The Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons | Le Réseau canadien pour l’abolition des armes nucléaires





Question 1: How many nuclear warheads  are there now? Who has what?
Question 2: How quickly can the warheads be used?
Question 3: Have nuclear weapons ever been used?
Question 4: How else are nuclear weapons used?
Question 5: How powerful are modern warheads?
Question 6: What would happen in a nuclear exchange?
Question 7: Have there been accidents with nuclear weapons?
Question 8: How did we survive the Cold War?
Question 9: Is there good news about progress toward nuclear disarmament?
Question 10: What can I do to help rid the world of nuclear weapons? 





Question 1: How many nuclear warheads  are there now? Who has what?

About 12,500 (as of mid 2023)

The “Nuclear Weapons States”- (those possessing as of 1968) now have:

USA     5,224

Russia  5,889

France 300

China 410

Britain 225

States acquiring these weapons more recently: 

Israel 90

India 160

Pakistan 165

North Korea 10-20


1) Status of World Nuclear Forces, March 31, 2023, Federation of American Scientists,

Text by Hans Kristensen, Matt Korda, Eliana Johns & Kate Kohn.

2)  “World Nuclear forces”, Chapter 7, SIPRI 2023 Yearbook, by Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda

3) “World Nuclear Forces,  Global nuclear inventories in January, 2021”, SIPRI

4)  Nuclear Weapons: Who Has What at a Glance

5)  How Many Nuclear Weapons Exist, and Who Has Them? by Joe Phelan & Livescience, March 22, 2022.


Question 2:  How quickly can the warheads be used?

More than 2,000 warheads are on “high alert” that is, their weapons could be launched in between 15 to  30 minutes.


1)  Status Of World Nuclear Forces, March 31, 2023,

Text by Hans Kristensen, Matt Korda, Eliana Johns & Kate Kohn, published by Federation of American Scientists.

2) Taking Nuclear Missiles Off Hair-Trigger Alert, Union of Concerned Scientists Policy Brief. (2015)

3)  Putin Orders Russian Nuclear Weapons on Higher Alert, March 2022,
By Shannon Bugos


Question 3:  Have nuclear weapons ever been used?

Yes – in three ways: for warfare, for testing (see below, Q4)  and for bullying.

On August 6, 1945 during World War II, the United States detonated a 15 kiloton bomb over Hiroshima, Japan

Deaths within 4 months  ~140,000

Injuries    ~ 78,000 (1)

On August 9, 1945 during World War II, the United States detonated a 21 kiloton bomb over Nagasaki, Japan.

Deaths ~73,884

Injuries ~74,909 (2)

After a review of multiple sources, Alex Wellerstein asserts:

“The United States military estimated that around 70,000 people died at Hiroshima, though later independent estimates argued that the actual number was 140,000 dead. In both cases, the majority of the deaths occurred on the day of the bombing itself, with nearly all of them taking place by the end of 1945.”  (3)


1)   Takashi Hiraoka, Mayor of Hiroshima in testimony before the International Court of Justice hearings on the Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Use and Threat of Nuclear Weapons, Nov. 7, 1995.

2)  Source:  Iccoh Itoh, Mayor of Nagasaki, in testimony before the International Court of Justice hearings on the Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Use and Threat of Nuclear Weapons, Nov. 7 1995.

3) “Counting the dead at Hiroshima and Nagasaki”by Alex Wellerstein, Aug. 4, 2020, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

4)  “The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, published by Atomic Archive.

How else are nuclear weapons used?  For bullying other states

Examples of Threats with Nuclear Weapons 1946

Threat to IRAN1  in 1946 by USA


BERLIN1  1948  USA

KOREA   1950   USA

VIETNAM1  1954   USA

CHINA1  1954  USA


CHINA2   1958 USA

BERLIN2   1959 USA







IRAN2  1980 USA







1)  Wikipedia

2)  “U.S. nuclear threats: Then and now” , Natural Resources Defense Council, Vol. 62, No. 5, pp. 69-71

3)  “Rattling the Nuclear Saber: What Russia’s Nuclear Threats Really Mean” by Lauren Sukin, May 04, 2023, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


Question 4: Why else have nuclear weapons been exploded? 

