List of nuclear weapons tests of the United Kingdom

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Forty-five nuclear tests were carried out by the United Kingdom between 3 October 1952 to 26 November 1991 at the Montebello Islands, Emu Field and Maralinga in Australia, on Christmas and Malden Islands in Kiribati, and at the Nevada Test Site in the United States. The 45 tests included 21 tests carried out in the atmosphere.


During the Second World War, Britain commenced a nuclear weapons project, known as Tube Alloys, but the 1943 Quebec Agreement merged it with the American Manhattan Project. Several key British scientists worked as part of the British contribution to the Manhattan Project, but after the war the Americans ended cooperation on nuclear weapons. In January 1947, a cabinet sub-committee decided, in response to an apprehension of American isolationism and fears of Britain losing its great power status, to resume British efforts to build nuclear weapons. The project was called High Explosive Research, and was directed by Lord Portal, with William Penney in charge of bomb design. Implicit in the decision to develop atomic bombs was the need to test them.


United Kingdom's nuclear testing series summary
Series Years Tests Yield range (kilotons) Total yield (kilotons) Notes References
Hurricane 1952 1 25 25 First British nuclear test. [1]
Totem 1953 2 8 to 10 18 [1]
Mosaic 1956 2 15 to 60 75 [1]
Buffalo 1956 4 2 to 15 30 [1]
Antler 1957 3 1 to 27 34 [1]
Grapple 1957–1958 9 24 to 3,000 7,869 First scalable thermonuclear test. [1]
NTS series 1961–1991 24 0 to 140 1,232 [1]
Totals 1952–1991 45 0 to 3,000 9,282 Total country yield is 1.7% of all nuclear testing.



  • Norris, Robert S.; Burrows, Andrew S.; Fieldhouse, Richard W. (1994). Nuclear Weapons Databook, Volume 5: British, French, and Chinese Nuclear Weapons. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. ISBN 978-0-8133-1611-6. OCLC 311858583.