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Data: Federation of American Scientists; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

There are roughly 13,355 nuclear weapons in the world, with 91% of them belonging to Russia (6,370) or the U.S. (5,800), according to estimates from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

What to watch: China’s stockpile of around 290 warheads is “likely to grow further over the next decade” and put it firmly in the third spot among the world’s nuclear powers, according to analysts Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda.

  • France (300) and the U.K. (215) both have significant stockpiles, as do rival nuclear powers Pakistan (150) and India (130).
  • Israel has never confirmed or denied possessing nuclear weapons, but is believed to have secured the bomb in 1966 or 1967 and possess around 80 warheads.
  • North Korea, meanwhile, has embraced its status as a new nuclear power since conducting its first test in 2006. In 2019, the analysts put its stockpile at between 20-30 warheads.

Timeline: The U.S. was first to the bomb, conducting its Trinity test 75 years ago last month.

  • The Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear test in 1949, far earlier than U.S. officials had expected. President Harry Truman attempted to downplay public fears, saying: “The eventual development of this new force by other nations was to be expected.”
  • The nuclear club grew as the U.K. (1952) and later France (1960) conducted tests.
  • The Chinese, after initial Soviet help, tested a nuclear weapon in 1964. A wary U.S. considered plans to sabotage China’s nuclear program.

The Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) helped drive the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to the nuclear negotiating table, though the U.S. had far more nuclear weapons at that time and the Soviet stockpile continued to grow into the 1980s.

  • The 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has helped limit the size of the nuclear club, though India (1974), Pakistan (1998), and North Korea (2006) brought the membership to nine, including Israel.
  • South Africa is the only country to develop nuclear weapons and then dismantle them, in 1989.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Nov 18, 2020 - World

Exclusive: Biden must consult Gulf states before new Iran deal, Bahrain foreign minister says

Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani of Bahrain told me in an exclusive interview that he expects the Biden administration to consult Bahrain and other Gulf countries before moving toward a new nuclear deal with Iran.

Why it matters: The comments, made during Zayani's historic visit to Jerusalem today, reflect the concerns of other Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE about Biden's desire to revive the existing nuclear deal and potentially negotiate a new one.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.