The number of nuclear weapons available for use grew in 2022, according to a new assessment by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It comes as nine nuclear-armed states continue to modernise their nuclear arsenals and deploy new nuclear-capable systems amid a rollback in transparency since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

SIPRI’s estimates say the number of nuclear warheads in January 2023 stood at around 9,576 – 86 more than in January 2022.

Russia and the US remain the largest nuclear powers – together holding about 90 percent of global stockpiles. SIPRI notes that these arsenals have “remained relatively stable”, with retired warheads gradually being dismantled. However, it expressed concern over a decline in transparency by both powers as a result of diminished arms control cooperation since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and the suspension of the New Start treaty by Russia the following year.

China increased its arsenal from 350 in January 2022 to 410 in January 2023 – a jump of 60 warheads. Other countries who added new weapons to their arsenals where Russia (12), Pakistan (5), North Korea (5), and India (4).

Britain’s stockpile remained at 225 – with 120 believed to be operational. SIPRI noted that while Britain “is not thought to have increased its nuclear weapon arsenal in 2022, the warhead stockpile is expected to grow” in the future. This follows the 2021 decision to increase Britain’s warhead limit by over 40 percent, up to 260 warheads.

SIPRI also noted the UK government’s decision to further limit public disclosure on its nuclear weapons programme. It no longer gives details on the number of nuclear weapons its possesses, the number of deployed warheads or deployed missiles.

Director of SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme Wilfred Wan warned:

“With billion-dollar programmes to modernize, and in some cases expand, nuclear arsenals, the five nuclear weapon states recognized by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty seem to be moving further and further from their commitment to disarmament under the treaty.”

On nuclear arms spending, a report released by the International Campaign on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons found that in 2022, nine nuclear-armed states “wasted” $82.9 billion on nuclear weapons – or a rate of $157,000 per minute.

CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said:

“With nuclear-armed states hurtling into a new arms race, SIPRI’s report brings a new warning: the reduction of nuclear arsenals – since the end of the Cold War – is in reverse. The UK government has already made its nuclear weapons programme less transparent ahead of its plan to increase its warheads, an increase that is illegal under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Britain is wasting vast sums on nuclear weapons – money that should be invested in fixing the country’s public services and assisting with the green transition of the economy.”