Nuclear weapons are explosive devices that deliver high intensity heat, blast, radiation, and radioactive fallout, either through fission reactions (splitting of the nucleus of a particle) and/or fusion reactions (joining of two nuclei).
Nuclear disarmament is so important to the UN that it was subject to the very first resolution adopted by the General Assembly. On 24 January 1946, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 1 under the title ‘Establishment of a commission to deal with the problems raised by the discovery of atomic energy’ and created what is known today as the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, it also stipulated with a clear sense of priority, under Paragraph 5 Terms of References of the Commission:
“In particular, the Commission shall make specific proposals:
- c) for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction;
- d) for effective safeguards by way of inspection and other means to protect complying States against the hazards of violations and evasions.”
The Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water, also known as the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT), and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), are the principal legal instruments for whose correct implementation by Member States the International Atomic Energy Agency was given primary responsibility.
Currently, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are considered under the definitions of the NPT “declared nuclear States”. India, Israel, Pakistan and the DPRK are “undeclared nuclear States”.
For the implementation of sanctions and trade controls the following lists provide binding definitions:
- Nuclear Goods, Commodities, and Technologies, published by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
- Nuclear-Related Dual-Use Equipment, Material, Software, and Related Technology, published by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)