Soaring cost of nuclear weapons to be $180 billion or more over next decade
The whopping $7 billion for nuclear weapons programs that was proposed for 2011 is just the tip of the iceberg in a huge funding increase for the nuclear weapons complex. Last year, Republicans successfully pushed to require the Obama administration to submit a special report on modernizing the nuclear weapons complex, maintaining or enhancing our nuclear weapons stockpile, and the expected costs for the next 10 years. When the New START treaty was officially submitted to the Senate, this report had to be released. Wanting to win over Republican senators’ support for the New START treaty to cut US and Russian nuclear arsenals, the administration put forward a plan that greatly increases nuclear weapons related funding to the level of $180 billion over the next 10 years. From the Washington Post:
The administration on Thursday released a one-page unclassified summary of the classified report sent to lawmakers. That summary shows that spending on modernization of the nuclear weapons complex over the decade will reach $80 billion, growing from $6.4 billion this year to $7 billion in coming years and eventually topping $8 billion beginning in 2016. The growing costs reflect not just construction of facilities but also the refurbishment and possible replacement of some warheads in the next decade, all without the need for testing, according to the summary.
An additional $100 billion is to be spent on strategic nuclear delivery systems such as bombers and land- and submarine-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. Research is underway on a new strategic bomber and a new class of strategic submarines.
You can download the unclassified summary (“Fact sheet on 1251 report”) on the State Department website here.
What will all this money go toward? Much of the funding will likely go to large infrastructure projects, building nuclear weapons facilities that will allow the US to ramp up nuclear weapons production in the future. When the funding for just 2011 was proposed in February, I blogged about three of these facilities that will cost billions over the next decade and, taken together, will lock in US nuclear weapons production for years to come.
Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR) – While there is a need to upgrade the facility due to safety and seismic concerns, the new facility is also being designed to allow for increased plutonium pit production – the bomb cores of nuclear weapons. Currently, the US has the capacity to produce up to 20 “pits” per year at Los Alamos. This new facility would allow the US to produce between 50-80 plutonium pits per year. With this production capacity, a future administration could quickly churn out more or new nuclear weapons.
Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) – The UPF facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee is a uranium manufacturing facility that could increase warhead production capacity. It would allow for 50-80 uranium secondaries to be produced each year.
Kansas City Plant – This facility creates the non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons, such as fuses. The new facility in Missouri will be funded privately in the future, instead of by the federal government. Groundbreaking for the new facility may begin this summer.
What could we do instead with this funding? The possibilities are endless. Especially in this economy, there is no shortage of places where funding for nuclear weapons could be better spent.
Earlier this week, I was in Nevada as part of our campaign work to support the New START treaty and cut the nuclear weapons budget. Nevada continues to have the highest foreclosure rate in the nation: 1 in 69 households. According to the National Priorities Project tradeoff calculator, Nevadans could be using their tax dollars for housing:
Taxpayers in Nevada will pay $158.3 million for proposed nuclear weapons in FY2010. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided: 845 Affordable Housing Units.
In Missouri, the local Kansas City council declared a 180 acre soybean field “blighted” to allow construction of the new nuclear weapons facility to proceed. At the same time that municipal funding will go toward the new Kansas City Plant facility, the Kansas City Missouri School Board “voted to close 26 schools on Wednesday night. As a result of that vote, 700 employees, including 300 teachers, will lose their jobs.”
The National Priorities Project calculates that:
Taxpayers in Missouri will pay $269.5 million for proposed nuclear weapons in FY2010. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided: 5,347 Elementary School Teachers for One Year.
Keep in mind this is the tradeoff for just one year of nuclear weapons funding. For the next decade, we will be spending far more than we do this year if we do not act now to reduce the nuclear weapons budget and realign our nuclear weapons program toward disarmament. Rather than creating new facilities to build up our nuclear weapons stockpile or create new nuclear weapons, the US needs to move toward shrinking our nuclear weapons arsenal and instead funding programs to dismantle nuclear weapons we don’t use.