Skip to main content

Expenditures for U.S. Nuclear Weapons Research, Development, Testing, and Production, 1948-1998

The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study 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 should be considered historical.


Expenditures for U.S. Nuclear Weapons Research, Development, Testing, and Production, 1948-1998


Average annual spending for nuclear weapons research, development, testing, and production by the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Energy (DOE) during the Cold War (1948 to 1991) was $3.64 billion (blue area)

The DOE estimates that average annual spending from 1999-2008 will be $4.5 billion (in unadjusted dollars). This chart excludes all nuclear weapons costs borne by the Department of Defense (for example, nuclear weapons effects testing, delivery vehicle research and development, testing, production, operations and maintenance), along with $2.2 billion spent between 1984 and 1991 on research into nuclear-directed energy weapons in conjunction with the Strategic Defense Initiative. It also excludes all costs ($165 billion from 1948 to 1995) associated with the production of nuclear weapons materials (highly-enriched uranium, plutonium and tritium). In 1996, the DOE’s research, development, testing, and materials production programs were reclassified as stockpile stewardship; weapons production was reclassified as stockpile management.

Source: Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 (Brookings Institution Press, 1998)

Copyright © 1998 The Brookings Institution

Get daily updates from Brookings