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Nuclear Weapons ConventionNuclear Weapons Convenion Fact Sheet

Nuclear Weapons Convention Fact Sheet


Contact for hard copies of this fact sheet for distribution


At the close of the 20th Century, a small handful of countries continue to threaten civilization with thousands of nuclear weapons ready to be used at a moments notice, and they have no plan to eliminate them.

In April 1997, an international consortium of lawyers, scientists, and disarmament experts led by the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy, released a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention (MNWC) to demonstrate that nuclear abolition is feasible.

The MNWC was submitted to the United Nations by the government of Costa Rica in November 1997, and has been circulated as a UN document (A/C.1/52/7).

It outlines procedures to dismantle and destroy all nuclear weapons in a series of graduated steps, safeguard weapons materials, and ensure compliance with the requirement to abolish nuclear weapons.

Abolition 2000, an international network of over 1000 organizations, aims for negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention by the year 2000.

A number of recent events have opened the way for negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention:

* On July 8, 1996, the International Court of Justice (World Court) concluded unanimously that there is an obligation "to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects..."

* On December 5, 1996, 60 retired Generals and Admirals, including General Lee Butler, Head of U.S. Strategic Command (1992-1994) released a statement calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

* On December 10, 1996 and again on December 9, 1997 the United Nations General Assembly called for the immediate commencement of negotiations leading to the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention.

* On March 13, 1997, the European Parliament called on all members to support negotiations leading to the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention.

* A series of opinion polls conducted in 1997 and 1998 in many countries, including those with nuclear weapons, indicated that public support for a nuclear weapons convention is generally over 80% of the population.

* On February 24, 1999, Rep. Lynn Woolsey introduced House Resolution 82 welcoming the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention and urging the US President to initiate negotiations leading to an actual convention.

If nuclear weapons are not eliminated it is inevitable that someday they will again be used either by accident, miscalculation or on purpose. The time is now ripe to agree to a nuclear weapons convention.

Hard copies of the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention are available in English, French, Chinese, Russian, Arabic or Spanish from Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy 

New Release

"Safety and Security:
The Case for a Nuclear Weapons Convention"

includes the

Model Nuclear Weapons Convention

Published May 1999.

Paperback. $10

See publications page for details.


Summary of the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention


General Obligations

The model nuclear weapons convention (treaty) prohibits development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. States possessing nuclear weapons will be required to destroy their arsenals in a series of phases over fifteen years. The treaty also prohibits the production of weapons usable fissile material and requires delivery vehicles to be destroyed or converted to make them non-nuclear capable.


An agency will be established to implement the treaty. It will be responsible for verification, ensuring compliance, and decision making, and will comprise a Conference of States Parties, an Executive Council and a Technical Secretariat.


Verification will include declarations and reports from States, routine inspections, challenge inspections, fixed on-site sensors, satellite photography, radionuclide sampling and other remote sensors, information sharing with other organizations, and citizen reporting (societal verification).

Whistleblower protection will be available to citizens reporting suspected violations of the convention.

The Agency will establish an international monitoring system to gather information, and will make most of this information available through a registry. Information which may jeopardize commercial secrets or national security will be kept confidential.

Conflict Resolution

The treaty includes provisions for consultation, cooperation and fact-finding to clarify and resolve questions of interpretation with respect to compliance and other matters. A legal dispute may be referred to the International Court of Justice by mutual consent of States Parties. The Agency may request an advisory opinion from the ICJ on a legal dispute.

Compliance and Enforcement

The treaty provides for a series of graduated responses for non-compliance beginning with consultation and clarification, negotiation, and, if required, sanctions or recourse to the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council.

Individual responsibility

The obligations will apply to individuals as well as States. Procedures for the apprehension and fair trial of individuals accused of committing crimes under the treaty are provided for.

Phases for elimination

The treaty outlines a series of five phases for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Steps in these phases include gradual reductions in stockpiles, taking nuclear weapons off alert, removing weapons from deployment, removing nuclear warheads from their delivery vehicles, disabling the warheads, removing and disfiguring the "pits" and placing the fissile material under international control. In the initial phases the U.S. and Russia are required to make the deepest cuts in their nuclear arsenals.


The treaty obliges nuclear weapon states to cover the costs of the elimination of their nuclear arsenals, but establishes an international fund to assist states which may have financial difficulties in meeting their obligations.

Nuclear Material & Nuclear Energy

The treaty prohibits the production of any fissionable or fusionable material which can be used to make a nuclear bomb, including plutonium and highly enriched uranium.

Low enriched uranium is permitted for nuclear energy, but the treaty includes an optional protocol which would establish a program of energy assistance for States Parties choosing not to develop nuclear energy or to phase out existing nuclear energy programs.                

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