Nuclear energy

Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is an international treaty on nuclear weapons based on three principles: disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The treaty, which consists of 11 articles, prohibits that the "non-nuclear" signatory states acquire such weapons and the "nuclear" states transfer nuclear weapons or other explosive nuclear devices to any other person. In addition, the transfer of nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes (for example, for the production of electricity) must be carried out under the control of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).

The treaty was signed by the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union on July 1, 1968 and entered into force on March 5, 1970. France and China (which possess nuclear weapons) joined it in 1992, while North Korea signed it in 1985, but, suspected of building atomic bombs and refusing inspections, he retired from the treaty in 2003

Content of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty

During the drafting of the treaty, five countries had nuclear weapons at their disposal: United States (US), Soviet Union, United Kingdom (United Kingdom), People's Republic of China (China) and France.

The nuclear non-proliferation treaty consists of a preamble and 11 articles. However, these 11 articles can be grouped into three large related and balanced pillars between them.

  • Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
  • Disarmament
  • The right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

First Pillar of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty: Non-proliferation

The nuclear weapon states undertake not to transfer nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices to any recipient or in any way assist, encourage or induce any state that does not possess nuclear weapons in the manufacture or acquisition of a nuclear weapon.

States that do not possess nuclear weapons undertake not to acquire or exercise control over nuclear weapons or other explosive nuclear devices and not seek or receive assistance in manufacturing such devices. States that do not possess nuclear weapons undertake to accept IAEA safeguards to verify that their nuclear activities are only for peaceful purposes.

The NPT recognizes five states as nuclear-weapon states (NWS): China (signed in 1992), France (1992), the Soviet Union (1968; obligations and rights now assumed by the Russian Federation), the United Kingdom (1968 ) and the United States (1968), which are also the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

The five parts of the NWS have pledged not to use their nuclear weapons against a non-NWS party, except in response to a nuclear attack or a conventional attack in alliance with a State of Nuclear Weapons. However, these commitments have not been formally incorporated into the treaty, and the exact details have varied over time.

Second Pillar of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty: Disarmament

According to Article VI of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, all parties undertake to enter into negotiations in good faith on effective measures related to the cessation of the nuclear arms race, nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.

Article VI of the NPT represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty with the objective of disarming nuclear-weapon states. The preamble of the NPT contains a language that affirms the desire of the signatories of the treaties to relieve international tension and strengthen international confidence to one day create the conditions to stop the production of nuclear weapons, and the treaty on general and complete disarmament that liquidates, in particular, nuclear energy. weapons and their national stockpile delivery vehicles.

There is an obligation to pursue in good faith and conclude the negotiations that lead to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.

Third Pillar of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty: Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy

The nuclear non-proliferation treaty recognizes the right of all parties to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and to benefit from international cooperation in this area, in accordance with their non-proliferation obligations. In addition, Article IV also encourages such cooperation.

The third pillar allows and agrees to transfer nuclear technology and materials to the signatory countries of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty for the development of civil nuclear energy programs in those countries, provided that they can demonstrate that their nuclear programs are not being used for nuclear power development

Country Situation on Nuclear Weapons

India and Pakistan

India and Pakistan are the only countries that have admitted having nuclear weapons without signing the treaty. India conducted the first nuclear weapons test in 1974 and in 2002 it probably has 60 to 90 nuclear warheads. Pakistan conducted the first test in May 1998 and estimates that the number of warheads ranges between 24 and 52 units.


Iran is a signatory to the treaty. The country has its own atomic program, in which it develops nuclear technology. The official objectives of the program are to promote nuclear medicine and energy generation. The West secretly suspects that Iran develops nuclear weapons.

The IAEA has concluded that Iran could have been working on a nuclear weapon until 2003, but there was no evidence of that in 2012. The US intelligence services have reached the same conclusion. Sanctions were imposed against the country due to the nuclear program and Iran did not fully cooperate with IAEA inspectors. An agreement was reached in mid-2015. Iran promises to stop developing nuclear weapons and, in return, economic sanctions will be lifted. In May 2018, the United States withdrew from the Iranian nuclear agreement. President Donald Trump restored economic sanctions against the country and hardened them further: other countries can also be punished if they trade with Iran.


Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Although Israel does not confirm or deny being in possession of nuclear weapons, it has stated that it has the technology to produce such weapons. Estimates of how many nuclear warheads would have been adjusted after the revelations of Mordechai Vanunu, who reported in detail about Israel's secret nuclear weapons program in Dimona.

North Korea

North Korea signed the treaty, but withdrew on January 10, 2003 and announced that it had nuclear weapons. Since July 2005, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States have been discussing North Korea's nuclear arsenal. In early August 2005, these discussions stalled completely.

North Korea conducted a nuclear test on October 9, 2006. This caused a great shock worldwide. The UN Security Council met the same day in an emergency session and condemned the nuclear test.

North Korea again conducted an underground atomic explosion on May 25, 2009. This explosion was many times more powerful than the explosion in 2006. On September 9, 2016, the most recent nuclear test in the country was confirmed.

South Africa

In 1979 and 1980, space satellites observed two South African atomic tests, presumably conducted with Israel. The then apartheid regime has always denied that it was working on nuclear weapons, but Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad admitted it in 1997. The Mandela government had already dismantled the small arsenal of nuclear bombs and signed the Treaty against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.


After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a large part of the arsenal of Soviet nuclear weapons fell into the hands of Ukraine. In 1996, this was officially transferred to Russia, but due to the chaotic conditions and the many mistakes that have been made, it is not clear whether nuclear weapons are still present in Ukraine.


Published: November 21, 2019
Last review: November 21, 2019