Across the world, several nations are exploring plans to “upgrade and modernize” their nuclear weapons arsenals. In all cases, this is leading to sticker shock, as nations quickly discover that a program which nearly bankrupted them during the Cold War threatens to be gravely expensive to “modernize.”
Britain is the latest nation coming to terms with this cost, as previous estimates by the Cameron government of $22-$30 billion for the Trident program have been blown out of the water by ruling party MP Crispin Blunt, who compiled an overall report that put the total above $250 billion over the next 30 years.
No one took the $30 billion figure seriously, and officials later conceded the submarines alone would cost a bit more than that, nuclear arms themselves notwithstanding. The Scottish National Party (SNP) is leading the charge against the new program, calling the price-tag “unthinkable.”
The Cameron government is continuing on with the plan, and dismissing the new report as untrue, with Defense Secretary Michael Fallon suggesting the figure would be “less,” but refusing to actually put a dollar value on it. The Cameron government claims a new estimate will be available in a couple of weeks, but early indications suggest they’re going to stick closely to their initial, long-since-discredited figure.
The US program is going through much the same debate, with initial administration estimates putting the figure at $80 billion, only to eventually revise it upward to $348 billion. NGOs in the US have estimated that the actual cost will be nearly double that, however, and the effort to keep the claimed price-tag down until the upgrades are well under way seems to be a common strategy in both situations.
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