Glossary of Terms

  1. Anthrax
  2. Arms control
  3. Attack Nuclear Submarine (SSN)
  4. Atomic
  5. Atomic bomb
  6. Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
  7. Biological weapon (BW)
  8. Blister Agents
  9. Chemical weapon (CW)
  10. Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
  11. Conventional weapons
  12. Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR)
  13. Counterproliferation
  14. De-activate
  15. Dirty Bomb
  16. Dual-use item
  17. Fissile material
  18. Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT)
  19. Fission
  20. Fission bomb
  21. Highly enriched uranium (HEU)
  22. HEU Deal
  23. Horizontal proliferation
  24. Hydrogen bomb
  25. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
  26. International Science and Technology Center (ISTC)
  27. Kiloton
  28. Low enriched uranium (LEU)
  29. Material protection, control, and accountability (MPC&A)
  30. Megaton (MT)
  31. Nerve Agents
  32. Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS)
  33. Non-party
  34. Nonproliferation
  35. Nuclear weapon
  36. Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
  37. Plutonium (Pu)
  38. Precursor chemical
  39. Proliferation (of WMD)
  40. Radiological weapons
  41. Safeguards
  42. Sarin
  43. Science and Technology Center Ukraine (STCU)
  44. Spent nuclear fuel:
  45. Strategic Nuclear Submarine (SSBN)
  46. Strategic nuclear warheads
  47. Tactical nuclear weapons
  48. Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
  49. Vertical proliferation
  50. Weapons-grade
  51. Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)
  52. Weapons retirement
  53. Weapons-usable Material

  1. Anthrax:

    Anthrax is a zoonotic disease (spread from animals to humans) caused by Bacillus anthracis. Humans may be infected by consuming infected meat (gastrointestinal anthrax), by skin contact with contaminated animal wool, skin or tissue (cutaneous anthrax) or by the inhalation of infected spores deep into the lungs (pulmonary or inhalation anthrax). Anthrax has traditionally been a preferred agent for biological weapons development owing to its ease of acquisition and cultivation as well as its lethality and hardy nature.

  2. Arms control:

    Any unilateral or multilateral measure taken to reduce or control any aspect of either a weapon system or armed forces. Such reductions or limitations might affect the size, type, configuration, production, or performance characteristics of a weapon system, or the size, organization, equipment, deployment, or employment of armed forces.

  3. Attack Nuclear Submarine (SSN):

    A nuclear powered attack submarine which is not equipped to launch ballistic missiles. Although they are not designed to launch ballistic missiles, such submarines can be used to fire cruise missiles which have been modified to carry a nuclear payload.

  4. Atomic:

    Pertaining to an atom, the smallest part of an element that has all the properties of that element, composed of a nucleus of protons and neutrons with a number of electrons orbiting the nucleus.

  5. Atomic bomb:

    A weapon that uses fissile material in isotopes of uranium or plutonium to provide explosive power.

  6. Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC):

    In April of 1972 80 states (including Canada) signed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and On Their Destruction, also known as the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BTWC). The Convention, which entered into force in 1975, currently has 146 States Parties. In addition, 18 States have signed but not ratified the BTWC. The treaty is of unlimited duration.

  7. Biological weapon (BW):

    Bacteriological (biological) agents of warfare are living organisms, whatever their nature, or infective material derived from them, which are intended to cause disease or death in man, animals or plants, and which depend for their effects on their ability to multiply in the person, animal or plant attacked. More information: Biological weapon (BW)

  8. Blister Agents:

    These agents are released as an oily liquid, and cause large water blisters where they encounter skin. They may also cause severe irritation to the throat and lungs if inhaled. While these gases can be fatal in large doses, typically they serve to scar and incapacitate the victim. Sulphur Mustard, Nitrogen Mustard, Phosgene Oxime and Lewisite are all blister agents.

  9. Chemical weapon (CW):

    means the following, together or separately: (a) Toxic chemicals and their precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited under this Convention, as long as the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes; (b) Munitions and devices, specifically designed to cause death or other harm through the toxic properties of those toxic chemicals specified in subparagraph (a), which would be released as a result of the employment of such munitions and devices; (c) Any equipment specifically designed for use directly in connection with the employment of munitions and devices specified in subparagraph (b) - Chemical Weapons Convention, Article II (I). More information: Chemical weapon (CW)

  10. Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC):

    Formally known as the "Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction," this treaty requires each state party to destroy all the chemical weapons (CW) and CW production facilities it possesses or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, as well any CW it abandoned on the territory of another state. The Convention provides extensive, detailed verification measures - including declarations and on-site inspections - to support its basic prohibition of all chemical weapons. The international implementation of the CWC is overseen by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), located in The Hague, Netherlands. The CWC was opened for signature on January 13, 1993, and entered into force on April 29, 1997. As of 29 March 2003, there were 151 parties to the CWC; in addition, 25 states have signed but not ratified the CWC.

