By Lawrence S. Wittner
September 6, 2011
Should the U.S. government be building more nuclear weapons? Residents of Kansas City, Missouri, don’t appear to think so, for they are engaged in a bitter fight against the construction of a new nuclear weapons plant in their community.
The massive plant, 1.5 million square feet in size, is designed to replace an earlier version, also located in the city and run by the same contractor: Honeywell. The cost of building the new plant—which, like its predecessor, will provide 85 percent of the components of America’s nuclear weapons—is estimated to run $673 million.
From the standpoint of the developer, Centerpoint Zimmer (CPZ), that’s a very sweet deal. In payment for the plant site, a soybean field it owned, CPZ received $5 million. The federal government will lease the property and plant from a city entity for twenty years, after which, for $10, CPZ will purchase it, thus establishing the world’s first privately-owned nuclear weapons plant. In addition, as the journal Mother Jones has revealed, “the Kansas City Council, enticed by direct payments and a promise of ‘quality jobs,’ . . . agreed to exempt CPZ from property taxes on the plant and surrounding land for twenty-five years.” The Council also agreed to issue $815 million in bond subsidies from urban blight funds to build the plant and its infrastructure. In this lucrative context, how could a profit-driven corporation resist?
Kansas City residents, however, had greater misgivings. They wondered why the U.S. government, already possessing 8,500 nuclear weapons, needed more of them. They wondered what had happened to the U.S. government’s commitment to engage in treaties for nuclear disarmament. They wondered how the new weapons plant fit in with the Obama administration’s pledge to build a world free of nuclear weapons. And they wondered why they should be subsidizing the U.S. military-industrial complex with their tax dollars.