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Hiroshima for Global Peace

(11) Irreversibility

A) Implementing or planning dismantlement of nuclear warheads and their delivery vehicles

As with their previous nuclear arms control agreements, the New START obliges Russia and the United States to dismantle or convert strategic (nuclear) delivery vehicles beyond the limits set in the treaty, and to do so in a verifiable way. The New START does not stipulate that retired nuclear warheads be dismantled, but the two states have partially dismantled retired nuclear warheads as unilateral measures. As mentioned above, the U.S. Biden administration declassified the number of dismantled nuclear warheads. According to a State Department fact sheet, the United States dismantled 184 nuclear warheads in 2020, and 11,638 warheads during 1994 and 2020.225

Other NWS did not disclose any information regarding nuclear weapons dismantlement in 2021. However, France and the United Kingdom have dismantled their retired nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles. In addition, Germany stated in the 2021 UNGA First Committee, “Germany and France are preparing the next exercise simulating the dismantlement of a nuclear warhead for 2022.”226

B) Decommissioning/conversion of nuclear weapons-related facilities

No remarkable activity or progress was reported in 2021 in terms of the decommissioning or conversion of nuclear weapons-related facilities.

In 1996, France became the only country to decide to completely and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear test sites. They were fully decommissioned in 1998.227 As mentioned above, North Korea collapsed the entrance tunnels to its nuclear test site, but whether this “shutdown” is complete and irreversible is doubtful.

C) Measures for fissile material declared excess for military purposes, such as disposition or conversion to peaceful purposes

In October 2016, Russian President Putin issued a Presidential Decree on suspending implementation of the Russian-U.S. Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA), which entered into force in July 2011.228 The situation has not been resolved.

In the meantime, as mentioned in the Hiroshima Report 2021, the United States formally terminated construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina in 2018. The NNSA has proposed to repurpose the MFFF to produce plutonium pits.


225 NNSA, “Transparency in the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile.”
226 “Statement by Germany,” General Debate, First Committee, UNGA, October 5, 2021.
227 NPT/CONF.2015/10.
228 This decree stipulates, inter alia, that 34 tons each of surplus U.S. and Russian plutonium extracted from dismantled nuclear warheads shall be converted into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for use in civilian nuclear reactors.

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