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     Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones      NW states      Nuclear sharing      NPT only
Treaty Region Land area States In force
Antarctic Antarctica 14,000,000 km² 1961-06-23
Space Outer Space 1967-10-10
Tlatelolco Latin America
21,069,501 km² 33 1969-04-25
Seabed Seabed 1972-05-18
Rarotonga South Pacific 9,008,458 km² 13 [1]1986-12-11
Bangkok ASEAN 4,465,501 km² 10 [2]1997-03-28
MNWFS Mongolia 1,564,116 km² 1 2000-02-28
Semei Central Asia 4,003,451 km² 5 [3]2009-03-21
Pelindaba Africa 30,221,532 km² 53 2009-07-15
Total: 84,000,000 km² 115

A Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone, or NWFZ is defined[4] 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 do not cover international waters (where there is freedom of the seas) or transit of nuclear missiles through space, as opposed to deployment that stations nuclear weapons in space. 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 ending the Cold War banned nuclear weapons in the former East Germany, but was an agreement only among the four Allies and two German states.

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.



Land area
106 km²
NWFZ 116 84 33%
NWS 9 41.4 48%
68 24 19%

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 actually preceded most of the zones on national territories.

As of 15 July 2009 (2009 -07-15) when the African zone came into force, the six land zones cover 56% of the Earth's land area of 149 million square kilometers (less of the Earth's oceans above the seabed are covered since freedom of the seas restricts restrictions in international waters) and 60% of the 193 states on Earth, up from 34% and 30% the previous year; however only one third of the world's population lives in NWFZs, while the nine nuclear weapons states have 28% of world land area area and 48% of world population.

Nuclear weapons states' territories within NWFZs
Treaty Britain France U.S.
Tlatelolco Anguilla, Virgin Islands
Caymans, Turks & Caicos
Falklands, South Georgia
French Guiana
Guadeloupe, Martinique
St Barthélemy, St Martin
Puerto Rico
Virgin Islands
Rarotonga Pitcairn Island Fr. Polynesia, New Caledonia
Wallis & Futuna
Am. Samoa
Pelindaba Br. Indian Ocean Territory Réunion, Mayotte, Îles Éparses

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 the U.S. and Britain dispute the African NWFZ's applicability to Diego Garcia which is an American military base.

There have been NWFZ proposals for other regions where there are few or no nuclear weapons states: the Middle East (e.g. Nuclear program of Iran#Nuclear Free Zone in the Mideast), the Korean Peninsula, Central Europe, South Asia, and the Arctic.[5]



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.

Geographical zones and NWFZs

Southern Hemisphere

High seas in blue.

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.)

Together the five southern NWFZs cover the Southern Hemisphere except for the area 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. There is less than 8000 km² of land in this area:

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.[6]

Northern Hemisphere tropical lands not in a NWFZ
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 of their land area 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

Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa, are the only countries in the zones using nuclear power for electricity, with two nuclear plants each. South Africa formerly had a nuclear weapons program which it terminated in 1994.

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.

Another term, Nuclear-free zone, often means an area which has banned both nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and usually does not mean a UN-acknowledged international treaty.

See also

External resources


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