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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Fact Sheets > 2001
Fact Sheet
Bureau of Nonproliferation
Washington, DC
January 20, 2001

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: A Global Success

[See annex for the text of the Treaty and a summary of key terms.]

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is one of the great success stories of arms control. It has made major contributions to global security and economic well-being. It has been remarkably successful in achieving its main goals and -- with 187 parties -- has become the most widely-adhered-to arms control treaty in history. The NPT:

  • is an indispensable tool in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

  • promotes the peaceful uses of the atom from the generation of electricity to the many applications in medicine, industry, agriculture, and other areas.

  • serves as an essential basis for the reduction of nuclear weapons and for progress toward nuclear disarmament.

History

The need to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons was evident from the first days of the nuclear era. By 1964 there were five declared nuclear weapon states -- the United States, the former Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France and China. Many predicted that the nuclear club could grow to 20-30 countries within two decades. It rapidly became clear that if the many peaceful uses of nuclear technology were to be developed, states needed credible assurances that nuclear programs would not be diverted to military applications.

In 1961, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution sponsored by Ireland calling on all states to conclude an international agreement that would ban the acquisition and transfer of nuclear weapons. In 1965, the Geneva disarmament conference began consideration of a draft nonproliferation treaty. Negotiations were completed in 1968 and on July 1 of that year the NPT was opened for signature. On March 5, 1970, the NPT entered into force. The United States, United Kingdom, and the former Soviet Union were among the 43 original parties.

Important members of the international community did not embrace the NPT in 1970. There were many questions. Would its terms be honored? Would the inspections of civil nuclear facilities lead to commercial espionage? Would others join the Treaty? Would it provide real benefits?

Over time, the many benefits of the NPT became clear. The NPT establishes a political and legal barrier to the spread of nuclear weapons. That fact alone offered to many states a compelling rationale for joining. The growth in Treaty membership toward universality has been steady over the years. From 43 original parties in 1970 the number grew to 96 in 1975, 132 in 1985, 177 in 1995, and stands at 187 today. Only Cuba, Israel, India, and Pakistan remain outside the Treaty.

In 1995, the parties faced the critical decision of whether to extend the NPT indefinitely or for a fixed period or periods. A majority decision was necessary. There was some speculation that the international community was not ready to make the NPT a permanent fixture of global security. However, at the Conference called to consider this issue, it was decided by consensus on May 11, 1995, that a majority of parties supported the indefinite extension of the Treaty. On that day President Clinton called the decision historic, hailing it as:

"...a critical step in making the American people -- and people throughout the world -- more safe and secure. It will build a better future for our children and the generations to come."

Direct Security Benefits

There is a strong international consensus that the further spread of nuclear weapons would endanger the security of all countries, threaten global and regional stability, and undermine efforts to achieve peaceful solutions to existing problems among states. The NPT, and the norm of nonproliferation that it supports, are the primary reasons why the proliferation of nuclear weapons has been far slower than predicted in the 1960s.

The security benefits of the NPT are evident in every region of the world. South Africa's accession to the NPT in 1991 enhanced the security of all African states and opened the way for the negotiation of a treaty to make Africa a nuclear-weapon-free zone. Widespread acceptance of the NPT in Latin America and Southeast Asia has reinforced the desire of nations in these regions to ensure that nuclear weapons do not undermine their security.

There have been challenges to the NPT. Iraq was found to be in violation of the NPT in 1991. Its nuclear program continues to pose a threat. In Asia, North Korea's failure to meet its NPT obligations undermines regional and global security. In both cases, the international community responded strongly, insisting that Iraq and North Korea cease their noncompliance. The NPT is a critical tool in efforts to restrain the nuclear programs of both countries.

Nuclear proliferation in South Asia in 1998 poses a continuing challenge. But these tests by India and Pakistan also reinforced the NPT as nations around the world condemned these actions and reaffirmed the critical importance of the Treaty.

In Europe and Central Asia, great political and economic changes have occurred over the last decade as a result of the dissolution of the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. In the midst of these massive changes, the NPT has provided stability. All of the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union transferred nuclear weapons deployed on their territories to Russia and joined the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states.

Safeguards and Security

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), founded in 1957, is the primary mechanism for verifying that parties to the NPT are complying with its terms. The implementation of IAEA safeguards is further evidence of the way in which the NPT strengthens international security. Safeguards under the Treaty, including international inspections, help to deter the use of nuclear material for nuclear explosive purposes, and thus are an important confidence-building measure.

