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"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
France

Global NGOs Urge Nonproliferation Treaty States to Comply with Obligations

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For Immediate Release: May 11, 2020

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext.107; Tony Fleming, director for communications, 202-463-8270 ext 110

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—More than 80 national and international peace and nuclear disarmament nongovernmental organizations delivered a joint statement Monday to key government leaders urging them to fulfill unmet obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), particularly on nuclear disarmament, and to realize their agreed commitment to the goal of the “complete elimination of nuclear weapons.”

The joint statement marks the 25th anniversary of the package of decisions that led to the indefinite extension of the NPT and urges world leaders to act with greater urgency and cooperation to reduce nuclear risks and advance progress on disarmament per their commitment under the treaty.

“We’re not only at a pivotal point in the struggle against the fast-moving coronavirus; we are also at a tipping point in the long-running effort to reduce the threat of nuclear war and eliminate nuclear weapons,” the joint statement from more than 80 organizations from around the globe, including the Arms Control Association, warns.

“Tensions between the world’s nuclear-armed states are rising; the risk of nuclear use is growing; billions of dollars are being spent to replace and upgrade nuclear weapons; and key agreements that have kept nuclear competition in check are in serious jeopardy.”

“This environment,” the organizations write, “demands bolder action from all states to reduce nuclear risks by eliminating nuclear weapons; action that is rooted in ‘deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.’”

The NPT entered into force in 1970 and now has 191 states parties. It is considered the foundation of global efforts to address the risks posed by nuclear weapons. The NPT is not simply a nonproliferation treaty. It is also a treaty that requires action on disarmament.

“For the long-term viability of the NPT, all countries must fully implement their obligations. The body of previous NPT Review Conference commitments and action steps still apply. This includes the benchmarks agreed to at the historic 1995 Review and Extension Conference and further commitments made at the 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences. These remain largely unfulfilled, and some are at risk of being reversed or lost entirely.”

Implementing past action plans must be the floor and not the ceiling for taking forward the NPT’s provisions,” they write in the statement, which has been delivered to diplomats from most of the 191 states parties of the NPT.

The postponement of the 2020 NPT Review Conference offers an unprecedented opportunity to change the current course,” they argue.

“The current situation requires new and bolder leadership from responsible states to work together to build majority support for a plan of action to advance NPT Article VI [disarmament] goals and create much needed momentum for further progress on disarmament, and to save humanity from the scourge of nuclear war,” they write.

The full statement and the list of endorsing organizations are available online via Reaching Critical Will.

Wassenaar Nations Set New Export Controls


April 2020

Transfers of military-grade software and chip manufacturing technology will face increased scrutiny following an amendment to the Wassenaar Arrangement, an international export control regime.

Established in 1996 and now numbering 42 nations that apply the voluntary trade restrictions, the Wassenaar Arrangement restricts the export of certain conventional weapons, dual-use goods and other technology. Its members include France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. Notable nations not participating include China, Iran, Israel, and North Korea.

At their 25th annual plenary meeting in December in Vienna, members agreed unanimously to adopt new export controls in such areas as cyberwarfare software, communications monitoring, digital investigative tools and forensic systems, suborbital aerospace vehicles, technology for the production of substrates for high-end integrated circuits, hybrid machine tools, and lithography equipment and technology.

In addition, the nations clarified existing export control measures regarding ballistic protection, optical sensors, ball bearings, and inorganic fibrous and filamentary materials. They also relaxed some controls, including those with respect to certain laminates and commercial components with embedded cryptography.

The enhanced export restrictions might affect sales by forensic cybersecurity and chip manufacturing companies, according to articles from Kyodo News and Haaretz.—PERI MEYERS

Wassenaar Nations Set New Export Controls

France Offers Nuclear Deterrent to All Europe


March 2020
By Shannon Bugos

French President Emmanuel Macron offered to begin discussing with other European countries the role that France’s nuclear deterrent can play in their collective security.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks in France on Feb. 18. Citing a decline in multilateralism, he proposed earlier in the month that France's nuclear weapons provide a larger role for European security. (Photo: Jean-Francois Badias/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)France’s nuclear forces “strengthen the security of Europe through their very existence,” Macron said at the military school École de Guerre in Paris on Feb. 7. An erosion of “the comprehensive security framework” that protects Europe affects France’s defense strategy, he said, which means that “France’s vital interests now have a European dimension.” France’s nuclear deterrence “ensures our independence, our freedom to assess, make decisions, and take action. It prevents adversaries from betting on escalation, intimidation, and blackmailing to achieve their ends,” he said before extending the offer.

