place between the two Super Powers till the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. During this period, the world came close to a nuclear war once in 1962. The event is known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The crisis was initiated when the US discovered USSR installed nuclear weapons in Cuba.

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was a global act enforced in 1970. The objective of the treaty was to limit the number of global nuclear weapons and eventually disband them. The treaty also promotes energy generation through nuclear power and 191 countries have ratified it so far. According to the treaty, only five countries are recognized as nuclear-weapon states. Despite that, four other countries have their own nuclear weapons as of 2022.

Further down the line, the United States and Russia signed the New START Treaty in 2010 in Prague. The treaty limits the deployment of strategic nuclear warheads by both countries to 1,550. The countries were supposed to meet the central limits by 2018. However, the treaty has been extended to 2026.

As of 2022, nine countries have nuclear weapons and a combined stockpile of 12,700 warheads. Russia and the United States control over 90% of them. The global nuclear weapons stockpile reached its peak at over 70,000 warheads in 1986. Over 40,000 of them belonged to the Soviet Union.

Nuclear Use for Peaceful Purposes

Apart from weapons of mass destruction, nuclear energy can be used in several industrial sectors including energy, healthcare, agriculture, food preservation, industry, and research. As of 2022, 30 countries are generating electricity through nuclear power. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, global electrical capacity through nuclear power technology is expected to grow by more than 100% by 2050 to 873 gigawatts net electrical (GWe). Nuclear energy is one of the significant resources in the global race against climate change as it provides clean energy. Since 1950, nuclear energy has been helpful in avoiding more than 20% of global carbon emissions.

Economic POV of Nuclear Energy

According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, the average cost of generating 1 megawatt-hour of electricity through nuclear power was $29.13, which was 38.9% less than the 2012 costs. Furthermore, the US nuclear industry generates approximately $60 billion in revenue per annum and has created more than 100,000 jobs. On top of that, the nuclear industry pays $2.2 billion in taxes each year.

Although a German study by DIW Berlin suggests, due to high-construction costs and intensive labor, each 1000 MW nuclear reactor incurs a loss of €4.8 billion. The study took the construction of 674 nuclear power plants built since 1951 into consideration.

Nuclear energy programs might be expensive and uneconomical for countries. However, the maintenance of nuclear bombs and production of their delivery vehicles/devices cost a fortune and bring good luck to the defense companies. To put things into perspective, The B-52H Stratofortress bomber created by The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) costs around $42.9 million each. Moreover, Minuteman III missile and silo costs around $33.5 million each. The submarine-based delivery costs the most and one Ohio-class Trident submarine costs $1.9 billion. The submarine is produced by General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE:GD). These figures are estimated in 1996 dollars as the most accurate atomic audit was published in 1998. The global nuclear weapons spending was estimated at $82.4 billion in 2021.

The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA), Honeywell International Inc. (NASDAQ:HON), Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT), and Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) are some of the big players that are involved in nuclear weapon production. In 2021, $26.54 billion of The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA)'s $62.286 revenue came from the company's defense, space & security segment.

Moreover, the global nuclear power plant equipment market generates a sizable revenue for the handful of companies in the market. The market size was worth $32.44 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $38.82 billion by 2030. Furthermore, the Uranium ETFs have shown significant growth in the September quarter of 2022, with Global X Uranium ETF and Uranium Miners ETF growing by 30% and 43%, respectively. Companies like Cameco Corporation (NYSE:CCJ) and Exelon Corporation (NASDAQ:EXC) are currently dominating the nuclear energy market.


15 Countries That Have Nuclear Weapons Or Nuclear Power Technology
15 Countries That Have Nuclear Weapons Or Nuclear Power Technology

Our Methodology

After thorough research, we compiled a list of 15 countries with nuclear weapons or nuclear power technology. Countries are listed according to the number of nuclear warheads they have, including the countries with the US shared nuclear weapons as a part of the NATO Nuclear Deterrence policy. Iran and South Korea make it to the list due to their capability and aspiration towards achieving nuclear weapon technology, along with their fast pace of developing nuclear power technology. The data on the number of warheads was taken from the data collected by the Federation of American Scientists.

