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Non-state actor develops a nuke by 2030

Flourishing Futures Nuclear Risk Horizons Project


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

Much of the concern around nuclear weapons is centered on large-scale nuclear war resulting in nuclear winter and/or the deaths of a large percentage of the world's population. But nuclear proliferation and the increasing ease of developing nuclear weapons may also increase the risk of smaller conflicts and catastrophes, which could be important in themselves and could perhaps trigger larger-scale conflicts.

To date, there is no known incident of a non-state actor having control of a nuclear weapon, but there have been numerous close calls. In 1994, the US successfully extracted 600kg of weapons-grade uranium from an unsecured warehouse in Kazakhstan, and the IEAE reports frequent incidents involving theft or unauthorized posession of weapons material. Al-Qaeda and ISIS are notable groups who have interest or intent in acquiring nuclear weapons

Will a non-state actor develop their own nuclear weapon by 2030?

This question will resolve positively if, between this question opening and 2030-01-01, an individual or group outside a state's nuclear chain of command develops a nuclear weapon that is in deployable condition (though it need not be used, detonated, or set on alert). This will not include cases where a deployable weapon is sold, stolen, or inadvertently lost by a state (such scenarios are addressed in a separate question).

Dirty bombs (conventional weapons which use radioactive material to spread fallout) do not qualify for this question; the weapon must be a nuclear weapon in the sense of having nuclear fission or fusion as its primary energy source.

This question will resolve on the basis of official statements by governments, government intelligence authorities, or non-governmental nuclear intelligence organizations. In the case of significant disagreement or ambiguity on the points above, resolution may be delayed until 2035-01-01 for clarification, or be resolved ambiguous at the discretion of Metaculus admins.

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