Experts Depict Vast 12-State Nuclear Inventory Stretching from Georgia to Puget Sound
WASHINGTON (November 9, 2006) -- Nuclear weapons experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) today released an interactive three-dimensional map using Google Earth photographic satellite technology to track the nearly 10,000 nuclear warheads still in the U.S. arsenal, 15 years after the end of the Cold War.
The satellite map offers a fresh accounting of the extensive U.S. nuclear inventory, and its dynamic graphics let site users "fly" onscreen across a sprawling network of military facilities in 12 states and in Europe. The information is drawn from an article in the November/December issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by NRDC analyst Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, director of FAS's Nuclear Information Project. The satellite map was programmed by Matthew McKinzie, an NRDC nuclear physicist.
"Fifteen years after the end of the Cold War, there are still thousands of nuclear weapons at military bases stretching from Georgia's Atlantic Coast to Washington's Puget Sound," said Norris, who has been tracking nuclear weapons for more than 25 years. "The stockpile is down considerably from its peak, but it is still too large."
The researchers emphasize that none of the locations is secret. All have been known for years to house nuclear weapons and are highly secure military facilities that do not pose a direct security risk to surrounding communities.
Norris and Kristensen did their accounting by piecing together information from declassified documents, official statements, news reports, conversations with current and former officials and other publicly available sources.
The U.S. nuclear arsenal currently is housed at 18 military facilities in 12 states and six European countries. The highest concentration is at the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific in Bangor, Washington, which is home to more than 2,300 warheads -- probably the most nuclear weapons at any one site in the world. At any given moment, nearly half of these warheads are aboard ballistic-missile submarines in the Pacific.
Consolidation of U.S. nuclear storage sites has slowed considerably over the past decade compared to the period between 1992 and 1997, when the Pentagon withdrew nuclear weapons from 10 states and numerous European bases. Over the past decade, the United States has removed nuclear weapons from three states -- California, Virginia and South Dakota -- and one foreign country, Greece. And during that time, the estimated number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile dropped from approximately 12,500 to just below 10,000. At its height, in the mid-1960s, the U.S. stockpile boasted some 32,000 warheads.
Norris last reported on the size and location of U.S. nuclear forces in his 1998 report, Taking Stock: Worldwide Nuclear Deployments.
Approximately 1,700 U.S. warheads are deployed on Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines operating in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and about 400 warheads are at eight bases in six European countries -- Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and Great Britain. The United States is the only nuclear weapon state that deploys nuclear weapons in foreign countries. (For more information on U.S. warheads in Europe, click here.)
More than two-thirds of the warheads are stored at bases for operational ballistic missiles and bombers. Only about 28 percent of the warheads have been moved to separate storage facilities, such as the massive underground vault at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which stores more than 1,900 warheads -- the second largest cache in the arsenal.
The 10 U.S. sites that currently host nuclear weapons are: the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific, Bangor, Washington; Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada; Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming (which overlaps the borders of Colorado and Nebraska); Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico; Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana; Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota; Pantex Plant, Texas; Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana; Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri; and the Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic, Kings Bay, Georgia.