In light of the lessons learned with Iraq, the members of the IAEA have taken measures to strengthen the Agency's safeguards system. These include a reaffirmation of the IAEA's right to conduct special inspections and the use of new tools for the detection of clandestine nuclear facilities. In 1997, the IAEA adopted a model protocol for existing safeguards agreements under the NPT that is designed to give the IAEA a stronger role and more effective tools for conducting worldwide inspections.

Nuclear Arms Control and Reductions

The NPT's role in checking nuclear proliferation also is critical to reducing existing nuclear arsenals. A vast array of actions has been taken in recent years that meet the objectives of NPT Article VI which calls for effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States and the former Soviet Union (now the Russian Federation) have taken many dramatic steps to reduce Cold War stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The U.S. alone has dismantled approximately 13,000 nuclear weapons over this period.

Today, the nuclear arms race between the United States and Russia is over. They are seeking further reductions in nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, and taking other steps to reduce their nuclear weapon infrastructures.

The START I Treaty has significantly cut the number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the United States and the former Soviet Union. Reductions foreseen under START II and III would result in 80% reductions in strategic forces since the end of the Cold War.

The United States and Russia are also cooperating on bilateral and multilateral measures to establish a universal, legally-binding halt in the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. For example, both are obligated under a 1997 bilateral agreement not to restart any shutdown plutonium production reactors and not to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons in any such reactors still in operation. They are also working on ways to store safely and to dispose of stocks of fissile material no longer needed for defense purposes.

The United States halted production of fissile material for nuclear weapons many years ago. More than 200 tonnes of fissile material have been removed from the U.S. military stockpile and will be placed under IAEA safeguards as soon as practical.

Dramatic reductions have also been made in stockpiles and deployments of shorter-range nuclear weapons. Over 85% of tactical nuclear weapons dedicated to the NATO alliance have been withdrawn over the past decade and the United States has removed nuclear weapons from all surface naval ships and naval aircraft. In effect, these actions have denuclearized the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the surface and air components of the U.S. Navy.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was opened for signature in 1996. The United States has not conducted a nuclear test explosion since 1992, and is continuing the moratorium while it works to bring about the entry into force of the CTBT at the earliest possible time. The United States is fully funding its share of the organization that is preparing to oversee implementation of the Treaty including establishing the verification system.

Most U.S. facilities dedicated to the production of nuclear weapons stand idle or have been converted to other uses. The resources dedicated to nuclear weapons and nuclear forces have been drastically cut.

Nuclear Cooperation Benefits

The NPT creates a vital and irreplaceable framework for peaceful nuclear cooperation by providing assurances that non-nuclear-weapon state NPT parties will devote their nuclear programs exclusively to peaceful purposes. Consistent with its NPT Article IV obligations, the United States has for many years granted preference to NPT parties with exemplary commitments to nuclear nonproliferation when considering U.S. assistance to foreign nuclear programs.

The United States aids nuclear programs through the IAEA by providing a voluntary financial contribution and certain "in-kind" assistance. This assistance supports many IAEA programs that benefit developing countries, which comprise the majority of NPT parties. Among such projects are nuclear applications in the fields of water resources and environmental pollution, nutrition and agriculture, and human health. The U.S. cash contribution for IAEA technical assistance projects from 1996 through 1999 totaled over $65 million, providing approximately 1/3 of the total available resources.

The primary legal vehicle for bilateral U.S. assistance is an agreement concluded under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act. There are 27 agreements in force as of January 1, 2000. Hundreds of millions of dollars of fuel, nuclear equipment, and other commodities are exported from the United States to NPT Parties pursuant to these agreements each year. Also, U.S. Department of Energy laboratories have signed bilateral agreements with scientific institutions in several NPT developing countries to promote collaboration on various nuclear technology applications.

[More information on U.S. peaceful nuclear cooperation with other NPT parties is found in a separate pamphlet entitled "NPT Article IV: U.S. Support for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation."]

Conclusion

The world is emerging from the Cold War, a period marked by costly and spiraling nuclear competition. As the international community moves into a new era, the NPT will remain critical in a world where security is defined increasingly by the absence of nuclear weapons programs, rather than by their presence, and by the sharp reduction, not expansion, of existing nuclear arsenals.

