17   Public services

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower – April, 1953

The energy cost of “defence”

Let’s try to estimate how much energy we spend on our military.

In 2007–8, the fraction of British central government expenditure that
went to defence was £33 billion/£587 billion = 6%. If we include the UK’s
spending on counter-terrorism and intelligence (£2.5 billion per year and
rising), the total for defensive activities comes to £36 billion.

As a crude estimate we might guess that 6% of this £36 billion is spent
on energy at a cost of 2.7p per kWh. (6% is the fraction of GDP that is spent
on energy, and 2.7p is the average price of energy.) That works out to about
80 TWh per year of energy going into defence: making bullets, bombs, nuc-
lear weapons; making devices for delivering bullets, bombs, and nuclear
weapons; and roaring around keeping in trim for the next game of good-
against-evil. In our favourite units, this corresponds to 4 kWh per day per

The cost of nuclear defence

The financial expenditure by the USA on manufacturing and deploying
nuclear weapons from 1945 to 1996 was $5.5 trillion (in 1996 dollars).

Nuclear-weapons spending over this period exceeded the combined to-
tal federal spending for education; agriculture; training, employment, and
social services; natural resources and the environment; general science,
space, and technology; community and regional development (including
disaster relief); law enforcement; and energy production and regulation.

If again we assume that 6% of this expenditure went to energy at a cost
of 5¢ per kWh, we find that the energy cost of having nuclear weapons
was 26 000 kWh per American, or 1.4 kWh per day per American (shared
among 250 million Americans over 51 years).

What energy would have been delivered to the lucky recipients, had all
those nuclear weapons been used? The energies of the biggest thermonu-
clear weapons developed by the USA and USSR are measured in megatons
of TNT. A ton of TNT is 1200 kWh. The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima