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The world spent £2,288 a second on nuclear weapons last year | Tech News

Missile system on the background of sunset sky

Nine countries have nuclear weapons (Picture: Getty)

The world’s nuclear-armed countries spent a massive £72.2 billion ($91.4bn) on maintaining and building their arsenals in 2023, according to a new report.

That’s around £198 million a day, £8.2m an hour, £137,000 a minute or £2,288 a second.

So far, there are nine countries with nuclear weapons – the US, UK, China, Russia, India, France, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. 

However, six other nations host nuclear weapons for their allies – Italy, Turkey, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands are all home to US weapons, while Russian nuclear weapons are kept in nearby Belarus.

In total, there are thought to be between 12,000 and 13,000 nuclear weapons across the globe.

Nuclear weapons require extensive and specialised maintenance, which means just keeping those already made safe and ready to use is an expensive business.

But the report, compiled by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), revealed spending between 2022 and 2023 increased by 34%, or 18.1bn, including money to expand arsenals – something it described as ‘an unacceptable misallocation of public funds’. 

It comes months after President Vladimir Putin denied plans to launch a nuclear weapon in space, despite Russia vetoing a UN Security Council resolution urging member states not to develop such weapons.

The US has already detonated a nuclear weapon in space, known as Starfish Prime.

French nuclear test in the South Pacific

A French nuclear test, codenamed Dione, a 34-kiloton blast at Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific in 1971 (Picture: Getty)

The country spent the most on its nuclear weapons in 2023, £40.7bn ($51.5bn), which is more than all other nations combined.

China was the next biggest spender at £9.3bn, followed by Russia with £6.6bn.

The UK increased its spending by 17%, at £6.4bn.

In a statement unveiling the report, the ICAN said: ‘The billions of dollars squandered on nuclear weapons every year is an unacceptable misallocation of public funds. Instead of pouring much-needed resources into a reckless race with weapons of mass destruction, the nine nuclear-armed states could pay for vital services for their citizens or help address existential global crises.

‘One minute of 2023 nuclear weapons spending could have instead paid for planting one million trees. Five years of nuclear weapons spending could have fed 45 million people who are currently facing famine – for most of their lives.’

The organisation also noted the significant spend on new contracts with companies producing nuclear arms, worth £6.2bn, in addition to ongoing contracts up to 2040 worth £306bn. 

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In addition, it highlighted the significant spend on lobbying by such companies to win lucrative contracts and influence policy and attitudes towards nuclear weapons. In the US and France alone, countries for which the figures can be obtained, firms spent £93m on lobbying.

Alicia Sanders-Zakre, co-author of the report, said: ‘The acceleration of spending on these inhumane and destructive weapons over the past five years is not improving global security, but posing a global threat.’

ICAN is preparing a week of action against nuclear arms from September 16.

‘From now until states gather, we are inviting people all around the world to tell us what they would prefer to see the money spent on,’ it said.

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