Five Alarming Facts About The State Of Nuclear Weapons In Today’s World

Foreign Policy In Focus | Russ Wellen | May 27, 2014

'fat_man'_nuclear_bomb_mockup_-_flickr_-_euthman

Fat Man nuclear bomb

In a piece titled Nuclear Weapons Modernization: A Threat to the NPT? in the May issue of Arms Control Today, Hans Kristensen reports that “all of the world’s nuclear-weapon states are busy modernizing their arsenals and continue to reaffirm the importance of such weapons.”

Bear in mind that it’s been 46 years since the five nuclear-weapons states that signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), along with states without nuclear weapons, agreed to work towards nuclear disarmament.

Kristensen writes that “none of [the nuclear-armed states] appears willing to eliminate its nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.”

In the course of his piece, Kristensen reports on a number of characteristics of nuclear weapons of which most are not aware — facts that should alarm for reasons other than the potential humanitarian consequences of a future nuclear strike.

1. “…although the numerical nuclear arms race between East and West is over, a dynamic technological nuclear arms race is in full swing and may increase over the next decade.”

Due to treaties such as New START, the number of nuclear weapons deployed by the two major nuclear powers, the United States and Russia, is declining. However, those weapons still in existence are being reconfigured for use in perpetuity.

2. “All told, over the next decade, according to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, the United States plans to spend $355 billion on the maintenance and modernization of its nuclear enterprise, an increase of $142 billion from the $213 billion the Obama administration projected in 2011.”

To many American policy planners, money is no object for a deterrent that ostensibly guarantees that another world war will never start. But is there no limit to the cost we’ll bear? One of Kristensen’s least fun facts:

3. “According to available information, it appears that the nuclear enterprise will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 30 years.”

That is a lot of money for sophisticated technology that basically just sits on a shelf.

But what if these weapons were actually used? In that case, it becomes even more pricey for a weapons system that, when actually used by a state, potentially guarantees the destruction of that state as well as the state it’s attacking.

Or, best case scenario, the state that initiates the first strike survives, but is stuck with the bill for trying to rebuild itself and provide aid to those citizens left alive in the wake of a nuclear exchange.

4. While these “sums are enormous by any standard, and some programs may be curtailed by fiscal realities. … [n]evertheless, they indicate a commitment to a scale of nuclear modernization that appears to be at odds with … [an] administration [that] entered office with a strong arms control and disarmament agenda [and which] may ironically end up being remembered more for its commitment to prolonging and modernizing the traditional nuclear arsenal.”       

And last:

5. “This modernization plan is broader and more expensive than the Bush administration’s plan and appears to prioritize nuclear capabilities over conventional ones.”

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