At the same time, Macron argued that the international community must limit the role of nuclear deterrence to “extreme circumstances of self-defense,” with the overall goal of preventing war.

“France’s nuclear doctrine strictly adheres to this framework,” he said. France currently has about 300 nuclear weapons in its arsenal.

During his address, Macron outlined three “paradigm shifts” underway in the world. The first he described as strategic, in which “a new hierarchy of powers” is emerging and bringing with it the heightened risk of conflict and military escalation due to competition.

The challenging of “a multilateral order based on law” defines the second paradigm shift, he said, illustrated by the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty last August. (See ACT, September 2019.) “Europeans must collectively realize today that, without a legal framework, they could quickly find themselves at risk of another conventional and even nuclear arms race on their soil,” Macron said. “They cannot stand by.”

The final shift involves the emergence of new technologies and their potential role in conflict. All of these paradigm shifts, he said, demand that the world think about what the future of war will look like. Macron suggested that the heads of state of the permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) convene in order “to fully discharge [their] mandate to maintain peace and international security” in this changing landscape.

Macron presented a four-pillared strategy for confronting these paradigm shifts and achieving peace. The first pillar he called the “promotion of an efficient multilateralism,” to include an increased investment in defense by European countries and a renewed international arms control agenda.

Regarding arms control, the president urged Europe to “rethink disarmament” so that it contributes to international security and highlighted France’s “unique track record in the world,” given its irreversible dismantlement of land-based nuclear weapons, nuclear testing facilities, and fissile material.

The next two pillars Macron described were the development of strategic alliances focused on promoting peace and security and the establishment of greater European autonomy.

Macron dubbed national sovereignty as the final pillar, saying, “if France is to live up to its ambition and its history, it must remain sovereign.”

French President Macron seeks to enhance the role of France’s nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Powers Discuss Arms Control


March 2020

Nuclear-armed powers discussed a range of arms control issues during a Feb. 11–12 meeting in London in advance of this year’s nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, scheduled to begin in April. Representatives from the five NPT-recognized nuclear-weapon states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) joined participants from 16 non-nuclear-weapon states to address topics such as nuclear transparency, disarmament, and verification.

Thomas Drew, a senior UK Foreign Office official, chaired the conference. The other nuclear power delegations were led by Christopher Ford, U.S. assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation; David Bertolotti, director of strategic affairs, security, and disarmament in the French Foreign Ministry; Vladimir Leontiev, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s nonproliferation and arms control department; and Fu Cong, director-general of the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Cong said the nuclear-weapon states are “responsible for strengthening coordination and cooperation and ensuring the success” of the NPT review conference, according to a Feb. 14 statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

He also commented on efforts by the Trump administration to engage Beijing in arms control talks with the United States and Russia. “It is neither fair nor reasonable to encourage the Chinese side to join trilateral arms control negotiations,” he said.

The United States nevertheless encouraged Chinese participation. “Beijing poses a serious threat to strategic security given the trajectory of its nuclear build-up,” said Robert Wood, U.S. permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, in a Feb. 19 tweet.

The five nuclear powers plan to host a side event during the NPT review conference to “exchange perspectives and answer questions about how we think about nuclear weapons, doctrine, and disarmament issues,” Ford said in December.—SHANNON BUGOS

Nuclear Powers Discuss Arms Control

France, China Push Reprocessing


March 2020

France is pressing forward with a plan to construct a French-built nuclear fuel reprocessing facility in China, but the exact site remains unannounced despite a Jan. 31 deadline to determine the cost and location of the plant.

President Emmanuel Macron greets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Nov. 6, 2019. The two set a Jan. 31 deadline to identify a site to build a French nuclear fuel reprocessing in China, but no announcement has been made so far.  (Photo: Jason Lee/Pool/Getty Images)The deadline for establishing plans for the facility, to be built by the French company Orano, was set by French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a November 2019 meeting. In 2016, China suspended preliminary work in the town of Lianyungang in the Jiangsu province after protests by local residents.

