What is a Nuclear Weapons Policy?

Sonal Panse

A nuclear weapons policy is the national policy formulated by a country with regards to its nuclear weapons arsenal. The policy states why the country needs nuclear weapons in the first place, and the number and type of nuclear weapons the country has in its possession. There is information, not generally made public, about where the nuclear weapons are located and how securely they are maintained, and the country's plans for further nuclear weapons development. A plan for the dismantling and disposal of old weapons is also detailed in a nuclear weapons policy.

Each country creates its own policy with regard to its arsenal of nuclear weapons.
Each country creates its own policy with regard to its arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Many nuclear weapons countries maintain tactical nuclear weapons as a deterrent against attacks. The nuclear weapons policy clearly states the circumstances in which the nuclear weapons may be deployed. The USA, for instance, has a no-first-use policy. This means it will resort to nuclear weapons only in the event it faces nuclear attack from another country. Yet, the USA also keeps a preemptive strike option open. If the situation demands it, it may be prepared to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries.

Iran is a party to the NPT, bu has been found to be non-compliant in the past.
Iran is a party to the NPT, bu has been found to be non-compliant in the past.

The exact locations of the nuclear weapons and the details of how exactly they will be used are included in the classified parts of the nuclear weapons policy. This section also specifies what can be or cannot be said in public about the country's tactical nuclear weapons deployment. In USA and Russia nuclear weapons deployment is set up in way that, if needed, may be carried out in a matter of hours.

A country's nuclear weapons policy will include a discussion on its weapons acquisition process. This includes details about its nuclear weapon research, production methods and proposed budget. Other points covered will be about sharing nuclear technology and materials for nuclear weapons development with allies. The nuclear weapons policy will mention treaties with other countries on issues like banning nuclear explosive testing, trying for nuclear arms reduction and making mutual security assurances. There will also be proposals about the steps to be taken to prevent non-friendly states from acquiring nuclear know-how.

The attempts by countries with nuclear weapons to prevent nuclear proliferation by other states have not been particularly successful over the years. Some countries have refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) or, having signed it, have failed to comply with its policies. Two examples in this regard are the Iran nuclear weapons program and the Israel nuclear weapons program. NPT countries have not been able to take any strong measures to enforce the non-proliferation agenda on non-compliant countries.

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