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Top Ten Least Accountable Nuclear Weapons Programs

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.


– 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


  1. XB-70/RS-70 Valkyriebomber — $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


  1. 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


  1. 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


  1. 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


  1. 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


  1. 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


  1. 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


  1. Proposed restart of the Savannah River Siteproduction 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


  1. 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


Runners-up

  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

Copyright © 1998 The Brookings Institution

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