Thanks to Hans Kristensen at the Federation of American Scientists, I’ve learned that about 2,500 nuclear warheads are currently deployed, with 2,500 held in the “war reserve” and 3,500 discarded by the military awaiting dismantlement.
This means that 70 percent of the America’s warheads are not being deployed — more than 40 percent of which the military doesn’t need. These weapons have a destructive power that’s about 400 times greater than the explosives, projectiles, and bombs used by all combatants during World War II.
Meanwhile according to the Energy department, nuclear warhead dismantlement spending will be curbed by 50 percent, and the current backlog of retired nuclear warheads will take 15 years to eliminate. If Congress approves the nuclear weapons treaty known as New START, nearly 80 percent of U.S. nuclear warheads won’t be deployed, with some 5,000 warheads waiting to be eliminated.
According to Kristensen and his colleague Robert S. Norris at the Natural Resources Defense Council, the current rate of weapons dismantlement is what it was in the 1950s during the height of the Cold War. My children might live long enough to see the existing stockpile of discarded weapons disappear. But, if proponents increased nuclear weapons spending, led by Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) have their way, our grandchildren will find America still bristling with nuclear arms.
The spending logic of these numbers seems simple. The more nuclear warheads we have sitting around, the more money can be spent on delivery systems, babysitting bombs, while trying to make more. According to Steve Schwartz of the James Martin Center on Non-Proliferation, the United States spent about $54 billion in 2009 on nuclear weapons and their delivery systems (including bombers and ground and submarine missile launchers). If you include these expenses, each nuclear warhead costs about $6.3 million per year to keep around.
Furthermore, the National Nuclear Security Agency within the Energy Department estimates it will need about $85 billion over the next 10 years, and about $168 billion over 20 years to maintain the nuclear arsenal and refurbish the U.S. weapons complex. This doesn’t include the additional $100 billion estimated for the weapons delivery systems in the Defense Department.
Given that the Obama administration sees no need to tax the wealthy and that we’ll have to borrow billions of dollars from China for nuclear weapons, we might need to issue new “Nuclear Savings Bonds” to help pay for all of this. I’ve created a prototype of what they might look like.