The NPT is vital for security, arms control and disarmament, and economic and social development throughout the world. By rededicating themselves to the NPT, its parties can ensure that this Treaty will play an even more vital role in the new millennium.


ANNEX

Key Provisions of the NPT

Under Article I, the nuclear weapon states undertake not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and not to assist encourage or induce any non-nuclear-weapon state to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

Under Article II, each non-nuclear-weapon state pledges not to receive, manufacture, or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive assistance in their manufacture.

Article III obliges each non-nuclear-weapon state to accept comprehensive international safeguards through agreements negotiated with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The intent of these safeguards is to deter and detect the diversion of nuclear material for nuclear explosive purposes.

Under Article IV, parties may engage in peaceful nuclear programs in a manner consistent with Articles I and H and are expected to assist the nuclear programs of other parties, with special attention to the needs of developing countries.

Article VI obligates all parties to pursue good-faith negotiations on effective measures relating to ending the nuclear arms race at an early date, to nuclear disarmament, and to achieving a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

Article VII recognizes the right of any group of states to conclude regional treaties ensuring the total absence of nuclear weapons in their respective territories.


TREATY ON THE NON-PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Signed at Washington, London, and Moscow July 1, 1968
Ratification advised by U.S. Senate March 13, 1969
Ratified by U.S. President November 24, 1969
U.S. ratification deposited at Washington, London, and Moscow March 5, 1970
Proclaimed by U.S. President March 5, 1970
Entered into force March 5, 1970

The States concluding this Treaty, hereinafter referred to as the "Parties to the Treaty",

Considering the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war and the consequent need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war and to take measures to safeguard the security of peoples,

Believing that the proliferation of nuclear weapons would seriously enhance the danger of nuclear war,

In conformity with resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly calling for the conclusion of an agreement on the prevention of wider dissemination of nuclear weapons,

Undertaking to cooperate in facilitating the application of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on peaceful nuclear activities,

Expressing their support for research, development and other efforts to further the application, within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards system, of the principle of safeguarding effectively the flow of source and special fissionable materials by use of instruments and other techniques at certain strategic points,

Affirming the principle that the benefits of peaceful applications of nuclear technology, including any technological by-products which may be derived by nuclear-weapon States from the development of nuclear explosive devices, should be available for peaceful purposes to all Parties of the Treaty, whether nuclear-weapon or non-nuclear weapon States,

Convinced that, in furtherance of this principle, all Parties to the Treaty are entitled to participate in the fullest possible exchange of scientific information for, and to contribute alone or in cooperation with other States to, the further development of the applications of atomic energy for peaceful purposes,

Declaring their intention to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament,

Urging the cooperation of all States in the attainment of this objective,

Recalling the determination expressed by the Parties to the 1963 Treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere in outer space and under water in its Preamble to seek to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time and to continue negotiations to this end,

Desiring to further the easing of international tension and the strengthening of trust between States in order to facilitate the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons, the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles, and the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery pursuant to a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control,

Recalling that, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, States must refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations, and that the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security are to be promoted with the least diversion for armaments of the worlds human and economic resources,

Have agreed as follows:

Article I

Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices.

Article II

Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

Article III

  1. Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes to accept safeguards, as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Agency's safeguards system, for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfillment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Procedures for the safeguards required by this article shall be followed with respect to source or special fissionable material whether it is being produced, processed or used in any principal nuclear facility or is outside any such facility. The safeguards required by this article shall be applied to all source or special fissionable material in all peaceful nuclear activities within the territory of such State, under its jurisdiction, or carried out under its control anywhere.

  2. Each State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to provide: (a) source or special fissionable material, or (b) equipment or material especially designed or prepared for the processing, use or production of special fissionable material, to any non-nuclear-weapon State for peaceful purposes, unless the source or special fissionable material shall be subject to the safeguards required by this article.

  3. The safeguards required by this article shall be implemented in a manner designed to comply with article IV of this Treaty, and to avoid hampering the economic or technological development of Parties or international cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities, including the international exchange of nuclear material and equipment for the processing, use or production of nuclear material for peaceful purposes in accordance with the provisions of this article and the principle of safeguarding set forth in the Preamble of the Treaty.

