Science : Inside the $1.5-trillion nuclear weapons program you’ve never heard of!

Inside the $1.5-trillion nuclear weapons program you’ve never heard of!

A road trip through the communities shouldering the US’s nuclear missile revival.

The point of the thing was to forever change our concept of power. When the U.S. military assembled a team of scientists, led by physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, to build a nuclear bomb during World War II with the hope of beating the Nazis to such a terrible creation, many of those involved saw their efforts as a strange kind of civic destiny. The Manhattan Project, wrote Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb, was “compelled from the beginning not by malice or hatred but by hope for a better world.” Oppenheimer himself once said, “The atomic bomb was the turn of the screw. It made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country.”

We live in that different country now, one in which it is assumed that the presence of nuclear weapons makes their use impossible. If one nation strikes, the thinking goes, we are all obliterated.

As recently as 15 years ago, the sentiment of nonproliferation seemed durable. Even American secretaries of state who held office during the cold war were advocating for the final drawdown of atomic weapons. Former president Barack Obama, when he took office in 2009, wanted a world without them and pushed a new treaty with Russia to limit the number of deployed warheads in each country's arsenal. But after decades of efforts to disarm global powers and reduce tensions, the screw is now tightening again. Russia has suspended its participation in the treaty, and it's believed that China is increasing the size of its arsenal.

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