15 Countries That Have Nuclear Weapons Or Nuclear Power Technology

15. Iran

Number of Nuclear Warheads in 2022: N/A

Iran has always been considered a country on the verge of developing nuclear weapons, which is why it has been imposed with billions of dollars of sanctions. In 2015, Iran became a part of the nuclear deal with the global powers including the US and was known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. According to the deal, Iran agreed to knock down its nuclear weapons program and allow comprehensive inspections in return for sanctions relief. However, Iran restarted its nuclear weapons activities after former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal.

Iran has caches of enriched uranium which can be further enriched to make nuclear weapons. Since Iran limited International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection, it is still unknown how much nuclear weapons material Iran has. Nonetheless, the estimates point to enough material to develop five warheads in one year. In spite of that, Iran has denied its plans to develop nuclear weapons and claims that its program is for peaceful purposes only.

Currently, Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant produces 2% of the country’s electricity and it is believed that the country has several underground facilities. Earlier in September, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami said that the country is planning a $50 billion nuclear energy project that is expected to generate 10,000 megawatts of electricity.

14. South Korea

Number of Nuclear Warheads in 2022: N/A

South Korea does not have any nuclear weapons or weapons-grade nuclear material. However, the country is one of the top producers of nuclear energy. It has 25 nuclear reactors that produce over 24,000 MW of electricity. Additionally, three more reactors are under construction that will produce over 4,000 megawatts of electricity.

South Korea is also an exporter of its nuclear energy technology. South Korea’s first export deal was the Barakah nuclear project in UAE. South Korean state-owned Korea Electric Power Corp won the $40 billion deal in 2009. As of September 2022, 3 units of the Barakah power plant are operational and the last one is in the final commissioning stages.

Korea was one of the hosts of nuclear warheads between 1958 to 1991.  At one time there were almost 950 US nuclear warheads in South Korea. South Korean people are especially in the favor of their country acquiring nuclear weapons. According to a poll, 71% of South Koreans want their country to develop nuclear weapons.

13. Netherlands

Number of Nuclear Warheads in 2022: 10-20 (Shared by the US)

the Netherlands, as a NATO member holds 10-20 nonstrategic US warheads according to the NATO nuclear-sharing policy. The country doesn’t possess any nuclear weapons of its own. The Netherlands has held US nuclear weapons since 1960.

The Netherlands generates a small amount of nuclear energy from its sole nuclear reactor. The government is planning to build two new reactors, to be completed by 2035. The new units are expected to generate 13% of the country’s electricity. 

12. Belgium

Number of Nuclear Warheads in 2022: 10-20 (Shared by the US)

Belgium does not have any nuclear weapons of its own, but it does host US nuclear warheads as a NATO member country. Currently, it is estimated that Belgium has 10-20 U.S. non-strategic gravity B-61 warheads in its Brogel air base.

Belgium has been using nuclear energy for power generation since 1974. As of 2022, the country has 6 nuclear reactors that generate over half of the country’s electricity. Belgium wants to eradicate nuclear power generation in its country and is expected to get rid of it by 2035. In 2021, 50.8% of the country’s total electricity generation was nuclear-powered.

11. Germany

Number of Nuclear Warheads: 15 (Shared by the US)

Germany has 15 nuclear warheads shared by the United States as part of the NATO Nuclear Deterrence strategy. In 1954, Germany was prohibited to develop or possess any kind of weapons of mass destruction and is an advocate of global nuclear stockpile reduction and supports initiatives such as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Nevertheless, it has not yet ratified the treaty as the country believes that it would go against NATO’s nuclear deterrence policy. In Germany, the public leans more toward returning the US nuclear weapons and staying off of them.

In Germany, political movements had already started against the dangers of nuclear weapons and energy, and the movements were primed in 1998. Germany’s last nuclear reactor was constructed in 2002. As of October 2022, Germany has 3 operable nuclear reactors that generate around 6% of the country’s total electricity and 30 reactors have been shut down.

