A report the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) issued Monday said that it expects international nuclear weapons arsenals to grow in size over the next decade for the first time since the end of the Cold War more than 30 years ago.
The report said that although the total number of nuclear warheads in existence decreased slightly last year, stockpiles are now being built up and weapons numbers are expected to increase.
The report assessed conditions in the nine nations with nuclear weapons capabilities, which include the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea.
SIPRI researcher Matt Korda works with the Institute’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Program and the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. He said that the global inventory of weapons across all capable nations is going to be headed for the first increase since the Cold War unless there is “immediate and concrete action on disarmament.”
Weapons of Mass Destruction Program director Wilfred Wan said in a media release that all nine nuclear states are currently either increasing the size of their arsenals or upgrading their weapons systems. He said most of them are “sharpening nuclear rhetoric” and focusing publicly on how their nuclear weapons shape their military strategies and international policies.
The U.S. and Russia maintain more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons. Around 2,000 of their weapons are reportedly kept in “high operational alert” conditions.
Most of the reductions in U.S. and Russian warhead numbers last year resulted from removing outdated weapons from military service. The START Treaty, extended by the Biden and Putin administrations through 2026, does not limit either country’s inventory number of nonstrategic nuclear warheads.
SIPRI reports that all seven other nuclear nations are developing new weapons systems currently.
China is working on more than 300 new missile silo locations as well as land-based and submarine-based mobile launch systems.
The U.K. has reversed its decades-long policy of reducing its warhead stockpile and is now working on building its numbers up.
SIPRI believes that North Korea has assembled a stockpile of as many as 20 nuclear warheads and has enough ballistic missiles to deploy as many as 55 warheads. South Korean and U.S. intelligence officials have reported that they believe North Korea is preparing to conduct its first nuclear weapons test since September 2017.