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Notes on Nuclear Weapons: Toward Abolition or Armageddon? via Japan Focus

People still clearly remember that on April 5, 2009 the U.S. President Barack Obama excited an audience in Prague by declaring that his government “will take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons.” As the only nuclear power to have ever used a nuclear weapon, he said, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. Indeed, the U.S. has not only moral responsibility but also legal responsibility for the victims as the nation that committed a crime against humanity by indiscriminately killing tens of thousands of people and causing lifelong radiation sickness to many survivors. In his speech, Obama also added ‘this goal will not be reached quickly –- perhaps not in my lifetime.’ Clearly, this goal will never be reached if the U.S. continues to spend ever larger sums on nuclear weapons, overshadowing all other nuclear powers, as the Obama Administration has been doing since the speech in Prague.

On April 29 this year, at the Third Meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York, Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller stated in her speech: ‘Indeed, it is the United States’ deep understanding of the consequences of nuclear weapons’ use – including the devastating health effects – that has guided and motivated our efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate these most hazardous weapons.’

However, despite her claim of “deep understanding [of] the consequences of nuclear weapons’ use,” in the detailed budget for fiscal 2015 released in mid March this year Obama yet again asked for a substantial increase in funding to support nuclear weapons research and production programs under the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration. The proposal includes a seven percent increase in the nuclear warhead budget from $7.7 billion in FY 2014 to $8.3 billion in FY 2015. This budget request sets a new record for DOE nuclear weapons spending, exceeding even the Cold War high point in 1985 under President Reagan’s military buildup. The plan, moreover, is to increase the military budget to an astounding $9.7 billion by FY 2019, 24 percent above FY 2014.

A large proportion of this budget is for “modernizing” nuclear weapons — both warheads and delivery systems. Among the priorities is the B61 Life Extension Program, designed to extend the life of B61 nuclear bombs by an additional 20 to 30 years. The Obama Administration is requesting $634 million, up 20 percent from FY2014, for this program, which has already catapulted from an original estimate of $4 billion to more than $10 billion. Currently 200 of the B61 bombs are located in Europe.

While rebuilding nuclear weapons at exorbitant expense, Obama proposes to slash the budget for dismantling these weapons by 45 percent, from an already paltry $54.2 million to $30 million. No additional funding has been allocated for a nuclear waste clean-up program, and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s $790 million in spending on nuclear nonproliferation programs is to be cut by 21 percent, or $152 million. Amongst these programs is the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, a program that plays a key part in the effort of preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear and radiological materials that could be used as weapons of mass destruction.

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