Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

This page brings together policy documents, working papers and announcements about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the UK’s work on it.

The NPT and why it matters

The NPT is an international treaty which aims to:

  • prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology
  • promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy
  • pursue negotiations in good faith on disarmament measures

This treaty is important because it contains commitments made by China, France, Russia, the UK and the US. The NPT refers to these countries as the Nuclear Weapon States (NWS). It came into force in 1970 and its core aims continue to be relevant to this day.

How the NPT works

The NPT is commonly said to have 3 sections, referred to as ‘pillars’.

Pillar I: nuclear disarmament

The Treaty obliges all States, which have signed and ratified it, to pursue negotiations in good faith on disarmament measures. It does not establish any timetable for nuclear disarmament.

Pillar II: non-proliferation

This means making sure that States that do not have nuclear weapons do not acquire them. The NPT establishes a safeguards system through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The system ensures that Non-Nuclear Weapon States are complying with the Treaty. The 5 NWS, including the UK, have also agreed voluntary safeguards agreements to further strengthen the system.

Pillar III: peaceful uses of nuclear technology

This promotes cooperation between States to share the benefits of peaceful uses of nuclear technology, whilst making sure the technology cannot be used for weapons.

The Treaty also establishes a process to review the Treaty every 5 years, called a Review Conference or ‘RevCon’. The next RevCon is scheduled for January 2022, following delays due to COVID-19.

Find out more about UK action on the NPT.

The next NPT Review Conference

Review Conferences for the NPT are scheduled to take place every 5 years. The 10th NPT Review Conference was planned for March 2020, but has been postponed due to COVID-19. It is now expected to take place in 2022.

Working papers for the NPT Review Conference

The UK produced these papers to support the 10th NPT Review Conference:

UK national report

UK policy

News and communications

Published 2 November 2021
Last updated 15 August 2022 + show all updates
  1. Added links to the working paper on principles and responsible practices for Nuclear Weapons States, and Minister Stuart's speech at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference

  2. Joint statement added, on the continued importance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

  3. Added links to working papers for the NPT Review Conference

  4. First published.