In the middle of the 20th century, nations were racing to develop nuclear weapons, and the prospect of nuclear warfare cast a dark shadow across the planet.
But thanks to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), that grim future never came to pass. The number of nations with nuclear weapons remains very small, and the number of nuclear arms worldwide has dropped dramatically.
The NPT is the cornerstone of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, reinforcing international peace and security and preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons. Global nuclear stockpiles are at their lowest levels since the 1950s, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
The treaty, which entered into force March 5, 1970, is the fundamental internationally binding agreement aimed at curbing nuclear proliferation and has the broadest support of any nuclear-related treaty in history.
Countries that joined the NPT agreed to take these actions:
- Prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
- Promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
- Pursue good-faith negotiations on disarmament, including nuclear disarmament.
“The NPT has provided the essential foundation for international efforts to stem the looming threat that nuclear weapons would proliferate across the globe,” Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said in a 2018 statement (PDF, 194 KB), joined by his U.K. and Russian counterparts. “The success of the NPT was not foreordained. … It depends on our concerted and sustained efforts.”
Countries that are party to the NPT meet every five years to assess its implementation and discuss how to meet future challenges. The next meeting will be held April 27–May 22 in New York.