Establish the Full Costs of Being a Nuclear State

From the Foundation's 1997 Annual Report

For decades, the United States and other societies ignored the economic, social, and environmental costs of nuclear weapons. Excessive secrecy, extensive public relations campaigns, and forcible silencing of whistle-blowers, combined with general inattention to keep costs out of the public debate. The lack of scrutiny was even greater in other countries particularly the Soviet Union, but also China, France and the United Kingdom.

The Foundation's initiative was designed to increase the public's right to know about nuclear weapon policies, and challenge the idea that decisions about national security are best left to the military and small cadres of government-employed engineers and scientists. As a result of work done by one Foundation-supported project at the Brookings Institution, we now know that the United States spent nearly $5 trillion on activities associated with nuclear weapons since 1942, and that much of this was on weapons systems for which there was little strategic justification. Seen over time, however, this $5 trillion may be just a down payment. The problem is, unlike in buying a home, we do not know how long the mortgage will run or whether the $5 trillion down payment was 10, 20 or 80 percent of the total price we will pay. Not only are the fiscal costs of activities related to nuclear weapons unbounded by time, the health costs are even harder to track. How many generations can be affected by badly managed nuclear wastes?

The Foundation will continue to support efforts to democratize nuclear debates and reveal information that is essential for the public to make an informed decision on the worth of nuclear weapons. This effort has concentrated in the United States because the country provides greater freedom, legal protection and information access than others with nuclear complexes. However, the hope is that by uncovering and publicizing the full costs of nuclear weapons borne by American citizens, researchers and activists can disseminate this information to other countries and prompt nascent investigations into the costs they have experienced.

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