Nuclear powers spent some $72.9 billion on their nuclear arsenals last year, or nearly $136,700 every minute, according the Geneva-based ICAN group. The global jump in spending was mostly driven by the United States.
The United States spent $35.4 billion (€32.6 billion) on operating and developing nuclear weapons and nuclear-capable delivery systems last year, according to a report presented by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) on Wednesday.
US taxpayers gave out $5.8 billion more for nuclear weapons in 2019 than in the previous year. Other nuclear powers, including Russia, China, India, UK and France also boosted their nuclear budget in 2019 but to a much smaller extent than the United States. The Geneva-based ICAN estimated that Israel and North Korea kept their spending at about the same level, with Pakistan being the only nuclear power to somewhat reduce its nuclear budget.
In total, the world spent $72.9 billion on nuclear weapons in 2019, or nearly 10% more than in 2018, ICAN said.
"The billions thrown away on nuclear weapons could instead be funding supplies and research needed to help people around the world fight COVID-19," the organization said on their website.
ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn said governments were "abdicating their duty to protect their people"
"It is absurd to be spending $138,700 every single minute on weapons that cause catastrophic human harm rather than spending it to protect the health of their citizens," she said.
The ICAN group, which won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, is spearheading the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons, which has so far been signed by 81 UN member countries and is expected to soon become legally binding. However, no nuclear powers have endorsed the treaty and it remains highly unlikely that any of their governments would revise its stance on nuclear weapons due to the document.
Russia maintains the world's largest nuclear arsenal with 6,370 nuclear weapons, compared to 5,800 controlled by the US, according to the ICAN estimate. However, Moscow only spent $8.5 billion on its nukes last year, or less than one-quarter of the budget approved in Washington. China, which maintains a much smaller arsenal of 320 nuclear weapons, spent $10.4 million.