Germany used to generate around 25% of its electricity from nuclear power until 2011. After the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, the country decided to phase out its nuclear energy programs quickly as possible. Germany had planned to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022. However, due to the energy supply deficit created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the country is planning to let its last three units remain open till April 2023.

10. Turkey

Number of Nuclear Warheads in 2022: 50

Turkey has ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, yet it hosts around 50 US-shared nuclear weapons. Turkey’s energy needs are largely dependent on imports, which is why the country is leaning towards nuclear power generation.

As of 2022, there are four nuclear reactors under construction in Turkey with a capacity of almost 4500 MWe. The country's first nuclear unit is expected to be operable by 2023.

9. North Korea

Number of Nuclear Warheads in 2022: 40 - 50

North Korea signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, but it withdrew from the treaty in 2003. The country conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006 at the Punggye-ri site. The weapon had an estimated 1 kiloton yield. However, the weapon tests North Korea conducted in 2017 had a yield of over 140 kilotonnes. It is estimated that North Korea’s Hwasong-17 has a range of over 15000 kilometers or 9320 miles. The general consensus is that North Korea has a stockpile of 20 warheads, but it is believed that the country might have 40 - 50 nuclear warheads.

Since 2018, North Korea had no operational nuclear reactors to generate power. Nevertheless, the country has seemingly restarted its previous 5MW nuclear reactor located in the Yongbyon complex in 2021.

8. Israel

Number of Nuclear Warheads in 2022: 90

Israel has never accepted or denied the claims that the country possesses nuclear weapons. However, it has been acknowledged by sources that it indeed has nuclear weapons. It is estimated that Israel has a stockpile of 90 nuclear warheads. In 1979, a double flash of light was detected by the Vela satellites controlled by the United States on Prince Edward Island of South Africa. It is believed that it was a nuclear test conducted by Israel and South Africa

Furthermore, In 1986, The Israeli nuclear technician and whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu revealed information about Israel’s nuclear weapons program. He was later brought back to Israel and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

As of 2022, Israel has no nuclear power plants, but the country is considering construction and generating nuclear energy.

7. India

Number of Nuclear Warheads in 2022: 160

Operation Smiling Buddha made India the sixth country to possess a nuclear weapon. The country’s nuclear program started pre-partition in 1944 and launched its first nuclear test on May 18, 1974. The test was mostly kept a secret as India knew the consequences of being the first country outside the five permanent members recognized under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. There was a severe backlash from the international community after the test. The United States immediately blocked aid toward India and imposed several sanctions. As of 2022, India has a stockpile of 160 nuclear weapons.

As of 2022, India has 22 nuclear reactors that generate over 6.7 Gigawatt of electricity. It is planning to build additional 11 reactors which are expected to have a capacity of generating 8.7 GWe. Nuclear power is India’s fifth largest source of power generation.

6. Pakistan

Number of Nuclear Warheads in 2022: 165

To acquire nuclear energy, Pakistan started to acquire knowledge and created institutions to gain advancement in nuclear technology for scientific and industrial use. By 1964, the country created the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and the Pakistan Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology. In 1974, Pakistani scientist Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan came to Pakistan with designs for Uranium enrichment technology, which is believed to be stolen. During the same time, former Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had signed a secret agreement with China’s Mao Zedong to get help in developing nuclear weapons.

By 1985, Pakistan had achieved weapons-grade uranium advancement and successfully conducted its first test on May 28, 1998.  Between May 28 and 30, the country conducted six successful tests. As of 2022, Pakistan has approximately 165 nuclear warheads.

Around 8% of electricity in Pakistan is generated through nuclear energy. In May 2021, Pakistan’s sixth nuclear power plant started its operations and it was built with the help of China. The country is working towards its green energy goal through nuclear operations and plans to construct 32 new plants by 2050.

Click to continue reading and see the 5 Countries That Have Nuclear Weapons Or Nuclear Power Technology


Suggested Articles:

Disclosure: None. 15 Countries That Have Nuclear Weapons Or Nuclear Power Technology is originally published on Insider Monkey.