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Nuclear Spring

Thirteen days in October and November of 1962, took us very deep into the fall, but nuclear winter never came. 

Let's just call today "nuclear spring" and hope for the best. By 2003, the U.S. will have no more than 5,000 nuclear bombs and warheads as required by the limits of the START II treaty. The rest, some 7,500 of them will have been taken apart and snuggly buried under a couple of miles of Nevada desert.

It was some ride, wasn't it? The Manhattan project, Trinity, Hiroshima, Bikini, Cuban missiles, backyard bomb shelters, Hanford, Oak Ridge... Yeah, it's been several blasts. In fact, it's pretty amazing that we didn't blast ourselves away completely.

In the 1998 book Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940, the Brookings Institute presents megatons of interesting, thought provoking data on America's nuclear weapons program from 1940 to 1996 collected in an attempt to assess its total cost from initial research to final cleanup. (See Nuclear Weapons: Pay Up to Cleanup, by your About.com Guide)

The total cost arrived at in the Brookings' book is $5.8 trillion dollars including cleanup, stockpiling and dismantlement. According to the editors of Atomic Audit, the U.S. still spends $35 billion a year, or $96 million a day on nuclear weapons. Of that, about $25 billion a year goes for operation and maintenance of the nuclear arsenal. The rest is spent on cleanup, arms control and research. (Like the $475.5 million to help Russia dismantle and store its stockpile.)

The following are just a few excerpts from Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940. (Parts of this book can be viewed online at: The Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project.)

Total cost of the Manhattan project: (through August 1945)
$20 billion dollars

Total number of U.S. nuclear warheads and bombs built between 1945 and 1990:
More than 70,000 of 65 types

Number remaining in U.S. stockpile as of 1997:
12,500 (8,750 active, 2,500 contingency stockpile, 1,250 awaiting disassembly)

Number of nuclear warheads requested by the U.S. Army in 1956 and 1957:
151,000

Amount of plutonium remaining in U.S. nuclear weapons:
43  Metric tons

Number of thermometers which could be filled with mercury used to produce lithium-6 at the Oak Ridge Reservation:
11 billion

Number of dismantled plutonium "pits" stored at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas:
12,067 (as of May 6, 1999)

States with the largest number of nuclear weapons:
New Mexico (2,450), Georgia (2,000), Washington (1,685), Nevada (1,350), and North Dakota (1,140)

Money paid by the U.S. State Department to Japan following fallout from the 1954 "Bravo" test:
$15,300,000

Money paid to U.S. citizens under the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act of 1990, as of January 13, 1998:
Approximately $225 million dollars (6,336 claims approved; 3,156 denied)

Total cost of the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion (ANP) program, 1946-1961: (To design a nuclear-powered aircraft.)
$7 billion dollars

Total number of nuclear powered aircraft and hangers ever built:
0 and 1

First and last U.S. nuclear weapons tests:
July 16, 1945 ("Trinity") and September 23, 1992 ("Divider")

Estimated amount spent between October 1, 1992 and October 1, 1995 on nuclear testing activities:
$1.2 billon dollars to conduct 0 tests

Number of U.S. nuclear tests in Nevada:
911

Number of U.S. nuclear bombs lost in accidents and never recovered:
11

For many more amazing facts about the U.S. nuclear weapons program, see 50 Facts About U.S. Nuclear Weapons, by the Brookings Institute.

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Thirteen terrible days in 1962 when the U.S. and Soviet Union came close. Way too close. From your About.com Guide.

Nuclear Weapons: Pay Up to Clean Up
A look at Energy Department projects and cost estimates to clean up U.S. nuclear weapons facilities through 2070. From your About.com Guide

Hanford: Past Horror, Future Hope
Creating and cleaning up one of the worst environmental disasters in history. From your About.com Guide

Cold War: Costs of Victory
The Berlin Wall and communism fell, but now the U.S. is spending $475.5 million to help the former Soviet Union dismantle and store its excess nuclear weapons. From your About.com Guide.

Nuclear Waste: Coming sooner to a cave near you?
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Senate Fails to Override Nuclear Waste Act Veto
The U.S. Senate has failed to override President Clinton's April 25 veto of the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2000. However, Yucca Mountain, NV remains the location for permanent storage of high-level nuclear waste. From your About.com Guide.

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Nuclear Waste in the US
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