“I think that most states don't really test so much as they demonstrate,” says Lewis. Testing one of your weapons sends a powerful message that you are part of the nuclear club, and as such, you demand respect. It may also boost your status in the eyes of your population. That said, not everyone tests: the Israelis, for example, have never officially conducted a nuclear detonation.
Step 10: Enjoy the sanctions of your labour
By now the aspiring nuclear nation will have devoted years of effort and many millions of dollars to its nuclear programme. You may think that all that work would win accolades, but it's far more likely to get it slapped with some serious penalties. After North Korea conducted its first nuclear weapons test in October of 2006, the UN imposed crippling sanctions that has brought the economy to its knees. Iran, similarly, faces the threat of sanctions if it does not open its nuclear research to international inspectors.
“I think many, many countries, perhaps most, are nuclear weapons capable,” says government consultant Joshua Pollack. But very few nations have actually bothered to go ahead with weapons development. Pollack believes that's because most states recognize a nuclear weapon will do little to make them safer. “The thing about the bomb is that it's not like a tank or a plane - you can't guard your frontiers with it,” he says. “All you can do is threaten to annihilate the other guy.”