Number of nuclear warheads in the world rises to 9,576

Number of nuclear warheads in the world rises to 9,576 – the collective destructive power of 135,000 Hiroshima bombs: Increase is mainly driven by Russia and China, study finds

  • There are a total of nine countries around the world who boast a nuclear arsenal
  • 5,889 of the 9,576 nuclear warheads in operation are thought to belong to Russia

The world’s number of operational atomic warheads increased in 2022, driven largely by Russia and China, a new report out Wednesday said as nuclear tensions have risen since the war in Ukraine.

The nine official and unofficial nuclear powers hold 9,576 ready-to-use warheads in 2023 – up from 9,440 the year prior, according to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor published by the NGO Norwegian People’s Aid.

Those weapons have a ‘collective destructive power’ equal to ‘more than 135,000 Hiroshima bombs,’ the report said.

The figures are published as Moscow has repeatedly raised the nuclear threat in connection to its invasion of Ukraine and Western military aid to the Eastern European country.

A Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launcher parades through Red Square during the general rehearsal of the Victory Day military parade in central Moscow on May 7, 2022

A Russian Yars ICBM is launched at a rocket testing facility in Plesetsk

The additional 136 warheads to the ready-to-use global nuclear stockpile last year were attributed primarily to Russia and China

On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he had agreed with Minsk to deploy ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons in Belarus, a country on the EU’s doorstep.

READ MORE: ‘Delusional’ Putin could launch a vindictive nuclear strike ‘to cause misery and destruction in recognition of Russian failure to conquer Ukraine’, expert warns

And today Russian troops launched nuclear-preparedness and training drills with the nation’s Yars intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system. 

The additional 136 warheads to the ready-to-use global nuclear stockpile last year were attributed to Russia, which has the world’s largest arsenal with 5,889 operational warheads, as well as China, India, North Korea and Pakistan.

‘This increase is worrying, and continues a trend that started in 2017,’ editor of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, Grethe Lauglo Ostern, said in a statement.

At the same time, the total stockpile of nuclear weapons, which also includes those removed from service, continues to decline.

In the same year, the number of nuclear weapons fell from 12,705 to 12,512, due to the decommissioning of old warheads in Russia and the United States.

But Ostern warned that unless the trend of new warheads being added does not stop, ‘the total number of nuclear weapons in the world will also soon increase again for the first time since the Cold War.’

The eight official nuclear powers are the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea, while Israel is known to have nuclear weapons unofficially.

Test launch of a Russian Sarmat nuclear missile is pictured

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow . Last week, Putin announced that he intends to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus

The latest figures on the number of nuclear warheads in operation around the world came as a leading think-tank warned Russian president Vladimir Putin could use nuclear weapons in Ukraine if he feels defeat is imminent.

Moscow has prompted fresh concern in recent days over its willingness to deploy the devastating weapons, last week announcing it would move nuclear missiles into Belarus before today commencing its exercises with the Yars ICBM system.

In a research paper for the UK’s leading foreign policy think tank Chatham House, Russia and Eurasia expert Keir Giles warned there is a ‘non-zero’ chance Putin could seek to use nukes in Ukraine.

He wrote: ‘A nuclear strike could be ordered if there is no longer any possibility of claiming conventional victory and a powerful destructive attack on Ukraine is perceived as the only means of avoiding admission of a clear defeat.

‘The moment at which Putin feels his options are exhausted is likely to be the most significantly dangerous decision point,’ he concluded.

Giles pointed out that nuclear weapons would have very little military utility on the ground in Ukraine, given that the frontline stretches hundreds of miles and that any strike would not only kill Ukrainians, but also irradiate the land and render it uninhabitable for Russian troops. 

This means a strike is unlikely to be delivered to achieve military goals, but rather as a ‘vindictive response intended simply to cause misery and destruction in Ukraine in recognition of Russian failure to conquer it.’

The paper added that the barriers preventing Moscow from launching a nuclear weapon – such as the risk of retaliatory strikes, further nuclear proliferation among its enemies, and the prospect of becoming a pariah on the world stage – do not take into account the possibility that Putin is unable to make rational decisions. 

In order to deter Putin from considering the possibility of deploying nukes, Giles argues that US, UK and Western allies must not buy into Moscow’s nuclear sable-rattling and instead make clear the consequences Putin himself would face. 


The first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 by an American B-29 bomber dubbed the Enola Gay.

The mushroom cloud over Nagasaki, Japan is shown

The 9,000lb uranium-235 bomb exploded 1,900 feet (580 metres) above the ground, killing between 60,000 and 80,000 people instantly, some vanishing instantly from the heat of the vast explosion.

Others died as fire ripped through the city and some 135,000 people in total are thought to have perished from radiation sickness.

The blast flattened more than six square miles (10 square km) of the city, with fires burning for three days, leaving thousands of survivors burnt and homeless.

With major buildings like hospitals destroyed and more than 90 per cent of the city’s doctors and nurses killed in the blast, there was little help available to the injured.

 Three days later, a second US atomic bomb killed 70,000 people in Nagasaki.

Japan surrendered six days after that, ending the Second World War.

Ten years later, the longer-term effects of the bombs were being noticed, including a rise in leukaemia – a blood cancer not included in the study. 

The first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 by an American B-29 bomber dubbed the Enola Gay. Three days later, a second US atomic bomb killed 70,000 people in Nagasaki

The cancer was said to disproportionately affect children, with cases appearing two years after the bomb and peaking four to six years later, The IBT reported.

The Radiation Effects Research Foundation estimates 46 per cent of leukaemia deaths at the bomb sites from 1950 to 2000 were due to radiation from the bombs, with 1,900 cancer deaths linked to the atomic bomb, in total. 

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