The United States developed and built tens of thousands of nuclear weapons during the Cold War. A new report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) estimates the total cleanup cost for the radioactive contamination incurred developing and producing these weapons at a staggering $377 billion, a number that jumped by more than $100 billion in just one year.
Most people think of the U.S. Department of Energy and think of oil rigs, coal mines, solar energy panels, and wind farms. While the DoE does handle energy production—including nuclear power—it also handles the destructive side of nuclear energy. A large part of the DoE's portfolio over the past several decades has been the handling of nuclear weapons research, development, and production. The DoE's Office of Environmental Management (EM) is responsible for cleaning up radioactive and hazardous waste left over from nuclear weapons production and energy research at DoE facilities.