For testing of nuclear warheads.

Testing of nuclear weapons in the U.S. has caused fallout.  In Nevada, for instance, testing has caused an estimated 49,000 deaths.

Testing in the South Pacific has left islands uninhabitable and ruined for agriculture.


1) Ending Nuclear Testing, UN International Day against Nuclear Tests”,

2)  “Ending Nuclear Tests” published by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.


Question 5:  How powerful are modern warheads?

Nuclear warheads today are roughly 10 to 150 times larger than the Hiroshima bomb.


1)  “How Have Nuclear Weapons Evolved Since Oppenheimer and the Trinity Test?”

August 4, 2023 | 9:00 am, modern warheads are almost,than the early atomic bombs.

2)  “Nuclear Weapons: Who Has What at a Glance”

3)   “How Many Nuclear Weapons Exist, and Who Has Them?

Nuclear states admit to owning about 13,000 warheads, but the real number could be higher”, by Joe Phelan & Livescience, March 22, 2022.


Question 6:  What would happen in a nuclear exchange? 

A “numbers game” approach to nuclear security is irrational in the face of scientific evidence on nuclear winter. Arguments in favor of increasing nuclear arsenals studiously ignore the mass of scientific evidence showing that a major war with even existing arsenals would devastate the entire planet. Hundreds of millions of deaths from blast, fire and radiation would be only the beginning; smoke and soot from nuclear fire storms would linger in the atmosphere for years, and the resulting nuclear winter would cause global famine.

A 2022 study found that a major nuclear war would cause five billion deaths.[1] The nuclear weapon states have been ignoring similar studies for years,[2] but ignoring the evidence will not change the facts.

[1] Xia Lili, Alan Robock, Kim Scherrer, Cheryl S. Harrison, Jonas Jagermeyr, Charles Bardeen, Owen B. Toon, and Ryan Heneghan, 2022,“Global food insecurity and famine from reduced crop, marine fishery and livestock production due to climate disruption from nuclear war soot injection,” Nature Food,

[2] See, e.g., Cameron Viza, “The climate blind spot in nuclear weapons policy,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 2, 2023

Source:  EXPANDING THE U.S. NUCLEAR ARSENAL IS UNNECESSARY, AND WOULD INCREASE THE DANGER OF NUCLEAR WAR: A Response to the Report of the Congressional Commission on the U.S. Strategic Posture, Principal Author: Guy Quinlan, President, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, November 2023.

A clear explanation is provided by Dr. Ira Helfand at a meeting of British Pugwash: Dr. Helfand is an American emergency physician who has led Physicians for Social Responsibility (US) and International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War. He has lectured on medical consequences on the use of nuclear weapons around the world.

Start of description: 34.14 min.

End of description: 43:15 min.

“Nuclear Famine:  Even a “limited” nuclear war would cause abrupt clmate disruption and global starvation” by Matt Bivens, M.D. Linked here.

How would a war between Russia and the U.S. affect you personally?  A simulation created by the Future of Life Institute.


Question 7:  Have there been accidents with nuclear weapons?

Yes.  There have been many accidents with these warheads, some due to human error and some due to computer or technological problems.

Human error can be caused by drug or alcohol abuse, boredom, marital problems, stress,  etc.

The result today could be even more dangerous than in the past. Several times already the world has come within minutes of accidental nuclear war caused by human or machine error.[1] In 2015 a commission of retired military experts, chaired by a former Vice Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, found that the danger of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation was increasing because developing technology was shortening warning and decision times.[2] In the subsequent years. that trend has continued and accelerated.[3]

[1.] William J. Perry and Tom Z. Collina, The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump, Ben Bella Books 2020, pp. 59-65
[2] Global Zero Commission on Nuclear Risk Reduction, “De-alerting and Stabilizing the World’s Nuclear Force Postures,” April 2015, available through
[3] See, e.g., Ulrich Kühn, Neil Renic, and Marina Favaro, “Negative Multiplicity: Forecasting the Future Impact of Emerging Technologies on International Stability and Human Security,” International Foundation for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, September 2022; Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, “Artificial Intelligence, Strategic Stability and Nuclear Risk,” June 2020, available through

Source:  [LCNP – Quinlan article]


1)  The US Department of Defense reported 32 serious accidents with nuclear weapons in the period 1950 – 1980.

