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Published on April 19th, 2021 | by Nora Nijboer

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Nuclear Acronyms

When reading about new developments on nuclear weapons, sometimes the number of acronyms and abbreviations used can be a little bit confusing. This handy list should make it go a little smoother, and can otherwise serve as a little refreshing quiz. Do you know them all?

ABM – Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (arms control treaty between the US and the Soviet Union on the limitation of the anti-ballistic missile systems used in defending areas against ballistic missile-delivered nuclear weapons; from 1972—2002)

Ban Treaty– Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (see ‘TPNW’) 

CD  – Conference on Disarmament (multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community within the UN)

CTBT – Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (Bans nuclear tests for both civilian and military purposes, signed in 1996, not yet entered into force)

DBOTB – Don’t Bank on the Bomb (annual report on private companies involved in the production of nuclear weapons and their financiers)

IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency (Centre for cooperation in the nuclear field, promoting the safe, secure & peaceful use of nuclear technology)

ICAN – International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (Nobel Peace Prize- winner 2019 for their advocacy work towards the TPNW)

ICBM – Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (a missile with a minimum range of 5,500 km, primarily designed for the delivery of nuclear weapons)

INF Treaty – Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (treaty between the US and Soviet Union banning all of their land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile launchers with ranges of 500–1,000 km; effective from 1988-2019)

IPPNW – International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (non-partisan, non-for-profit federation of national medical groups in 63 countries, representing medical students and professionals sharing the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world free from the threat of nuclear annihilation)

LTBT – Limited Test Ban Treaty (see ‘PTBT)

NATO  – North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (intergovernmental military alliance between 30 European and North American countries since 1949, currently led by Norwegian Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg)

NBC weapons – Nuclear, biological, chemical weapons

NPG – NATO Nuclear Planning Group (senior body on nuclear matters in the Alliance discussing specific policy issues associated with nuclear forces)

NPT – Non-proliferation treaty or Treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons (an international treaty to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, effective since 1970)

PAROS – Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (committee subsidiary to the Conference on Disarmament, forum for discussion on preventing an arms race in outer space since 1985)

PTBT – Partial Test Ban Treaty (prohibited all test detonations of nuclear weapons except for those conducted underground, effective since 1963, partly succeeded by the CTBT)

TPNW – Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (most recent treaty banning the developing, producing, storing, transferring, (threat of) using, testing, placing of- and providing of assistance with nuclear weapons; entered into force on 22 January 2021)

SALT – Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (two rounds of bilateral conferences and corresponding international treaties involving the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War)

(New) START – Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the US and Russia, signed in 2010, extended in 2021 and expected to last until 5 February 2026)

UNDC – UN Disarmament Commission (a United Nations commission formed in 1952 under the United Nations General Assembly which primarily deals with issues relating to Disarmament)

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About the Author

Nora Nijboer is a graduate of International Relations and current MSc candidate of Peace and Conflict Studies with a passion for (European) foreign policy, nuclear disarmament, and (transitional) justice.



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