This section is based on the publication Move the Nuclear Weapons Money: A Handbook for civil society and legislators published by IPB, PNND and WFC.

1. Introduction

Over the next 10 years, governments will spend a staggering 1 trillion USD on nuclear weapons globally. That’s 100 billion USD annually.

Against the backdrop of increasing budgetary austerity and widespread cuts in health and social spending, such allocations for weapon systems appear not only exorbitant, but also counter to the economic and social needs of the nuclear-armed States. In order to spend such large budgets on nuclear weapons, they are forced to reduce the budgets in other areas such as health, education, environmental protection and welfare.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, architect of Pakistan’s atomic programme acknowledged this ‘opportunity cost’ of nuclear weapons programs, asserting that “if India builds the bomb, we will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.”

The bloated nuclear weapons budget also impacts negatively on the international community. The annual UN Core Budget, for example, is only 5.1 billion USD – or 5% of the annual global nuclear weapons budget. Overseas development aid from the nuclear-armed States to the developing countries remains way under the agreed target of 0.7% of GDP, a target which could easily be reached if the funding for nuclear weapons was re-directed towards development aid.

Civil society actors, working with legislators, can impact on budget decisions relating to nuclear weapons, and reverse this trend.

Most of the nuclear weapons money goes to private companies which are awarded contracts to manufacture, modernize and maintain nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles. For these companies, the bloated budgets are in their interests. Indeed, the companies actively lobby their parliaments and governments to continue allocating the funds to nuclear weapons. And they support think tanks and other public initiatives to promote the ‘need’ for nuclear weapons maintenance, modernization or expansion.

A recent report Don’t Bank on the Bomb identifies 26 major nuclear weapons producers, and more than 382 banks, insurance companies, pension funds and asset managers from 27 countries that invest significantly in these corporations, all of which have a vested interest in high nuclear weapons budgets.

Money is a remarkable human invention, a mental symbol, a social organization and a means for the application and transfer of social power for accomplishment.

The Power of Money

by Garry Jacobs & Ivo Šlaus

Nuclear weapons budget:
opportunity cost

“Over 16,000 nuclear weapons remain in the world’s arsenals costing $100 billion annually – funds that could instead be used to reverse climate change, eliminate poverty and address other social and economic needs.”

A Nuclear-Weapon-Free World: Our Common Good

Joint statement of legislators and religious leaders organised by Mayors for Peace, Religions for Peace and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament

US President Eisenhower warned 60 years ago of the possibility of a military-industrial complex being established – a formidable union of armed forces and defence contractors using their power to move governments and parliaments to maintain high military budgets. This has arguably come true – especially in relation to nuclear weapons.

Those pursuing nuclear disarmament therefore need to find ways of countering this power. Anti-nuclear activists and other civil society leaders need to join forces with progressive legislators, non-nuclear governments and allies within the governments of nuclear-armed states in order to reduce the lobbying power of the nuclear weapons corporations, and move the money from nuclear weapons budgets to fund social, economic and environmental programs instead.

This handbook provides ideas, examples and resources for legislators and civil society in order to realise this aim. The handbook will focus primarily on national and federal legislators, who are the ones with authority to decide on national budgets. However, the handbook will also include ideas, examples and resources for working with legislators at local and regional levels, and with other key institutions, such as banks and investment companies.

Money makes the world go around.


by Christopher Isherwood


This section is based on the publication Move the Nuclear Weapons Money: A Handbook for civil society and legislators published by IPB, PNND and WFC.