At this time each year, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles calculates how much money the United States spends on nuclear weapons programs for the current tax year. The Nuclear Weapons Community Costs Project has identified that for tax year 2016, the United States will have spent $57.6 billion on nuclear weapons programs.
California contributed more than $7 billion to this amount, while Ventura County will have spent over $174 million and neighboring Los Angeles County about $1.8 billion to fund weapons that can never be used.
Every dollar spent on nuclear weapons is a dollar taken from programs that support the health and well-being of our country, our communities and our loved ones. These are critical funds that we can never get back.
The Trump administration is proposing a dramatic increase in the budget for nuclear weapons while simultaneously proposing a dramatic decrease for social and environmental programs. This is in addition to the nuclear grand bargain of the Obama administration’s proposed buildup of our nuclear arsenal to the tune of $1 trillion over the next three decades. This is the opening salvo as other countries follow suit in this new nuclear arms race.
While nuclear weapons are unseen — their threat seemingly hypothetical and unimaginable — they are causing tremendous harm to our health and the environment right now, even without a single detonation. Vast quantities of deadly radioactive waste and contamination from Cold War production continue to threaten the health of communities and vital ecosystems throughout the country.
The human health and safety impacts of nuclear weapons will grow exponentially through the proposed buildup. There is no safe, long-term storage for nuclear waste, which can remain hazardous for millennia.
Our own Ventura County is a victim of the Cold War’s nuclear legacy. The Santa Susana Field Lab site in the hills above Simi Valley remains radioactively contaminated to this day following the partial meltdown of an experimental nuclear reactor in 1959.
Probably one of the most contaminated locations in our state, this radioactive and chemical contamination will continue to threaten the health and well-being of surrounding communities as it has done over the past 58 years until it is fully cleaned up. Who among us wants to live with the possibility that the next childhood or adult cancer case might have been prevented if only the site were cleaned up as it was promised so long ago?
Internationally, the non-nuclear nations of the world have grown weary of the actions and failure of the United States to meet our legally binding commitment to work in good faith toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Taking their future into their own hands, the vast majority of the non-nuclear nations will complete negotiations at the United Nations this July on an international nuclear ban treaty that will outlaw nuclear weapons just as all other weapons of mass destruction have been banned. This will leave the United States and other nuclear nations once again in breach of international law.