Global Zero Technical Report
Nuclear Weapons Cost Study | June 2011
Bruce G. Blair & Matthew A. Brown
Co-Founders, Global Zero
WORLD SPENDING ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS
SURPASSES $1 TRILLION PER DECADE
Building upon the two definitive studies of U.S. nuclear weapons spending (Brookings Institution’s Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Nuclear Security Spending: Assessing Costs, Examining Priorities), this report casts a wider net to capture the entire world’s spending on nuclear weapons programs.1 The principal finding: a massive expenditure will be made over the next decade. Chart 1: Total Military and Nuclear Weapons Spending 2010-2011 2010
Total Military Spending*
Note: Figures in billions of US dollars. Core costs refer to researching, developing, procuring, testing, operating, maintaining, and upgrading the nuclear arsenal (weapons and their delivery vehicles) and its key nuclear command-control-communications and early warning infrastructure; full costs add unpaid/deferred environmental and health costs, missile defenses assigned to defend against nuclear weapons, nuclear threat reduction and incident management. Not included are air defenses, antisubmarine warfare and nuclear-weapons related intelligence and surveillance expenses. Primary sources: SIPRI Military Expenditure Database; IISS Military Balance; CIA World Factbook, and other sources identified in the text of this report.
The 8.5 nuclear weapons countries (North Korea is half-way there) are passing a new milestone this year by collectively spending approximately one hundred billion dollars on their nuclear programs. This conservatively estimated expenditure represents about 9 percent of their total annual military spending.
The first author was a member of the steering committee of both studies, and a co-author of the Brookings study (Stephen I. Schwartz, ed., Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940, Brookings, 1998; http://www.brookings.edu/press/Books/1998/atomic.aspx); Stephen I. Schwartz with Deepti Choubey, Nuclear Security Spending: Assessing Costs, Examining Priorities, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2009; http://carnegieendowment.org/files/nuclear_security_spending.pdf.
At this rate the nuclear-armed states will spend, conservatively estimated, at least one trillion dollars on nuclear weapons and their direct support systems over the next decade.2 It will likely go significantly higher as numerous modernization programs underway are ramped up. It would go higher still if the true intentions of many non-nuclear weapons countries could be divined and their secret weapons programs added to the total.3 United States and Russia: No Post-Cold War Nuclear Peace Dividend For the United States and Russia, spending will increase in spite of their recent ratification of the New START agreement and their continuing cuts in the overall size of their nuclear arsenals. Much of this upsurge stems from decisions by both nations to upgrade and replace aging nuclear production factories, missiles, submarines, and bombers. Despite a shrinking arsenal (see Figure 1 below), the United States plans to increase its investment in nuclear weapons infrastructure by 21 percent, at a cost of $85 billion over the next decade (see Figure 2 below), and to spend an additional $100 billion on upgrading strategic nuclear forces during this period.4 A new factory to build plutonium pits...
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