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Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)

On July 7, 2017, the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which comprehensively prohibits nuclear weapons and related activities. The medical community's advocacy and research helped civil society and the international community devise public health solutions to the threat of nuclear weapons.

Timeline: how the medical community made nuclear disarmament a public health priority to garner international support for the TPNW.

Read the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons here.

Why is a ban on nuclear weapons necessary?

The 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty requires nuclear-armed countries party to the treaty to negotiate nuclear disarmament. However, all nine nuclear-armed countries are working to significantly upgrade and expand their nuclear arsenals. The United States is planning an extensive $1.2 trillion buildup of its nuclear arsenal that would perpetuate its nuclear weapons program through the end of the twenty-first century. A twenty-first century nuclear arms race obstructs progress toward disarmament and significantly increases the risks of a nuclear catastrophe.

Without the TPNW, the nuclear-armed countries' dangerous arms race has no end in sight. A prohibition against nuclear weapons paves the way for nuclear-armed countries to fulfill their existing disarmament obligations.

1. Fills the legal gap. The TPNW fills the legal gap in international humanitarian law. All other weapons of mass destruction, including biological and chemical weapons, cluster munitions, and landmines, have been sharply curtailed following a categorical ban introduced by the international community. Unlike the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the TPNW prohibits the possession of nuclear weapons and applies a universal standard to all countries.

2. International norms delegitimize nuclear weapons. A comprehensive prohibition against nuclear weapons stigmatizes nuclear weapons as weapons of mass destruction that are inconceivable as tools of "security." Once the norm against nuclear weapons becomes universalized, the TPNW will renew pressure on nuclear-armed countries by underscoring their existing disarmament obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Treaty Elements

  • Comprehensively bans nuclear weapons. It is illegal for parties of the treaty to use, develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess, stockpile, transfer, receive, threat to use, station, install, or deploy nuclear weapons.
  • Bans any assistance with prohibited acts. Assistance includes engaging in military preparations, planning to use nuclear weapons, financing the development or manufacture of nuclear weapons, or transporting nuclear weapons through water and airspace.
  • Creates a path for nuclear-armed countries to join the treaty and eliminate their weapons. Nuclear-armed countries that join the treaty must destroy their nuclear weapons and end their programs. Countries housing weapons of a foreign nation on their territory must remove them.
  • Creates verification mechanisms to ensure countries comply with the treaty. The treaty requires that the destruction of nuclear weapons and programs is verifiable, time-bound, transparent, and irreversible.
  • Requires victim and international assistance and environmental remediation. The treaty requires countries to assist victims of nuclear weapons use and testing. It also requires environmental remediation of contaminated areas.
Page Updated December 27, 2017