Page 1: World Overview

The figures throughout this chapter are approximate and based on official government sources, as well as on information provided by research institutions such as the Natural Resources Defence Council in Washington D.C., and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

For the purposes of this chapter, a nuclear test is defined as a nuclear explosion detonated for either military or peaceful purposes. Of the nearly 2,050 nuclear explosions detonated between 1945-1996, over 150 were for peaceful purposes. 

The history of nuclear testing began early on the morning of 16 July 1945 at a desert test site in Alamogordo, New Mexico when the United States exploded its first atomic bomb. Designated as the Trinity Site, this initial test was the culmination of years of scientific research under the banner of the so-called “Manhattan Project”.

One of the few colour photographs of the "Trinity" explosion.

In the five decades between that fateful day in 1945 and the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996, over 2,000 nuclear tests were carried out all over the world.

  • The United States conducted 1,032 tests between 1945 and 1992.
  • The Soviet Union carried out 715 tests between 1949 and 1990.
  • The United Kingdom carried out 45 tests between 1952 and 1991.
  • France carried out 210 tests between 1960 and 1996.
  • China carried out 45 tests between 1964 and 1996.
In the five decades between 1945 and 1996, over 2,000 nuclear tests were carried out all over the world.
SIPRI Nuclear Testing Tally table (PDF)

After the CTBT was opened for signature in September 1996, ten nuclear tests have been conducted: 

  • India conducted two tests in 1998 (India had also conducted one so-called peaceful nuclear explosion in 1974.)
  • Pakistan conducted two tests in 1998.
  • The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea announced that it conducted one nuclear test in 2006, 2009 and 2013, two in 2016 (January and September), and one in 2017.

For more details:
Nuclear Testing Tally: A numeric breakdown of the number of atmospheric and underground nuclear tests conducted by each testing country for each year from 1945-2006.