The Nuclear Powers

Nine countries currently have nuclear weapons: The United States, Russia, France, United Kingdom, China, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea. Of these powers, North Korea presents the most imminent threat due to the hostility of its leaders. In the event of war, Japan and South Korea lie within range of its missiles and could face total destruction. As its missiles improve and, if testing continues, North Korea will soon have the capacity to strike the continental United States.

Four countries had nuclear weapons and abandoned them. South Africa developed six nuclear weapons. It discontinued its program in 1989 and dismantled them. Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus possessed nuclear weapons when the Soviet Union disintegrated. They gave them to Russia.

Iraq was developing a nuclear weapons program. Israel destroyed its reactors with bombs in 1981, and the victors dismantled the program following the Gulf War.

Libya had a program, but Muammar Gadhafi surrendered it in 2003 in exchange for better relations with the West.

Israel destroyed Syria’s program with airstrikes against its reactor.

Iran has had a clandestine nuclear weapons program for decades. In 2015 it agreed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In return for relief from international sanctions, Iran agreed to get rid of its medium-enriched uranium and to diminish its low-enriched uranium by 98 percent. For thirteen years, it would also decrease its gas centrifuges by two thirds. It would limit enrichment of uranium to 3.67 percent for fifteen years and for the same length of time would build no new heavy-water facilities.

Shortly before implementation, Iran released four American prisoners, and the US dropped charges against fourteen Iranians. The US also sent four hundred million dollars in cash to Iran and gave it $1.3 billion.

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