Orano, formerly Areva, reached a “protocol agreement” to build the facility, projected to cost $12 billion with a capacity of 800 tons, with China National Nuclear Corp. during Macron’s January 2018 visit to Beijing. The following June, Orano agreed to perform preparatory work, estimated at $23 million, for the future reprocessing plant, but the agreement only covered project management and quality control paperwork and expired at the end of 2018. No definitive contract between the two has been signed, despite more than a decade of negotiations.

According to Orano’s website, “negotiations are now in their final stage,” with the plan to “start the plant commercial operation in the early 2030s.”

Besides France, Russia is the only other country to recycle nuclear fuel, a process that separates plutonium and uranium from other materials contained in the spent fuel from nuclear reactors.—SHANNON BUGOS

France, China Push Reprocessing

France Seeks Dialogue on Post-INF Treaty Arms Control


January/February 2020

French President Emmanuel Macron has rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal for a global U.S.-Russian moratorium on deploying intermediate-range missiles, but emphasized that Paris remains open to dialogue with Moscow.

French President Emmanuel Macron (left) speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after their meeting in Paris in November 2019. Macron has expressed a desire for European nations to become more involved in nuclear arms control.  (Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images)“We did not accept the moratorium offered by Russia, but we considered that we should not just ignore it because it was open for discussion,” Macron said at a Nov. 28 press conference alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. It is in France’s interest, he said, to discuss such matters of security in a dialogue with Russia. NATO previously rejected Putin’s proposal in September, calling it not “credible.” (See ACT, October 2019.)

Macron also argued that Europe must be involved in any potential agreement that might replace the INF Treaty. “We cannot leave our security into the hands of a bilateral treaty to which no European country would be part of,” Macron stated.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Dec. 4 that Moscow supported Macron’s argument that Europe must be involved in the talks for any replacement arms control agreement. A day later, Putin commented in a meeting with defense officials that, apart from Macron, “[t]here is no response from our other partners. This forces us to take measures to counter these threats.”

At the end of the NATO leaders meeting Dec. 4 in London, the heads of state issued a declaration stating, “We are addressing and will continue to address in a measured and responsible way Russia’s deployment of new intermediate-range missiles, which brought about the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and which pose significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security.”—KINGSTON REIF and SHANNON BUGOS

France Seeks Dialogue on Post-INF Treaty Arms Control

France Admits Nuclear Coercion in Polynesia


French President Emmanuel Macron signed a new law July 5 acknowledging that Paris coerced French Polynesia into hosting nuclear testing from 1966 to 1996. Introduced as a revision of a 2004 statute governing Polynesian territorial autonomy, the law states that French Polynesia was made to participate by France in “the construction of its nuclear deterrent and national defense.” Previously, French leaders had simply praised the territory for its role in testing. France is now legally committed to the “economic and structural reconversion” of the area.

Former president of French Polynesia Oscar Temaru attends a 2014 ceremony at a nuclear test victim memorial in Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia.  A new law has moved France toward recognizing the toll of nuclear testing on Polynesian residents. (Photo: Gregory Boissy/AFP/Getty Images)The law permits the government to compensate Polynesians affected by radiation-induced illness over the course of the tests, but France’s Constitutional Council struck down a provision allocating $100 million annually for remediation on June 27. Expressing frustration with the difficulty of receiving compensation, Polynesian opposition groups have called for the law to be overturned altogether.

A total of 193 nuclear tests were conducted in French Polynesia near the atolls of Moruroa and Fangataufa, many of which were atmospheric explosions. Declassified documents revealed in 2013 that radioactive contamination was much more extensive than the government had previously admitted.—OWEN LeGRONE

France Admits Nuclear Coercion in Polynesia

Compliance with Nuclear Arms Control and Nonproliferation Norms Is Eroding, New Study Finds

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All nuclear weapons possessor states failed to make progress to reduce their nuclear arsenals; Key states’ records in nine of 10 nonproliferation & disarmament categories have deteriorated.

