As many as 49 American Universities are involved in the development of and research of nuclear weapons and their facilities

Written by Amy Lakin
Second year English Literature student.

A report published this month, titled ‘Schools of Mass Destruction: American Universities in the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex,’ reveals that as many as 49 higher education institutions across the USA are actively involved in the development and research of nuclear weapons and their facilities.

The report states that in the next 10 years, US taxpayers will pay around $500 billion to the country’s nuclear weapons supply. 

The funding requirements that come with developing these mass scale weapons comes with a huge cost. To alleviate the cost to the US government, the government are outsourcing this production to universities in the US.

In August 2019, the US withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This decision by US President Donald Trump means that the nuclear weapon industry is vulnerable to economic growth more so than before, as production and investment can increase without legislative restrictions. Fears that Russia was developing nuclear weapons and thus breaking the agreements of the INF treaty also supported reasons for the withdrawal. This weapon is known to NATO as the SC-8.

Speaking to the BBC, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: ‘The transatlantic alliance would respond in a measured and responsible way to the significant risks posed by the Russian 9M729 (SC8) missile to allied security.’

The treaty was key in Cold War arms control as it eliminated around 2,600 missiles. 

Trump, in correspondence with the Washington Post, said: ‘We will move forward with developing our own military response options and will work with NATO and our other allies and partners to deny Russia any military advantage from its unlawful conduct.’

There are four channels in which institutions choose to collaborate with the government to produce nuclear weapons

Although NATO backed the decision by the US, the implications of the USA’s withdrawal are becoming increasingly evident, as the findings of the Nuclear Weapons report show. 

The report shows that there are four channels in which institutions choose to collaborate with the government to produce nuclear weapons. Universities are granted research opportunities, investment into facilities and industry links for students in return for their scientific research.

The first method is direct management. This is where an institution directly manages nuclear weapon production on behalf of the government. Universities currently within these billion-pound contracts include University of California, John Hopkins University, the University of Rochester, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The second is Institutional Partnerships. This means researchers share their own knowledge and skills in exchange for funding and access to facilities in National Nuclear Security Administrations sites (NNSA).

The third channel is through research programs and partnerships. Universities conduct research on behalf of nuclear power complexes.

The fourth programme is the Workforce Development Program. The NNSA creates nuclear industry related employment prospects for students within the universities.

These are the universities that have worked with the government since the 60’s

The scale of the report’s findings in gauging the individual contribution each institution has to the staggering worth of the nuclear arms industry and its projected trajectory in coming years is crucial. It is crucial that universities are transparent in their nuclear research activity and with the multimillion-dollar partnerships that some have with the government.

Scott Lucas, a Professor of International Politics at UoB, said: ‘These are the universities that have worked with the government since the 60’s so this is not a case of asking universities to break an agreement they have had for a few years, this is a long standing partnership.’ 

Lucas feels it is logical that universities are involved in nuclear research given their areas of academic expertise in the sciences and the boost that the universities receive in their academic research. He also highlighted that the capital universities receive in deals, such as the University of California’s $8.9 million deal in Triad Laboratory, is often re-invested into the universities themselves.

The catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons in the past, on people’s lives and on entire cities means that the report’s findings should be a call to place increased resistance on the government’s grand strategy on nuclear weapon investment.

Organisations such as the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican) are already working to do this. The campaign currently runs worldwide across 100 different countries. It is focused on the abolishment of nuclear weapons and works to highlight the devastating humanitarian effects that nuclear weapons have. Ican has since held three major conferences to discuss the effects of nuclear detonations.