2)  “Unrecovered Nuclear Weapons and Classified Components”  an excerpt from a Joint Department of Defense/Department of Energy report on the Histories of Nuclear Weapons Accidents,

3)  “Narrative Summaries of Accidents involving U.S. Nuclear Weapons 1950- 1980”, Department of Defense,

4)  “Broken Arrows: Nuclear Weapons Accidents”, by Atomic Archive. (Provides information up to 2000.)

5)  “Accidental Nuclear War:  A timeline of close calls” Close Calls, by Ariel Conn, February 23, 2016, Future of Life Institute

1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis is considered by many as the closest the world has come to a nuclear exchange.

1965: Near Japan a fighter jet carrying a nuclear bomb fell off the side of a US aircraft carrier. Bomb was never recovered.

1966: Above Spain a B-52 bomber crashed into a refueling plane in mid-air. Four nuclear weapons fell out and two of the bombs suffered conventional explosions.

There was substantial radiation, and 1,400 tons of contaminated soil needed to be taken back to the US.

1968: A B-52 bomber carrying four hydrogen bombs caught fire and crashed into the ice of Greenland. Luckily, this did not set off a nuclear reaction.

1979: A large number of incoming missiles – a full-scale Soviet first strike- appeared on the screens at four US command centers. In response intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with nuclear warheads were put on high alert and nuclear bombers were prepared for take-off.  Before any counter attack was launched it was realized to be a false alarm. The screens had been showing a realistic simulation of a Soviet attack from a military exercise that had mistakenly been sent to the live computer system.

1980: In Arkansas a 9-megaton warhead was propelled about 100 meters away in an explosion.

Fortunately its safety features kept it intact.

1983: The Soviet early-warning system showed five ICBMs launching from the US. Stanislav Petrov reasoned that it is unlikely that the US would launch a first strike with just five missiles…. The false alarm .. caused by sunlight glinting off clouds, which looked to the Soviet satellite system like the flashes of launching rockets.

1995: Russian radar detected the launch of a missile aimed at Russia.  The warning was quickly escalated all the way up the chain of command, leading President Yeltsin to open the

Russian nuclear briefcase and consider whether to authorize nuclear retaliation.

It turned out to be a false alarm, caused by the launch of a Norwegian scientific rocket to study the northern lights.

Russia had been notified, but word hadn’t reached the radar operators.

2007: Six nuclear-armed cruise missiles were mistakenly loaded onto a B-52 bomber in North

Dakota.  For 36 hours no one in the US Air Force realized that six live nuclear weapons were missing.

From Russia, the case of Col. Stanislav Petrov, the “man who saved the world”. 


1) “Stanislav Petrov: The man who may have saved the world”

2)   “Stanislav Petrov, Soviet Officer Who Helped Avert Nuclear War, Is Dead at 77”

3)  The Man Who “Saved the World” Dies at 77


Question 8:  How did we survive the Cold War?

There are many theories about why nuclear war risks faced during the Cold War did not lead to global disaster. Despite policies that resulted in the great accumulation of weapons, threatening postures, smaller wars and many hostile actions, in general nation states found routes through conflicts that depended on sober diplomacy, de-escalation, and often (painful) compromise.

General Lee Butler, Former Commander, U.S. Strategic Air once stated: “…we escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of skill, luck and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.”


Question 9:  Is there good news about progress toward nuclear disarmament?

