Photo by Michael Light. More information


Since the founding of the National Security Archive, nuclear crises, nuclear proliferation, and the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. policy have been central to its FOIA requesting. The overwhelming importance of the problem of nuclear weapons?an existential threat since the early years of the Cold War?has made this an essential focus. One of the Archive's first major projects was on the Cuban Missile Crisis; during the 1990s, other projects on Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy and U.S. Nuclear History followed. By the late 1990s, with the emergence of the World Wide Web, the Archive began routinely to post briefing books on nuclear weapons policy issues. The broad scope of the Archive's work on nuclear issues makes it worth gathering together this online material to make it more readily accessible to interested researchers.

The "Nuclear Vault" includes all previous and forthcoming Archive Electronic Briefing Books on nuclear weapons policy, cross-referenced with an index. It also includes newly-declassified documents that may be of interest to novices and experts alike.

For students of the field, the "Nuclear Vault" includes reading lists and other bibliographic information on key documents and significant contributions to the nuclear history and policy literature. The "Vault" will also provide links to valuable Web sites in the field, as well as occasional compilations of photos. The National Security Archive hopes that this material will help interested students and others to better their understanding of the grave problems raised by the nuclear age and its history.

Thank You

The National Security Archive thanks the New-Land Foundation for the funding that supported creation of the Nuclear Vault. Special appreciation goes to the Prospect Hill Foundation for the funding that has kept up the pressure on the U.S. government to declassify the record of nuclear weapons policy, however embarrassing it may be. General support to the Archive from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has been essential for the long-term success of this project in getting nuclear weapons policy documents declassified. The Carnegie Corporation of New York also provides vital funding for opening the record of U.S. nuclear policies, especially in relation to the former Soviet Union and Russia today. Other supporters who deserve our thanks include the Ploughshares Fund, the late lamented W. Alton Jones Foundation, the John Merck Fund, and the hundreds of university librarians who subscribe to the Digital National Security Archive by ProQuest.


The editor of the Nuclear Vault is Archive senior analyst William Burr, who directs the Archive's Nuclear Documentation Project. Also working on nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction projects at the National Security Archive are senior fellows John Prados, Jeffrey Richelson, and Robert Wampler.


NEW 2017/06/08
Japan Plutonium Overhang Origins and Dangers Debated by U.S. Officials

Proliferation Risks of Japanese Plutonium Surpluses Troubled U.S. Officials

Special Collection

Key Documents on Nuclear Policy Issues, 1945-1990

The millions of pages of classified and declassified documents on U.S. nuclear policy during and after the Cold War are beyond the comprehension of any one individual, even any U.S. government organization. The following documents, some published for the first time, address a number of key problems, such as the first use of nuclear weapons, effects of nuclear weapons, early Cold War preventive war thinking, constraints on nuclear weapons use, and possible outcomes of nuclear war.

Photo Gallery

20 photographs from the U.S. National Archives show a variety of Strategic Air Command installations and operations, including headquarters at Offutt Air Base and bomber and missile forces and deployments.

Key Readings

Select literature on U.S. nuclear weapons policy and nuclear history

Unpublished Collections

Donations and Unpublished Papers on Nuclear History and Nuclear Policy at the National Security Archive


Contact Information

National Security Archive
Suite 701, Gelman Library
The George Washington University
2130 H Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20037
Phone - 202/994-7000
Fax - 202/994-7005
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