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2+ states increase nuclear arsenals by 25%+

Flourishing Futures Nuclear Risk Tournament Szilard Fortified Essay Contest


This is one of several questions in this tournament focused on nuclear proliferation, force sizes, or yields. See here for a list of such questions and some discussion of these topics.

Currently, nine states possess nuclear weapons. Below is a list of the estimated number of nuclear warheads in each if those states as of May 2021 (according to the Federation of American Scientists).

  • Russia: 6,257 nuclear warheads
  • US: 5,550 nuclear warheads
  • China: 350 nuclear warheads
  • France: 290 nuclear warheads
  • UK: 225 nuclear warheads
  • Pakistan: 165 nuclear warheads
  • India: 160 nuclear warheads
  • Israel: 90 nuclear warheads
  • North Korea: sufficient fissile materials for 45 nuclear warheads ("The[ir] number of assembled warheads is unknown, but lower")

Will at least two states each increase the size of their nuclear weapons arsenals by at least 25% by 2024?

This question resolves positively if the FAS website shows, at any time between 2021-10-01 and 2023-12-31, that two or more states each have arsenals 25% higher than the estimates given above (i.e., 25% higher than FAS's estimates from May 2021). This includes deployed, reserve/nondeployed, and retired (but still intact) warheads, and both strategic and nonstrategic weapons. If a state that had no nuclear weapons when this question opened gains an arsenal of at least one assembled nuclear weapon, that would be counted as a state increasing its stockpile size by at least 25%.

In the case of North Korea, the "size of their nuclear stockpile" will refer to the number of warheads that could be assembled using the fissile material they've produced, whether the warheads have been assembled or not.

If FAS publish no estimates during the whole of 2023, then this question will resolve ambiguously.

No attempt will be made to distinguish actual increases in arsenal sizes from increases in estimates due to FAS changing their estimation methods or learning new information about what was already true in May 2021. This is mostly for simplicity, but also partly because some implications are the same whether (a) actual increases occur or (b) our current information is an underestimate.

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