Yes – in multiple ways.

a)   The numbers of warheads are reduced:

1986:   69,000 nuclear warheads

2023:   12,500 nuclear warheads

b)  Although 2,056 tests of nuclear weapons have been conducted, now there are moratoria on atmospheric testing so numbers of tests have decreased.

Visualizing the Tests Conducted since 1945

c)  Public Opinion favours the abolition of nuclear weapons.  

80% of Canadians believe: “The world should work to eliminate nuclear weapons”

Source:  Nanos, March 2021

d)  Nuclear Weapons-free Zones have been established mainly in the Southern Hemisphere. 

Source:  Nuclear Weapons Under International Law:  An Overview, October 2014, published by the International Law and Policy Institute

e)  Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament was created to enable education and collaboration among parliamentarians.  63 Canadian parliamentarians have joined.

f)  Canada participates in international and regional Parliamentary Associations that speak out for nuclear disarmament, such as:

  • Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
  • Inter-Parliamentary Union

g)  Mayors for Peace – 8321 Mayors in 166 countries now have joined Mayors for Peace by endorsing the call for nuclear weapons-free world by 2020.

In Canada, 113 Mayors have joined.

h)  Civil society organizations seek peace. Some examples:

Search for Common Ground

International Alert

International Crisis Group

Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre

Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs

Peace Brigades International

Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict

The Carter Center

International Centre for Dialogue Initiatives

European Centre for Conflict Prevention

African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD)
West African Network for Peacebuilding

i)  Legal remedies: The new International Criminal Court is able to conduct hearings on war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The International Court of Justice – or the “World  Court” between 1947 and 2021, 181 cases have gone onto their list enabling legal discussion to resolve problems between states.

j)  Better thinking on how to defend states without nuclear threats is occurring. One proposal is for “Common Security” which proposes:

“All states, even the most powerful, are dependent in the end upon the good sense and restraint of other nations.  Even ideological and political opponents have a shared interest in survival.  In the long run, no nation can base its security on the insecurity of others.  True security requires a cooperative effort, a partnership in the struggle against war.”

From the Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues, 1982, chaired by Olaf Palme

What are some “tools” of common security?

  • local-global democracy
  • human rights
  • social justice
  • economic development
  • environmental security
  • peaceful measures
  • “non-offensive” defence (NOD)

k)  Nonviolent strategies are being increasingly used in campaigns against repressive governments.  Research by Erika Chenoweth (author of Civil Resistanceand others shows that where used,  the state is more likely to adopt democratic practices.

Research on nonviolence was conducted by Prof. Gene Sharp at the Albert Einstein Institute in Boston about the nonviolence efforts of Gandhi,  Martin Luther King Jr., and others.  He wrote three books on the history of nonviolence and provided an inventory of 198 “Methods of Nonviolent Action.  They are shown here.  

More recently, Dr. Michael Beer at  Nonviolence International has widened the list of options to now 346 Tactics of nonviolence set out in this graphic.  

If you would like to see an inspiring Ted Talk on the successes of nonviolence, check out this 12 minute Talk by Prof. Erika Chenoweth, shown here:

She provides an account of how she got involved in her research that led her to examine several hundred campaigns from 1900 to 2019.

l) The model Nuclear Weapons Convention (mNWC) can be found here:

Canadian lawyer and Pugwash member Bill Epstein participated in the drafting committee and then Senator Doug Roche O.C. was a Consultant.


Question 10:  What can I do to help rid the world of nuclear weapons?

a.   Share your concerns with your family, friends and neighbours.

b.  Communicate your concerns about the risk of nuclear war to your MP and Senator. Let them know you want Canada to do serious financial, diplomatic and political work on the abolition of all nuclear weapons.  Ask them to join Parliamentarians for Nuclear non-Proliferation and Disarmament (

Write to:

  • The Prime Minister
  • The Minister of Foreign Affairs, and
  • Your MP[Email addresses are at  No postage required if marked “Franking Mail”. ]

Engage in continued discussion with them.

c.  Ask your Mayor to join Mayors for Peace.

d.  Check into your investments & pension funds –