Reading Room

Costs Rise for Nuclear “Modernization”

February 20, 2017

Author: Marylia Kelley

Nuclear “modernization” costs will total $400 billion from 2017 to 2026, according to a new estimate by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. That figure is 15% higher than the $348 billion previously calculated by CBO for the years 2015 to 2024.

According to the report, the coming decade is key to nuclear modernization plans as both the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration and the Pentagon are supposed to “mature” their design efforts and begin production.

The CBO notes that much of the $52 billion increase stems from the fact that the estimate reaches 2024 and thus incorporates a bit more of the high-ticket production costs. Indeed, the rate of increase for nuclear “modernization” is slated to rise continuously over the coming decades.

CBO also noted that as these plans have become more mature since 2015 some programs now have higher projections than in prior years, including for example $16 billion more for ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles).

The CBO estimates do not incorporate significant costs associated with nuclear waste, environmental cleanup, decontamination and decommissioning, and compensation payments for workers who suffer on-the-job exposures leading to serious illness or death.

Further, the CBO estimates are limited to current programs to expand and “modernize” the arsenal and do not include implementation of any new or additional nuclear programs as envisioned by the Defense Science Board or, possibly, by the Trump Administration’s new Nuclear Posture Review, which is due out sometime this spring.

Tri-Valley CAREs and most weapons analysts have been using an estimate of $1 trillion over 30 years to “modernize” US nuclear warheads and bombs and their delivery systems (missiles, planes and subs). The CBO report suggests that costs may top that $1 trillion figure over time.

One thing becoming increasingly clear is that this is now Trump’s nuclear “modernization” program, and it is growing in both costs and capacities to increase nuclear danger globally.

Click here for the CBO report...