For Immediate Release: July 10, 2019

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, DC)—A new, 80-page study published by the Arms Control Association evaluates the recent records of all the world’s nuclear-armed states, as well as several states of proliferation concern and finds that respect for key nuclear nonproliferation norms and internationally-recognized obligations and commitments is eroding.

The report, "Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, 2016-2019," is the fourth in a series that assesses the extent to which 11 key states are fulfilling, promoting, or undermining 10 standards identified as critical elements of the nonproliferation and disarmament regime.

Collectively, states fared worse on the majority of criteria when compared with the prior edition of the Arms Control Association’s Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament Report Card covering the 2013–2016 period.

The study comprehensively evaluates the records of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea—each of which possesses nuclear weapons—as well as Iran and Syria, which are states of proliferation concern, from 2016 through March 2019.

“Each of the states that possess nuclear weapons is taking steps to invest in new delivery systems and several are expanding the role of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines," noted Alicia Sanders-Zakre, a co-author of the report. "These trends increase the risk of nuclear weapons use,” she warned.

“Our review of actions—and inactions—by these 11 states suggest a worrisome trend away from long-standing, effective arms control and nonproliferation efforts," warned Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association and co-author of the report. "By documenting the policies of these states over the last decade, we hope this report will demonstrate that support for critical nonproliferation and disarmament norms is eroding.”  

Several of the key findings include:

  • The United States and Russia: The overall grades for both the United States (C+) and Russia (C+) dropped, due partly to Russia’s violation of a key bilateral arms control treaty and the U.S. decision to withdraw from that treaty in response. Both states also expanded the circumstances under which they would use nuclear weapons and are investing in new, destabilizing delivery systems.
     
  • France and the United Kingdom: These two states received the highest overall grades (B) of the 11 states assessed, but neither country has taken steps during the period covered in this report to make additional nuclear force reductions.
     
  • China, India, and Pakistan: All three of these states are increasing the size of their nuclear arsenals and are investing in new nuclear-capable delivery systems. New missiles being developed and fielded by all three suggest that these countries are now storing warheads mated with certain missiles or moving toward that step, which increases the risk of use. China’s overall grade was a C+; India and Pakistan both scored C.
     
  • North Korea: North Korea scored the worst of the states assessed in this report with an overall grade of F. Pyongyang continues to expand the country’s nuclear arsenal and is the only state to have tested a nuclear weapon during the timeframe covered. However, North Korea continues to abide by a voluntary nuclear and missile testing moratorium declared in April 2018 and appears willing to negotiate with the United States over its nuclear weapons program.
     
  • Iran: Through the period covered by this report and until June 2019, Tehran continued to adhere to the restrictions on its nuclear activities put in place by the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal over the course of this report, despite the United States’ withdrawal from the agreement last year and its decision to reimpose sanctions in violation of U.S. commitments. Iran, however, has transferred ballistic missile components in violation of international norms and Security Council restrictions, causing its overall grade to drop to C-.
     
  • Israel: Israeli actions over the past several years in support of ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty earned it a higher grade on the nuclear testing criteria, but its inaction on the Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone and backsliding on negative security assurances caused its overall grade to drop to a C-.

The report reviews implementation and compliance with existing internationally-recognized obligations and commitments.

“The standards and benchmarks in our report do not necessarily represent our ideal strategy for addressing the nuclear weapons threat,” noted Davenport. “New and more ambitious multilateral nonproliferation and disarmament strategies will be needed to meet to future nuclear challenges,” she remarked.

Last week, the U.S. State Department convened a meeting involving more than three-dozen countries, including the five original nuclear weapon states, to discuss steps to improve the environment for nuclear disarmament.

“We hope this report card can serve as a tool to help hold states accountable to their existing commitments and encourage effective action needed to strengthen efforts to prevent the spread and use of the world’s most dangerous weapons,” noted Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. 

“We encourage all states who are serious about strengthening the global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament enterprise to commit themselves to meet and exceed the existing goals and objectives to reduce and eliminate the nuclear danger,” he urged.

The full report can be accessed at www.armscontrol.org/reports

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A new report details the extent to which 11 key states are fulfilling, promoting, or undermining 10 standards identified as critical elements of the nonproliferation and disarmament regime. 

Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament: 2016-2019 Report Card

This report is the fourth in a series that assesses the extent to which 11 key states are fulfilling, promoting, or undermining 10 standards identified as critical elements of the nonproliferation and disarmament regime during the period between 2016 and June 2019.

Collectively, states fared worse on the majority of criteria when compared with the prior edition, which covered the 2013–2016 period.

Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: France

July 2019

As a nuclear-weapons state under the NPT, France maintains the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal, estimated to include 300 nuclear warheads. Since it eliminated its land-based ICBMs beginning in 1996, 80 percent of these warheads are designed for delivery through SLBMs, with the remainder affixed to ALCMs carried by strategic bombers. France has taken significant steps toward disarmament—including halving its warhead total since its Cold War peak, no longer deploying nuclear weapons on its aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, and extending the time it takes to launch nuclear weapons to several days—and it adheres to a principle of “strict sufficiency” whereby it keeps its nuclear arsenal at the lowest possible level in accordance with the strategic context.

Contents

Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties

Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards

Nuclear Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

  • The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview
  • Delivery Systems
  • Ballistic Missile Defense Systems
  • Fissile Material
  • Proliferation Record
  • Nuclear Doctrine

Biological Weapons

Chemical Weapons

Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

  • Conference on Disarmament (CD)
  • Nuclear Weapons Free Zones
  • Nuclear Security Summits
  • Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties

 

Signed

Ratified

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

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1992

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

1996

1998

Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)

1980

1991

CPPNM 2005 Amendment

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2013

Chemical Weapons Convention

1993

1995

Biological Weapons Convention

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1984

International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism

2005

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Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards

Group

Status

Australia Group

Member

Missile Technology Control Regime

Member

Nuclear Suppliers Group

Member

Wassenaar Arrangement

Member

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol

Signatory, entered into force in April 2004

Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

Participant

Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation

Participant

Proliferation Security Initiative

Participant

UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1673

France has filed reports on its activities to fulfill the resolutions and volunteered to provide assistance to other states

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Nuclear Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview

France maintains the third largest nuclear weapons force in the world. As of January 2019, France possesses approximately 300 nuclear warheads, most of which are designed for delivery by submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) with the remainder affixed to air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) carried by strategic bombers.
 
Former French President François Hollande publicly affirmed the size of the arsenal in February of 2015 when he said that France’s stockpile included 300 warheads for 48 SLBMs and 54 cruise missiles. Estimates place France’s deployed strategic warhead numbers at around 290, with a remaining 10 in reserve. Although France has reduced the size of its nuclear arsenal by half since the Cold War, the current stockpile has remained relatively stable over the last few decades. In 2008, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy stated that France’s arsenal would be reduced below 300 warheads but also reaffirmed France’s commitment to its nuclear deterrent, declaring it as a “life-insurance policy.” This goal was reaffirmed by former President Francois Hollande in 2015 and current President Emmanuel Macron in 2017.
 
Although France’s aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, does not have nuclear-capable ASMPA missiles permanently onboard, there are reserve missiles that can be “rapidly deployed” on the carrier in the case of nuclear operations. France continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal and develop new missiles. According to the French Ministry of Defense (MoD), the nuclear deterrence budget in 2016 was 3.6 billion euros. In 2018, the French government announced it would allocate 25 Billion Euros to its nuclear forces between 2019 and 2023.
 

Delivery Systems

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM)

  • In 1996, France decided to eliminate its nuclear-armed land-based ballistic missiles.


Submarines and Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM)

Submarines:

  • As of January 2019, France’s nuclear submarine force consists of 4 Triomphant- class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs): Le Triomphant, Le Téméraire, Le Vigilant, and Le Terrible, which are under the command of FOST (La Force Océanique Stratégique or Strategic Ocrean Force).
  • This fleet forms the backbone of the France’s nuclear deterrent and carries approximately 80 percent of the nuclear arsenal. It is based at the Île Longue peninsula, south of Brest in the Brittany region of France.
  • At least one submarine remains on deterrence patrol, one is preparing for patrol, and one is returning to port. The fourth submarine, as per the Triomphant-class’ extensive maintenance cycle, will be undergoing overhaul at any given time. 
  • A third generation submarine class, the SNLE-3G, is expected to enter development between the 2019-2025 planning period and replace the Triomphant-class, which will reach the end of their service life by 2035.

Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs)

  • France fields the following submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs):
    • M51.1 – The French reportedly have 32 M51.1 missiles carrying, carrying a total of 160 TN75 warheads. Each missile can carry up to six 100 kt multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), with a range of 6,000+ km.
    • M51.2 – The French reportedly have 16 M51.2 missiles, carrying a total of 80 TNO warheads. The TNO (tête nucléaire océanique) warheads are a reportedly stealthier warhead than the TN75. The M51.2 was flight tested in July 2016 and then declared operational in December 2017. Each missile can carry up to six new 150 kt TN MIRVs, with a range of 6,000+ km. All boats are to be upgraded to teh 51.2 by 2020.
    • M51.3 – In a joint venture, Airbus and Safran are developing the M51.3, which is scheduled for completion by 2025.
  • In 2006, former President Jacques Chirac stated that "The number of nuclear warheads has been reduced in certain of the missiles in our submarines," implying that French SLBMs do not carry the maximum number of nuclear warheads. This decision was supposedly made to improve targeting flexibility against regional powers, as well as the range and precision of the missile.

Strategic Bombers

  • As of January 2019, the French Air Force operates 40 Rafale aircraft which are capable of carrying and delivering nuclear payloads.
  • France’s Naval Force also operates a nuclear-capable squadron of Rafale MF3 aircraft that are stationed onboard the Charles de Gaulle, France’s only aircraft carrier and the only surface ship equipped for carrying nuclear weapons in NATO.
  • Rafale aircraft carry a 300 kt warhead on an Air-Sol Moyenne Portée -Amelioreor Plus (ASMPA) ALCM. The ASMPA has a range of around 500 km.
  • In April 2019, France and Germany jointly announced a joint effort to develop a sixth-generation combat aircraft with potential nuclear capabilities.

Ballistic Missile Defense Systems

France is part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), a collective missile defense system operated by NATO allies. To learn more, see: "The European Phased Adaptive Approach at a Glance."

Fissile Material

Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU)

  • After ending its production of HEU in June 1996, President Jacques Chirac announced in February 1996 that France no longer produced fissile material for weapons purposes and that would it would dismantle its fissile material production facilities.
  • As of February 2018, France is believed to possess an HEU stockpile of around 31± 6 metric tons.
  • As of February 2018, it is estimated that France holds approximately 26 ± 6 metric tons of military HEU. There exists significant uncertainty over this figure due to a lack of public information about French HEU production.
  • In December 2014, France declared a 4.8 metric ton stockpile of civilian HEU to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). A large percentage of this civilian stock is believed to be of U.S. and Russian origin for use in research-reactor fuel. This amount is believed to be stable.

Plutonium

  • France ceased its production of separated plutonium in 1992.
  • As of February 2018, France is estimated to possess a military plutonium stockpile of 6±1 metric tons.
  • As of October 2017, France reported holding 81.7 tons of domestic unirradiated plutonium, the second largest stockpile globally, and 16.3 metric tons of reprocessed foreign unirradiated plutonium, of which 16.2 meric tons belongs to Japan.
  • France is one of the few countries that continues to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, and it accepts fuel from foreign countries for that purpose. Its AREVA La Hague plant has a commercial reprocessing capacity of about 1,700 tons of used nuclear fuel per annum (around half of the world’s light water reactor fuel reprocessing capacity as of 2009), as of 2018.  France uses separated plutonium to fabricate mixed oxide (MOX) fuel that is used in light water reactors.

 Proliferation Record

  • France officially maintains a long-standing position in support of nonproliferation activities.
  • In 1957, France signed a major nuclear cooperation agreement with Israel even though it was generally understood that Israel was interested in potentially developing a nuclear arsenal. France halted the agreement in 1960.
  • France built the Osirak reactor in Iraq despite warnings from other governments that the reactor might be used to support a secret Iraqi nuclear weapons program. Paris declined to rebuild the reactor after Israel bombed the plant in 1981.
  • France remains among the world’s top suppliers of peaceful nuclear facilities and expertise.

