Go to Home Page
  Timeline of the Nuclear Age 1990s  1991

  1991  

The Gulf War - Operation Desert Storm occurs. Israel is on nuclear alert for the duration of the war and reportedly threatens nuclear retaliation if Iraq uses chemical weapons on the Scud missiles fired at Israeli cities.

The U.S. Strategic Air Command (SAC) is dissolved and replaced with the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), which has a greatly reduced nuclear structure. Many of SACís assets--tankers, reconnaissance and communications aircraft, and a portion of its bombers--are assigned to other generals.

France announces that it will accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a nuclear weapons state.

Macedonia accedes to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)

South Africa accedes to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state. The South African government claims to have made six nuclear weapons and to have dismantled them all.

Presidents Collor de Mello and Menem establish the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials, which enters into force on December 12.

Brazil and Argentina enter an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency to allow full-scope safeguards for their nuclear installations, while retaining rights over technological secrets.

President George Bush and President Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), using pens made from melted down SS-20 and Pershing II missiles. The Treaty calls for the elimination of almost fifty percent of the nuclear warheads carried by ballistic missiles.

China announces that it will accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a nuclear weapons state.

The United States announces it will end its ban on South African uranium imports. 

Semipalatinsk, the primary Soviet nuclear test site, is permanently shut down.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin calls for an international moratorium on nuclear testing.

The accord between Brazil and Argentina for the Exclusive Pacific Use of Nuclear Energy is issued. Under the accord, Brazil and Argentina agree to refrain from "testing, use, manufacture, production or acquisition, by any means, of any nuclear weapons; and the receipt, storage, installation, placement or any form of possession of any nuclear weapon."

President George Bush announces the cancellation of the MX rail-garrison and short-range attack missile (SCRAM II) programs, and the withdrawal of all remaining Army ground-based tactical nuclear weapons and Navy tactical nuclear weapons worldwide. (However, Air Force and Marine tactical nuclear weapons are not affected). He also ends the 24-hour alert status of B-1B and B-52 bombers. A missile misfires on a Soviet Typhoon class nuclear-powered submarine carrying several nuclear weapons.

President Mikhail Gorbachev announces that the Soviet Union will initiate a moratorium on nuclear testing, and eliminate or reduce a range of tactical nuclear weapons based on land, sea, and air, and will exceed START requirements. He also pledges to cut the number of Soviet strategic warheads to 5,000 within seven years.

A fire breaks out at reactor No. 2 at the Chernobyl nuclear power station.

South Africa announces that completely banned its nuclear weapons program in anticipation of a black majority-rule. 

The Ukrainian Supreme Soviet passes a resolution calling on the United Nations to initiate a scientific-technical program to close the Chernobyl nuclear power station.

In response to deteriorating conditions in the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Congress initiates the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program (based on a bill introduced by Senators Sam Nunn, D-Ga. and Richard Lugar, R-Ind.). The CTR authorizes the Department of Defense (DoD) to assist particular states of the former Soviet Union to dismantle and destroy weapons of mass destruction; strengthen the security of nuclear weapons and fissile materials in connection with dismantlement; prevent proliferation; and help demilitarize the industrial and scientific infrastructure.

President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea, in response to the United States withdrawal of nuclear weapons, declares the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Under this agreement, South Korea agrees not to possess or produce nuclear weapons and not enrich or hold uranium.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) begins verification of South Africa's declared atomic inventory. 

Heads of the State of the Andean countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela) adopt a Declaration on the Renunciation of Weapons of Mass Destruction at Cartagena, Colombia.

President George Bush Sr. signs the Missile Defense Act, which requires the Department of Defense to develop a missile defense system. 

The accord between Brazil and Argentina for the Exclusive Pacific Use of Nuclear Energy is ratified.

Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as president of the Soviet Union and signs a decree making Russian President Boris Yeltsin commander of the Soviet arsenal of 27,000 nuclear warheads.