Does Washington State Have the Most Nuclear Weapons in the World?
The Most Nuclear Weapons in the World
I heard that Washington State has the most nuclear weapons in not just the United States but the entire world, but is it true?
The United States Nuclear Arsenal
At the beginning of every year, the United States Department of Defense releases a report listing the exact amount of nuclear weapons.
A study by the Nuclear Notebook takes that data and estimates the amount of stored versus deployed warheads and where they might be located.
In the 2023 report, they listed the total amount of nuclear weapons held by the United States that are ready for use at approximately 3,708 warheads.
How Many Nuclear Warheads Does the US Have?
The study says that out of the 3,708 warheads held by the United States, only about 1,770 are deployed.
That leaves more than half, or around 1,938 warheads, that are kept in storage for what is described as "technical and geopolitical surprises."
There is another group of warheads listed in the report as retired storage. These are working warheads stored to eventually be dismantled by the Department of Energy.
That brings the true count of United States warheads to around 5,244. If you think that is a lot, compare that number to the amount in 1967 when the United States held over 31,000 warheads.
Rate of Dismantling US Nuclear Warheads
Recent declassifying of reports has shown that the United States has greatly slowed down the dismantling of retired warheads.
The study shows that in the 1990s, the US government was destroying up to 1,000 warheads a year. That number had shrunk to only 184 warheads destroyed in 2020.
The Biden administration has kept the dismantling warhead numbers from 2021 and 2022 classified even after requests by the Federation of American Scientists to declassify them.
Locations of US Nuclear Warheads
The study says that currently the US warheads are stored in 24 different locations in 11 US states and also 5 countries in Europe. The United States has a total of 659 launchers with 1,426 warheads assigned to them.
Warheads can be launched from ships, submarines, airplanes, and missile launching pads. There are two main locations in US states that are famous for their nuclear weapon stockpile, but which one has more weapons?
Storage Versus Active Ready Nuclear Weapons
The study points out two main locations in the United States that hold most of the US nuclear weapons.
One is the Kirtland Underground Munitions and Maintenance Storage Complex (KUMMSC) near Albuquerque, New Mexico and the other is the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific and the ballistic missile submarines at Naval Submarine Base near Kitsap, Washington.
Which one has the most nuclear warheads?
New Mexico or Washington State?
The answer really depends on which category of warheads you are looking at.
The Kirtland Underground Munitions and Maintenance Storage Complex (KUMMSC) near Albuquerque, New Mexico is used to store retired warheads waiting to be dismantled and has the largest total amount.
Those warheads are not to be used unlike the warheads stored at the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific and the ballistic missile submarines at Naval Submarine Base near Kitsap, Washington.
The number of warheads at the Washington location is much smaller, but all are active and ready for use. It is safe to say that Washington State has the highest amount of active warheads between the two sites, but is it the most active nuclear warheads in the world?
Appocolyse Factory by Steve Olsen
A book by Seattle author Steve Olsen called Appocolyps Factory talks about the history of nuclear weapons in Washington State and the targets created by that history.
He says in an interview that "the Puget Sound region (is) home to the largest single stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world." He also points out that all those weapons have plutonium that was most likely created right here in Washington State at the now-decommissioned Hanford site near Richland, Washington.
Washington State: The Most Nuclear Warheads in the World?
So does Washington State have the most nuclear weapons in the entire world?
It is hard to say for sure with Russia being as non-transparent about the locations of their nukes but it seems to be completely true. Although, I am not sure if I am scared or proud of that fact honestly.
You can read the entire 2023 Nuclear Notebook study by clicking here and the entire interview with Steve Olson by clicking here.