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Where the Bombs Are


Ever wondered where all those nukes are stored?   A new review published in the November/December issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists shows that the United States stores its nearly 10,000 nuclear warheads at 18 locations in 12 states and six European countries.  The article's authors - Hans M. Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists and Robert S. Norris of the Natural Resources Defense Council - identified the likely locations by piecing together information from years of monitoring declassified documents, officials statements, news reports, leaks, conversations with current and former officials, and commercial high-resolution satellite photos.

The highest concentration of nuclear warheads 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 on board ballistic-missile submarines in the Pacific Ocean.  Approximately 1,700 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 (for more information on U.S. warheads in Europe, go to The United States is the only nuclear weapon state that deploys nuclear weapons in foreign countries.

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 removed nuclear weapons from three states – California, Virginia and South Dakota, and from one European country - Greece.

The overview finds that more than two-thirds of all U.S. nuclear warheads are still stored at bases for operational ballistic missiles and bombers, even through the Cold War ended more than 16 years ago. More than 2,000 of those warheads are on high alert, ready to launch on short notice. Only about 28 percent of U.S. warheads have been moved to separate storage facilities. The largest of these, an underground vault at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, stores more than 1,900 warheads.

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; 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. (See map.)

The U.S. government refuses to disclose where it stores nuclear weapons, but the researchers emphasize that all the locations have been known for years to house nuclear weapons. Safety of nuclear weapons is determined not by knowledge of their location but by the military's physical protection of the facilities and that the weapons cannot be detonated by unauthorized personnel.


Another listing of the bomb locations is at




the first Ohio-class submarine may soon enter the Indian Ocean - not with ballistic missiles but as a converted cruise missile and Special Operations Forces platform. In total, four Ohio-class submarines are being converted to this role. They are known as SSGNs, each equipped with up to 154 conventional Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missiles. The first will become operational early in 2007 and all four by 2008. Two SSGNs will be based in the Pacific and two in the Atlantic.

The four surplus Ohio-class submarines became available because the Clinton administration decided to reduce the ballistic missile submarine fleet to 14. Instead of retiring the submarines, the Congress agreed to provide the billions of dollars to convert the submarines, accepting the Navy's argument that the missile-boats are needed against rogue states and terrorists. Critics argue that the expensive SSGNs are unnecessary because hundreds of cruise missiles are already forward deployed on multi-mission cruisers, destroyers and attack submarines. For more information, go here.

Hans M. Kristensen.


Israel is a part of the axis of evil and has 200 nukes at Diamona they would use on America and is the main reason nations like Iran wants them.


jst having a few hundred nukes would probably deter any country from trying to invade, as e.g. France and Britain (and I suspect Iran!) are fully aware. This, again, seems to be the only true value of a state possessing nuclear weapons. Otherwise, our own possession of such a massive arsenal only makes us sound like hypocrites when we hector e.g. Iran to give up their own arsenals-- we're only helping to fuel further proliferation and the potential acquisition of nuclear arms by terrorists, which does not make us safer!


The large number is also a result of warhead dismantlement having slowed down considerably compared with the 1990s. Less than 100 retired warheads are dismantled annually today compared with 1,000-1,500 each year during the 1990s. With the June 2004 decision to cut the stockpile "nearly in half" to about 6,000 warheads by 2012, even more retired warheads will pile up and the future stockpile will remain high. Since warhead life-extension and rebuild have priority, dismantlement of the retired warheads will take a very long time. Unfortunately, because of this decade-and-a-half hesitation to cut deep, Russia and China have also reassessed their future arsenals on the basis that the United States will continue to have thousands of nuclear weapons for the foreseeable future.


The Genie air-to-air missile was deployed at CFB Comox from 1965 to 1984. The history of nuclear weapons in Canada is described in detail in John Clearwater, Canadian Nuclear Weapons, The Untold Story (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998). A brief outline of Clearwater's findings is here, and information from the Pentagon itself is here.



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THE IRAQ WAR, excellent articles.


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