  11. Conventional weapons:

    Weapons and military equipment, including aircraft, tanks, and artillery that use non-nuclear explosives or kinetic energy to damage targets.

  12. Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR):

    A U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) program established in 1992 by the U.S. Congress, sponsored primarily by Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar. The program remains the largest and most diverse U.S. program addressing former Soviet weapons of mass destruction threats. The program has focussed primarily on (1) destroying vehicles for delivering nuclear weapons, their launchers (such as silos and submarines), and their related facilities; (2) securing former Soviet nuclear weapons and their components; and (3) destroying Russian chemical weapons. The term is sometimes used generically to refer to all U.S. nonproliferation programs in the former Soviet Union, including those implemented by the U.S. Departments of Energy, Commerce, and State.

  13. Counterproliferation:

    Military efforts to combat proliferation, including the application of military power to protect forces and interests, intelligence collection, and analysis.

  14. De-activate:

    To remove a weapon from operational status for an indefinite period. Used synonymously with "de-alert" in referring to nuclear missiles.

  15. Dirty Bomb:

    Using conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material

  16. Dual-use item:

    An item that has both civilian and military applications. For example, many of the precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of chemical weapons have legitimate civilian industrial uses, such as the production of pesticides or ink for ballpoint pens.

  17. Fissile material:

    Fissionable material the nuclei of which are able to be split by neutrons of various speeds. Uranium-233, Uranium-235, and Plutonium-239 are all fissile materials. Fissile materials undergo fission more easily than other fissionable materials, and are more desirable for most reactor types and essential for nuclear explosives.

  18. Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT):

    Treaty currently under discussion in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to end the production of weapons-usable fissile material (highly enriched uranium and plutonium) for nuclear weapons

  19. Fission:

    The splitting of the nucleus of a heavy atom into two lighter nuclei. It is accompanied by the release of neutrons, X-rays, gamma rays, and kinetic energy of the fission products. It is usually triggered by collision with a neutron, but in some cases can be induced by protons and other particles or gamma rays.

  20. Fission bomb:

    A nuclear bomb based on the concept of releasing energy through the fission (splitting) of heavy elements such as Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239.

  21. Highly enriched uranium (HEU):

    Uranium in which the naturally occurring Uranium (U)-235 isotope (0.7 percent in natural uranium) is increased to 20 percent U-235 or above. In HEU used in nuclear weapons, the U-235 isotope is usually increased to 90 percent or more. HEU is used in nuclear weapons and in some types of research and submarine propulsion reactors.

  22. HEU Deal:

    The United States and Russia concluded the Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Purchase Agreement in 1993. Under the terms of the agreement, the United States will purchase 500 tons of HEU over a 20-year period from the former Soviet weapons program, dilute it to low-enriched uranium, and sell it as fuel for nuclear power plants on the commercial market. The HEU Deal is also referred to as the "Megatons to Megawatts" program.

  23. Horizontal proliferation:

    The spread of weapons of mass destruction to states that have not previously possessed them.

  24. Hydrogen bomb:

    A weapon that uses nuclear fusion to provide explosive power. Also referred to as a thermonuclear bomb.

  25. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA):

    Founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is an autonomous international organization under the United Nations with 132 member states, as of August 2001. The IAEA is charged both with the control of nuclear technology to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation and the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Article III of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA.

  26. International Science and Technology Center (ISTC):

    Established in 1992 by the European Community (now the EU), Japan, the Russian Federation, and the United States, the Moscow-based ISTC serves as a clearinghouse for developing, approving, financing, and monitoring projects aimed at engaging weapon scientists and engineers from the NIS in peaceful civilian science and technology activities. Through their projects, the ISTC contributes to ongoing efforts to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Their larger goals include reinforcing the NIS countries' transition to a market-based economy responsive to civilian needs.

  27. Kiloton:

    The energy of a nuclear explosion that is equivalent to the explosion of 1,000 tons of trinitrotoluene (TNT) explosive.

  28. Low enriched uranium (LEU):

    Uranium in which the naturally occurring U235 isotope is increased, to less than 20 percent and usually between two and four percent. LEU is used in nuclear fuel for reactors using natural (light) water as a moderator and coolant.

  29. Material protection, control, and accountability (MPC&A):

    An integrated system of physical protection, material accounting, and material control measures designed to deter, prevent, detect, and respond to unauthorized possession, use, or sabotage of nuclear materials. The U.S. Department of Energy's MPC&A program is implemented in cooperation with the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry and other agencies to install and upgrade physical protection systems at the nuclear energy and weapons production facilities in the successor states of the former Soviet Union.

  30. Megaton (MT):

    The energy equivalent released by 1,000 kilotons (1,000,000 tons) of trinitrotoluene (TNT) explosive. Typically used as the unit of measurement to express the amount of energy released by a nuclear bomb.

