Nuclear armed states spent a record $73bn on nuclear weapons amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a report from the Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) revealed.
The report, entitled Enough Is Enough: 2019 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending, found an increase of nuclear weapons spending in 2019, up $7.1bn from 2018.
The findings, which assessed the world's leading nuclear powers - The United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea - revealed that top nuclear powers spent $138,699 on over 13,000 nuclear weapons every minute of 2019.
The amount of money the US spent in 2019 alone could pay for 300,000 intensive care unit beds, 150,000 nurses, 75,000 doctors and 35,000 ventilators, the report found.
— ICAN (@nuclearban) May 13, 2020
But the United Kingdom was the third highest spender at $8.9bn after the US and China at $35bn and $10.4bn, respectively, according to the report.
“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. They are abdicating their duty to protect their people,” ICAN executive director, Beatrice Fihn, said in a statement.
Nuclear arms were banned by the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which the UN will enforce after all participating 50 nations ratify or accede the document, effectively criminalising such expenditures under international law.
— Tim Wright (@TimMilesWright) May 11, 2020
But the figures only included direct spending on nuclear warheads and delivery systems costs for operation and deployment, with real numbers skyrocketing after factoring in costs due to environmental damage and victim compensation, with ICAN calling on governments to remain transparent in disclosing expenses, the statement read.
Alicia Sanders-Zakre, author of the report, said: “The figures do not include the massive humanitarian costs and the environmental toll from a legacy of nuclear testing and production. Even in the unlikely chance these weapons are never used, governments are paying massive sums to poison their environments and put their people at grave risk.”
The news comes as British MPs slammed the Ministry of Defence for wasting £1.3bn ($1.6bn) on upgrading the country's nuclear Trident programme, which is currently six years behind schedule. Costs were estimated at £2.5bn for the three upgrade programmes, which have spiked an additional £1.35bn, according to reports.