A nuclear-weapons-free zone (NWFZ) is defined by the United Nations as an agreement which a group of states has freely established by treaty or convention, that bans the use, development, or deployment of nuclear weapons in a given area, that has mechanisms of verification and control to enforce its obligations, and that is recognized as such by the General Assembly of the United Nations. NWFZs have a similar purpose to, but are distinct from, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which all countries except for four nuclear weapons states are party. Another term, nuclear-free zone, often means an area which has banned both nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and sometimes nuclear waste and nuclear propulsion, and usually does not mean a UN-acknowledged international treaty.
Today there are five zones covering continental or subcontinental groups of countries (including their territorial waters and airspace), one UN-recognized zone consisting of a single country, Mongolia, and three governing Antarctica, the seabed, and outer space which are not part of any state. The Antarctic, seabed, and space zones preceded all but one of the zones on national territories. Most of the Earth's oceans above the seabed are not covered by NWFZs since freedom of the seas restricts restrictions in international waters.
As of 15 July 2009[update] when the African NWFZ came into force, the six land zones cover 56% of the Earth's land area of 149 million square kilometers and 60% of the 193 states on Earth, up from 34% and 30% the previous year; however, only 39% of the world's population lives in NWFZs, while the nine nuclear weapons states have 28% of the world's land area area and 46% of the world population.
The NWFZ definition does not count countries or smaller regions that have outlawed nuclear weapons simply by their own law, like Austria with the Atomsperrgesetz in 1999; also, the 2+4 Treaty, at the end of the Cold War, banned nuclear weapons in the six states, which joined to Germany 1990 (area of Berlin and former East Germany), but was an agreement only among the four Allies and two German states.
|Tlatelolco||Anguilla, Virgin Is.
Falklands, S. Georgia
St. Barthélemy, St. Martin
|Rarotonga||Pitcairn Island||Polynésie, Wallis&Futuna
|Samoa, Jarvis Island|
|Pelindaba||Indian Ocean Territory||Réunion, Mayotte
NWFZs do cover most territories belonging to nuclear weapons states that are situated inside NWFZ boundaries; all are small islands except for French Guiana. However, the U.S. signed but has not ratified Protocol I to the Treaty of Rarotonga which would apply to American Samoa and Jarvis Island plus the U.S. and Britain dispute on the African NWFZ's applicability to Diego Garcia which has an American military base.
Regions without NWFZ
The majority of non-NWS non-NWFZ states are in Europe and the North Pacific and are members of (or surrounded by) collective security alliances with nuclear weapons states dating from the Cold War and predating the NWFZ movement.
22 states are not part of a NWFZ or a collective security bloc nor nuclear weapons states, 12 in the Middle East, 6 in South Asia, and 4 in the former Soviet Union. There have been NWFZ proposals for the Middle East (e.g. Nuclear program of Iran#Nuclear Free Zone in the Mideast, 2009 UN proposal, 2011 IAEA forum), the Korean Peninsula, Central Europe, South Asia, South-east Asia, and the Arctic.
All countries without nuclear weapons are parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, as are the 5 NPT-sanctioned nuclear weapon states.
Britain, France, and the USA share a nuclear umbrella with the 25 other members of NATO, and the 4 European Union states not part of NATO (Austria, Ireland, Sweden, Finland) are part of the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy.
The other European countries west of the former Soviet Union are small Western European states are surrounded by and aligned with the EU and NATO but not members (Switzerland and European microstates Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican, Andorra), or Balkan states that have not yet joined the EU (Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo).
Former Soviet Union
Belarus and Armenia, along with the five members of the Central Asian NWFZ, are allies of Russia in CSTO, the three Baltic states have joined NATO, and the GUAM states (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova) are not party to either security treaty.
South Korea and Japan are American allies under its nuclear umbrella, while the three Micronesian states (Marshalls, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau) are in a Compact of Free Association with the USA.
The 6 Gulf Cooperation Council states, the 5 other Arab League states outside Africa (Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq), and Iran (see Nuclear program of Iran) are not nuclear weapons states and not part of a NWFZ. The UN General Assembly has urged establishment of a Middle East NWFZ, and NPT Review Conferences in 1995 and 2010 called for a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. An International Conference For A WMD-Free Middle East was held in Haifa in December 2013 attended by citizens from all over the world concerned about the lack of progress in the official talks.
The Antarctic, Latin American, and South Pacific zones are defined by lines of latitude and longitude, except for the northwestern boundary of the South Pacific zone which follows the limit of Australian territorial waters, and these three zones form a contiguous area, though treaty provisions do not apply to international waters within that area. In contrast, the Southeast Asian zone is defined as the territories of its members including their Exclusive Economic Zones, and the African zone is also defined as the countries and territories considered part of Africa by the OAU (now the African Union) which include islands close to Africa and Madagascar. An AU member, Mauritius, claims the British Indian Ocean Territory where Diego Garcia is currently a US military base.
Because few prevailing winds cross the Equator, effects of nuclear explosions in the Northern Hemisphere might send less fallout to the Southern Hemisphere. (This fact was used in the book and film On the Beach, although there the Southern Hemisphere eventually succumbs as well.)
The five southern NWFZs cover Southern Hemisphere lands except East Timor which is in the process of joining ASEAN, and islands north of the 60th parallel south, east of the 20th meridian west, and west of the 115th meridian east, but outside of African, Australian or Indonesian territorial waters, which combined have less than 8000 km² of land area, mostly in Kerguelen:
- South Atlantic:
- Indian Ocean:
In 1994 states of the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone issued a "Declaration on the Denuclearization of the South Atlantic" which the U.N. General Assembly endorsed but the U.S., U.K., and France still opposed.
|Region||All of||Parts of|
|Pacific||Marianas, FSM, Marshalls, Palau||Hawaii (all but NW), USMOI|
|Arabia||Yemen||Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Oman|
|South Asia||Maldives, Sri Lanka||Peninsular India, Bangladesh|
|China||Hainan||Yunnan, Guangdong/Xi, Taiwan|
The Latin American, African, South Pacific and Southeast Asian zones also cover most land in the tropics, but not some Northern Hemisphere areas south of the Tropic of Cancer. Most tropical land outside of NWFZs is in India and the Arabian Peninsula.
Little of the land area covered by the five southern Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones extends north of the Tropic of Cancer: only northern Mexico, northern Bahamas, northern Myanmar, and North Africa. However, the Central Asian and Mongolian zones are entirely in the North Temperate Zone.
Nuclear power and programs
Four NWFZ countries have nuclear plants to generate electricity. South Africa formerly had a nuclear weapons program which it terminated in 1989.
Argentina and Brazil are known to operate uranium enrichment facilities. Countries that had enrichment programs in the past include Libya and South Africa, although Libya's facility was never operational. Australia has announced its intention to pursue commercial enrichment, and is actively researching laser enrichment.
Argentina and Brazil also have plans to build nuclear submarines.
- Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
- Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents
- Middle East nuclear weapon free zone
- South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty [Treaty of Rarotonga]
- SEANWFZ Enters Into Force; U.S. Considers Signing Protocol Arms Control Association, April 1997
- Nuclear free zone in Central Asia enters into force Saturday The Earth Times, 20 March 2009
- Resolution 3472; Comprehensive study of the question of nuclear-weapon-free zones in all its aspects Resolutions adopted on the reports of the First Committee, United Nations General Assembly 30th session, 2437th plenary meeting, 11 December 1975
- A/RES/64/26 - Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East United Nations General Assembly Sixty-fourth session, 14 January 2010
- "Middle East nuke talks "positive" despite Iran boycott". Reuters. 2011-11-22.
- "Speech: Robson - Arctic Nuclear Weapons Free Zone". Scoop News. 12 August 2009.
- "Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East". A/RES/67/28. United Nations. 11 December 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- Davenport, Kelsey (November 2012). "WMD-Free Middle East Proposal at a Glance". Arms Control Association. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "Resolution on the Middle East". NPT/CONF.1995/32 (Part I), Annex. United Nations. 11 May 1995. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- "Final Document: 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons". NPT/CONF.2010/50 (Vol. I). Section IV: United Nations. May 2010. pp. 29–31. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
- Encyclopedia of the United Nations and international agreements: A-F ISBN 978-0-415-93921-8
- Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones Around the World site about NWFZs run by OPANAL, the organization which monitors the Treaty of Tlatelolco
- Oceans in the Nuclear Age:Nuclear-Free Zones from the Law of the Sea Institute at Boalt School of Law (University of California, Berkeley). Includes treaty texts.
- Nuclear Weapons Free Zones Briefing Paper from Atomic Mirror
- UN Pages on Nuclear Weapon Free Zones
- Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones Social Science Research Network, Marco Rossini, 2003
- Arctic Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Canadian Pugwash Group's initiative for an Arctic NWFZ