  31. Nerve Agents:

    Stored as liquids, these chemical agents may be released from a munition either as a cloud of vapour or as a spray of droplets. They may be dispersed by thermal, explosive or mechanical methods, and enter the body by inhalation or absorption through the skin. Once inside the body, only a minute particle is required to inhibit the body's neural activity, leading to sweating, bronchial constriction, filling of the bronchial passages with mucus, dimming of vision, vomiting, convulsions, paralysis, and then near-certain death. The following chemicals are nerve agents: Tabun, Sarin, Soman, GF, and VX.

  32. Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS):

    Under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, states that had not detonated a nuclear device prior to January 1, 1967 (that is, all states other than the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China).

  33. Non-party:

    A state or entity that is not participating in an agreement, convention, or treaty.

  34. Nonproliferation:

    Prevention of the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

  35. Nuclear weapon:

    A device that releases nuclear energy in an explosive manner as the result of nuclear chain reactions involving the fission or fusion or both, of atomic nuclei.

  36. Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW):

    Based in the Hague, The Netherlands, the OPCW is responsible for implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). All countries ratifying the CWC become states parties to the CWC and make up the membership of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). It meets annually and in special sessions when necessary.

  37. Plutonium (Pu):

    A transuranic element produced when uranium is irradiated in a reactor. It is used primarily in nuclear weapons and, along with uranium, in mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. Plutonium-239 is the most suitable isotope for use in nuclear weapons.

  38. Precursor chemical:

    A chemical that can be chemically combined with another substance to form a chemical warfare agent. Most precursors controlled through nonproliferation initiatives also have commercial uses.

  39. Proliferation (of WMD):

    The spread of WMD. Horizontal proliferation refers to the spread of WMD to states that have not previously possessed them. Vertical proliferation refers to an increase in the amount or devastating capacity of any currently existing WMD arsenals within a state.

  40. Radiological weapons:

    Devices that release radiation with the intent of inflicting severe injury or financial and psychological costs. The radiological isotopes used to produce radiological dispersal devices are found in waste from medical facilities, industrial plants, and nuclear power plants.

  41. Safeguards:

    Monitoring of nuclear material to ensure it is not used for military purposes, as implemented by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

  42. Sarin:

    A nerve agent used in chemical weapons. Code named GB in the West (NATO), sarin is a highly toxic organophosphate compound, similar to an insecticide, first developed by German scientists in the 1930s. Like other agents in this category, it binds with the body's enzymes and causes chemical imbalances within the body's nervous system. Most binary chemical munitions have been built to deliver sarin on the battlefield.

  43. Science and Technology Center Ukraine (STCU):

    Established in 1993 by the European Union, the United States, Canada, and Ukraine, the STCU supports research and development activities that engage weapons scientists and engineers from Ukraine, Georgia, and Uzbekistan in peaceful civilian science and technology activities.

  44. Spent nuclear fuel:

    material that has been withdrawn from a nuclear reactor following irradiation and can no longer effectively sustain a chain reaction.

  45. Strategic Nuclear Submarine (SSBN):

    A nuclear powered submarine equipped to launch ballistic missiles (a missile that follows a sub-orbital ballistic flightpath). Such submarines, also called ballistic missile submarines, are larger than other types of submarine as they must be able to accomodate the ballistic missiles.

  46. Strategic nuclear warheads:

    Warheads placed on long-range delivery systems, on land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and long-range bombers

  47. Tactical nuclear weapons:

    Short-range nuclear weapons, such as artillery shells, bombs, and short-range missiles, deployed for use in battlefield operations.

  48. Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT):

    The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to arms control treaty in existence. It entered into force in March 1970, and is the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Its contribution is three-fold. The NPT is at the heart of efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons; it provides an essential framework for international cooperation to use the atom for peaceful purposes under international safeguards; and it entails the only legally-binding obligation on the nuclear-weapon States (NWS) - China, France, the Russian Federation, the UK and the USA - to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament. It has been ratified by 188 states.

  49. Vertical proliferation:

    An increase in the size, quality, or destructive capacity of an existing weapon of mass destruction arsenal.

  50. Weapons-grade:

    Refers to nuclear material that is most suitable for the manufacture of nuclear weapons- e.g., uranium (U) enriched to 93 percent U-235 or plutonium (Pu) that is over 90 percent Pu-239. Crude weapons can be fabricated from lower-grade material.

  51. Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD):

    Nuclear, biological or chemical weapons

  52. Weapons retirement:

    Process by whcih nuclear weapons are deternuned to be obsolete or unnecessary for national defence. A retired weapon or weapons system is no longer in an active status or deliverable, but may be still be a fully functioning nuclear device.

  53. Weapons-usable Material:

    Nuclear material in a form that can be readily fabricated into nuclear weapons, without need for processes that alter the isotopic content. These materials are not as desirable as weapons-grade material, such as highly enriched uranium (HEU) or plutonium-239.