Speed Reads

going nuclear

America is building a massive arsenal of crazy new superweapons

On Tuesday, Reuters published a report on the modernization of the United States' nuclear weapons arsenals and frankly, it's pretty terrifying. In 2011, Russia and the U.S. signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to mutually reduce their nuclear weapons stockpile to 1,550 warheads by 2018 — but soon after, both countries got to work improving their remaining arms.

Cherry Murray, the former top official at the U.S. Energy Department, summed up America's strategic thinking to Reuters: "When you get down to that number we better make sure they work. And we better make sure our adversaries believe they work."

In 2010, President Obama came to a compromise with congressional Republicans to spend $85 billion on a 10-year nuclear modernization program to ensure Republican support for ratifying the New START treaty. Reuters reports that over the next 30 years, the U.S. will in fact spend at least an additional $1.25 trillion on nuclear modernization.

So what type of weapons does that chunk of change get you? The new and improved B61 bomb — which costs nearly $21 million a pop — can "level cities with a 340-kiloton blast with 23 times the force of Hiroshima's," Reuters wrote, in one example of the amplified technology Washington is working on. The Air Force is planning to develop 480 of these souped-up B61 bombs, for a total price of almost $10 billion.

Read the full special report on the U.S.'s nuclear weapons modernization at Reuters.