Nuclear Doctrine

French nuclear policy is one of calculated ambiguity regarding first-use of nuclear weapons.  France adheres to its principle of “strict sufficiency” whereby it keeps its nuclear arsenal at the lowest possible level in accordance with the strategic context. In its 2013 White Paper on Defence and National Security, France claims that its deterrence strategy is strictly defensive and that “The use of nuclear weapons would only be conceivable in extreme circumstances of legitimate self-defense” and that nuclear deterrence “protects France from any State-led aggression against its vital interests, of whatever origin and in whatever form” including terrorism. French Presidents Hollande and Macron both reiterated this nuclear doctrine. In May 2015, France reaffirmed the 1995 negative security assurance to the UN (Resolution 984) not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) unless it is facing an invasion or sustained attack against its territories, armed forces, or states with which it has security agreement and the attack is in alliance with a nuclear-weapon state.

Paris declared that it took steps in 1992 and 1996 to extend the time it takes to launch nuclear weapons. It is believed that France needs several days in order to launch nuclear weapons.

Testing:

France conducted 210 nuclear tests. The first test occurred Feb.13, 1960, and the last test took place Jan. 27, 1996. France was the fourth country to conduct a nuclear weapon test.

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Biological Weapons

  • Little is known about past French biological weapons activities, which reportedly included research on anthrax, botulinum toxin, cholera, ricin, rinderpest, and salmonella over two periods: 1921 to 1926, and 1935 to 1940.
  • France is not suspected of having a current offensive biological weapons program, and under France’s 1972 Law on the Prohibition of Biological Weapons, it is illegal to produce or stockpile these weapons. They are believed to have stopped their program after WWII.
  • France continues to uphold its 2004 Code of Defense states that “The development, production, possession, stockpiling, acquisition, and transfer of microbiological agents, other biological agents and biological toxins, whatever their origin and mode of production, which are of a kind and quantity not suited for prophylactic, protection or other pacific purposes, are prohibited.”
  • France acceded to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) on Sep. 27, 1984, and is also member of the Australia Group.
  • France annually submits reports as confidence-building measures under the BWC and encourages other states to follow suit. It also hosts the annual plenary meeting of the Australia Group.
  • France maintains a biodefense program that it claims is in strict compliance with the BWC.

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Chemical Weapons

  • During World War I, France produced and used mustard gas and phosgene. France maintained stockpiles of these weapons at the beginning of World War II but did not use them.
  • After World War II, France resumed offensive chemical weapons research and testing, and in the 1960s they manufactured Sarin and VX nerve agents.
  • France destroyed its stockpiles of chemical weapons prior to 1988. President François Mitterrand claimed, in a 1988 speech to the United Nations, that France no longer had any chemical weapons and ended production.
  • France signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in Paris in 1993 and ratified it in 1995. It also holds that it displays “exemplary” cooperation with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

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Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

Conference on Disarmament (CD)      
The CD was formed in 1979 as a multilateral disarmament negotiation forum for the international community. France has regularly participated in its meetings. On April 9th, 2015, France formally deposited a draft fissile material cutoff treaty at the CD. 

Nuclear Weapons Free Zones
France has signed and ratified additional protocols pledging not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any of the contracting parties to the African, Central Asian, Latin American and Caribbean, and South Pacific nuclear weapons free zone treaties. However, France maintains reservations to each of these protocols. No states have signed or ratified the Southeast Asian nuclear weapons free zone treaty protocol.

Nuclear Security Summits
In keeping with its official stance in support of securing nuclear material around the world, France has  participated in the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) held in Washington, DC, the 2012 NSS held in Seoul, the 2014 NSS Held in The Hague, and the 2016 NSS held again in Washington, DC.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

Since its initiation of nuclear talks with Iran in 2003, France has engaged in several rounds of multilateral diplomacy with Tehran over its nuclear program, including P5+1 talks with Iran that resulted in the 2015 JCPOA. After its conclusion, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that the deal would be sufficiently “robust” for another 10 years.
 
Following American withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, President Macron said “I regret the decision of the American president. I think it’s an error.” In January 2019, France and Germany and the United Kingdom established the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) to facilitate trade with Iran. INSTEX was designed to create a financial channel to Iran immune from U.S. sanctions reimposed when the Trump administration withdrew from the deal.

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