This project was completed in August 1998 and resulted in the book Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 edited by Stephen I. Schwartz. These project pages are only occassionally updated and should be considered historical.

Top Ten Least Accountable Nuclear Weapons Programs

- All figures in constant 1996 dollars -

  1. Safeguard Antiballistic Missile System — $21.3 billion
    (program to protect Minuteman missiles in Montana and North Dakota, 1969-1978)

    CANCELLED because high operational costs eclipsed limited defensive benefits

  2. XB-70/RS-70 Valkyrie bomber$9.2 billion
    (to develop and build an experimental supersonic nuclear bomber, 1957-1960)

    CANCELLED by President Eisenhower due to concerns over interservice rivalry and lack of a clear mission; revived as a political maneuver to help Richard Nixon in California in the 1960 election; terminated by President Kennedy

  3. Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion (ANP)$7.0 billion
    (to build nuclear-powered strategic bombers and reconnaissance aircraft, 1946-1961)

    CANCELLED due to poor management, technical problems, and the lack of a clear mission

  4. Midgetman/Small ICBM$5.6 billion
    (to research and develop a small, mobile ICBM, 1984-1991)

    CANCELLED due to lack of need and being overtaken by the end of the Cold War

  5. Navaho cruise missile$4.9 billion
    (to build a nuclear-capable cruise missile, 1946-1957)

    CANCELLED in favor of developing larger, longer range ballistic missiles

  6. MX rail garrison basing plan — $3.4 billion
    (to provide a less vulnerable, mobile basing mode for the MX missile, 1988-1991)

    CANCELLED after heavy and sustained public and congressional opposition

  7. Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Applications (NERVA) — $3.9 billion
    (to develop nuclear reactors as power plants for missiles and rockets, 1961-1972)

    CANCELLED due to the lack of a clearly defined mission

  8. Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile$2.6 billion
    (to build a ballistic missile capable of being launched from B-52 bombers, 1955-1962)

    CANCELLED due to poor test results

  9. Proposed restart of the Savannah River Site production reactors — $2 billion
    (to produce additional tritium for the nuclear weapons stockpile, 1988-1992)

    CANCELLED when the DOE and DOD re-evaluated their need for tritium

  10. Safeguard C atmospheric nuclear testing readiness capability — $1.6 billion
    (facilities on Johnston Atoll to permit the swift resumption of atmospheric testing, 1964-1993)

    CANCELLED when Congress was made aware of its continued existence 30 years after the end of atmospheric nuclear testing


  1. B-1A bomber (1970-1977) — $12.5 billion
  2. Special Isotope Separation (SIS) Plant (1985-1992) — $1 billion
  3. Project Plowshare/Peaceful Nuclear Explosions (1958-1977) — $700 million
  4. Building 371/Plutonium Recovery Modification Project (Rocky Flats Plant, 1971-1990) — $650 million
  5. Project PLUTO/Supersonic Low Altitude Missile (SLAM) (nuclear-powered cruise missile, 1956-1964) — $660 million
  6. Ground Wave Emergency Network (GWEN) communication system (1982-present) — more than $500 million
  7. SP-100 reactor (for space-based SDI-related applications, 1984-1994) — $425 million

GRAND TOTAL: $76,935,000,000

Potential Future Candidates