Frequently Asked Questions
At least eight countries have detonated over 2,000 nuclear weapons above ground, underground and underwater over the course of several decades in most regions around the world. The 528 atmospheric tests alone had a destructive force equal to 29,000 Hiroshima bombs.
Eight countries (China, France, India, North Korea, the Soviet Union, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States) have certainly tested nuclear weapons. Israel and South Africa are suspected of testing a nuclear weapon in the South Atlantic Ocean, but it is unknown.
The United States detonated the most nuclear weapons - 1,032 in total. The Soviet Union conducted 715 nuclear tests. France tested 210 nuclear weapons. China and the United Kingdom both conducted 45 tests, North Korea has conducted six tests and India and Pakistan both conducted two tests.
Nuclear weapons were tested or used in most regions around the world, in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania and in more than a dozen modern-day countries. Nuclear weapons have been tested in the atmosphere, underground or underwater. Explore the interactive map to see all the different places where nuclear weapons were tested, hear from impacted communities and learn about how survivors have advocated for justice.
Yes. Radiation cannot be contained geographically; it respects no country’s border. Fallout patterns are complex and the full humanitarian consequences of the fallout of years of particular atmospheric nuclear testing is not known. Fallout is not comprehensively documented in this resource, although some studies on these impacts may be included. For a detailed study on the fallout of a few French nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific - and French efforts to cover it up - see The Moruroa Files.
The United States tested the first nuclear weapon in 1944 before using nuclear weapons in Japan in 1945. The era of atmospheric (above ground) nuclear testing lasted from the 1940s through 1980, although it decreased dramatically after the adoption of the Partial Test Ban Treaty banning atmospheric tests in 1963. Underground nuclear testing continued steadily, even as atmospheric tests decreased, up until the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty prohibited all nuclear tests, after which all nuclear testing became much more sporadic. In the past decade, North Korea has been the only country to test nuclear weapons, detonating a nuclear weapon underground once in 2013 and twice in 2016. For more on the timeline of nuclear testing, see this resource from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.
Yes. The first international treaty to completely outlaw nuclear testing, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was adopted in 1996, although the treaty has not yet entered into force. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the only international treaty in force that prohibits nuclear testing. Other treaties ban types of nuclear testing or nuclear testing in certain regions.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted in 2017 and entered into force in 2021. In addition to being the first international treaty to ban all nuclear weapons activities, it also requires states parties to provide assistance for survivors of nuclear weapons use and testing and to begin to remediate contaminated environments in Articles 6 and 7. While the primary responsibility for this implementation rests with affected countries, all countries in a position to do so, should help those countries with this work.
Articles 6 and 7 of the TPNW establish a framework of responsibility that offers solidarity and support to affected states parties to address present-day humanitarian and environmental harm from past use and testing. They also serve to place these issues on the agenda of the wider international community, including donors and international organisations. They provide an opportunity for states parties to make a practical difference with and for affected communities, as well as for the TPNW to make a unique contribution to the international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament framework. Read more about Articles 6 and 7 in this briefing paper from Article 36.
Yes, in some countries where nuclear weapons have been tested there are programs to provide financial or health assistance to survivors or to clean up the environment but none sufficiently address all needs of survivors. Read more about these programs and how survivors are advocating for more adequate justice in the “Activism for Justice” sections on this website or for a summary, read this commentary by ICAN researchers in Global Policy.
Yes. In addition to the use and testing of nuclear weapons, every stage of nuclear weapons causes humanitarian harm and poses risks to the population - from the mining of uranium for the core of nuclear weapons, to their production in laboratories to the question of how to store nuclear weapons waste. This website is not a comprehensive mapping of all of those harms, which have been documented elsewhere, including in this website from the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
To learn more about the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, peruse the Further Reading section of this website, which links to new resources, organised by subject. If you want to take action to eliminate these weapons of mass destruction, join us at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. You can find a partner organisation near you and get involved.
We have disabled the automatic download of these photos, as we want to respect the survivors' testimony in its integral version. ICAN is working with impacted communities and organisations like Article 36 and the Nuclear Truth Project to develop protocols around the use of survivors' personal images and testimony and how to best approach interviews for media or other storytelling purposes. For further information, please contact ICAN's Policy & Research Coordinator Alicia Sanders-Zakre.