  4. Non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty shall conclude agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency to meet the requirements of this article either individually or together with other States in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Negotiation of such agreements shall commence within 180 days from the original entry into force of this Treaty. For States depositing their instruments of ratification or accession after the 180-day period, negotiation of such agreements shall commence not later than the date of such deposit. Agreements shall enter into force not later than eighteen months after the date of initiation of negotiations.

Article IV

  1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty.

  2. All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also cooperate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.

Article V

Each party to the Treaty undertakes to take appropriate measures to ensure that, in accordance with this Treaty, under appropriate international observation and through appropriate international procedures, potential benefits from any peaceful applications of nuclear explosions will be made available to non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty on a nondiscriminatory basis and that the charge to such Parties for the explosive devices used will be as low as possible and exclude any charge for research and development. Non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty shall be able to obtain such benefits, pursuant to a special international agreement or agreements, through an appropriate international body with adequate representation of non-nuclear-weapon States. Negotiations on this subject shall commence as soon as possible after the Treaty enters into force. Non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty so desiring may also obtain such benefits pursuant to bilateral agreements.

Article VI

Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

Article VII

Nothing in this Treaty affects the right of any group of States to conclude regional treaties in order to assure the total absence of nuclear weapons in their respective territories.

Article VIII

  1. Any Party to the Treaty may propose amendments to this Treaty. The text of any proposed amendment shall be submitted to the Depositary Governments which shall circulate it to all Parties to the Treaty. Thereupon, if requested to do so by one-third or more of the Parties to the Treaty, the Depositary Governments shall convene a conference, to which they shall invite all the Parties to the Treaty, to consider such an amendment.

  2. Any amendment to this Treaty must be approved by a majority of the votes of all the Parties to the Treaty, including the votes of all nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty and all other Parties which, on the date the amendment is circulated, are members of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The amendment shall enter into force for each Party that deposits its instrument of ratification of the amendment upon the deposit of such instruments of ratification by a majority of all the Parties, including the instruments of ratification of all nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty and all other Parties which, on the date the amendment is circulated, are members of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Thereafter, it shall enter into force for any other Party upon the deposit of its instrument of ratification of the amendment.

  3. Five years after the entry into force of this Treaty, a conference of Parties to the Treaty shall be held in Geneva, Switzerland, in order to review the operation of this Treaty with a view to assuring that the purposes of the Preamble and the provisions of the Treaty are being realized. At intervals of five years thereafter, a majority of the Parties to the Treaty may obtain, by submitting a proposal to this effect to the Depositary Governments, the convening of further conferences with the same objective of reviewing the operation of the Treaty.

Article IX

  1. This Treaty shall be open to all States for signature. Any State which does not sign the Treaty before its entry into force in accordance with paragraph 3 of this article may accede to it at any time.

  2. This Treaty shall be subject to ratification by signatory States. Instruments of ratification and instruments of accession shall be deposited with the Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which are hereby designated the Depositary Governments.

  3. This Treaty shall enter into force after its ratification by the States, the Governments of which are designated Depositaries of the Treaty, and forty other States signatory to this Treaty and the deposit of their instruments of ratification. For the purposes of this Treaty, a nuclear-weapon State is one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to January 1, 1967.

  4. For States whose instruments of ratification or accession are deposited subsequent to the entry into force of this Treaty, it shall enter into force on the date of the deposit of their instruments of ratification or accession.

  5. The Depositary Governments shall promptly inform all signatory and acceding States of the date of each signature, the date of deposit of each instrument of ratification or of accession, the date of the entry into force of this Treaty, and the date of receipt of any requests for convening a conference or other notices.

  6. This Treaty shall be registered by the Depositary Governments pursuant to article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations.

Article X

  1. Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.

  2. Twenty-five years after the entry into force of the Treaty, a conference shall be convened to decide whether the Treaty shall continue in force indefinitely, or shall be extended for an additional fixed period or periods. This decision shall be taken by a majority of the Parties to the Treaty.

Article XI

This Treaty, the English, Russian, French, Spanish and Chinese texts of which are equally authentic, shall be deposited in the archives of the Depositary Governments. Duly certified copies of this Treaty shall be transmitted by the Depositary Governments to the Governments of the signatory and acceding States.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, duly authorized, have signed this Treaty.

DONE in triplicate, at the cities of Washington, London and Moscow, this first day of July one thousand nine hundred sixty-eight.



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