Three decades ago, five countries -- the United States, Russia
(then the Soviet Union), China, Britain and France -- were the
only declared nuclear-armed states on the globe. When they pledged
to disarm and most of the rest of the world community promised
in return to pursue only peaceful nuclear energy programs, few
could envision the nuclear renaissance that is underway today.
Long-time possessors of nuclear weapons are strengthening their
arsenals and delivery systems, while the list of new proliferators
of nuclear material and weaponry is growing.
The path to actually developing a nuclear bomb is long and complicated, involving many political and technological steps. Yet the very act of signing on to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty -- which theoretically should improve safety for all through oversight and rules -- enables states to begin a process of assisted nuclear power development, which can lead to weapons development. The international nuclear regulatory system is limited in its abilities to monitor states' nuclear activities and has no mechanisms to enforce compliance from would-be bomb builders. Furthermore, there's a growing international black market that can provide buyers with everything from fissile material to actual blueprints for nuclear bombs.
Select any of the steps that countries have taken toward joining
the world's nuclear-armed club.