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CRS — Nuclear Weapons R&D Organizations in Nine Nations

April 23, 2013

Nuclear Weapons R&D Organizations in Nine Nations (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)

Seven nations—China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—possess nuclear weapons. North Korea tested a nuclear explosive device in 2006, and announced that it had conducted a test in 2009 and another in 2013. Israel is widely thought to have nuclear weapons. As an aid to Congress in understanding nuclear weapons, nuclear proliferation, and arms control matters, this report describes which agency is responsible for research and development (R&D) of nuclear weapons (i.e., nuclear explosive devices, as distinct from the bombers and missiles that deliver them) in these nations and whether these agencies are civilian or military. It also traces the history of such agencies in the United States from 1942 to the present. This report will be updated annually, or more often as developments warrant.

In the United States, the Army managed the nuclear weapons program during World War II. Since 1946, weapons R&D has been managed by civilian agencies, at present by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous agency in the Department of Energy. Concerns about “the immediate and long-term issues associated with the NNSA,” however, led Congress to establish the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise in the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act, P.L. 112-239. China’s nuclear weapons R&D is apparently under the direction of the military, collectively called the People’s Liberation Army.

France’s nuclear weapons R&D is supervised by the Ministry of Defense, which delegates the direction of these programs to the French Atomic and Alternative Energy Commission (CEA). However, as with NNSA in the United States, CEA is not a part of the Ministry of Defense. CEA also conducts nuclear programs in science and industry under the supervision of other ministries.

India’s nuclear weapons R&D appears to be controlled by the Department of Atomic Energy, which is under the direct control of the Prime Minister.

Israel’s nuclear program is under civilian control, but since Israel neither confirms nor denies that it possesses nuclear weapons, it classifies information on such weapons, including organizations responsible for R&D. The Israel Atomic Energy Commission reportedly has overall responsibility for Israel’s nuclear weapons program, and the Director General of that commission reports directly to the Prime Minister.

North Korea’s Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry is in charge of the day-to-day operation of the nuclear weapons program. Under it are nuclear-related organizations. Policy is decided by leader Kim Jong-un and other Communist Party and military leaders who advise him.

Pakistan’s National Command Authority (NCA) supervises the functions and administration of all of Pakistan’s organizations involved in nuclear weapons R&D and employment, as well as the military services that operate the strategic forces. The Prime Minister is the chair of the NCA, and membership includes senior civilian and military leaders.

Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) is responsible for nuclear weapons R&D and production. It is a civilian agency, though it has many links to the military.

In the United Kingdom, a private company, AWE Management Limited, manages and operates the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), a government-owned, contractor-operated entity. The Ministry of Defence (MoD), which is headed by a civilian, controls the operations, policy, and direction of AWE and can veto actions of the company. The MoD provides most of the funding for AWE.

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