DailyDirt: Not So Secret Nuclear Weapons

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

As technology advances, it gets easier and easier to make all kinds of complicated things. Information spreads more easily, and it's more and more difficult to keep technology away from any particular group of people. It's an exciting time, but it could also be a bit scary. The knowledge of how to design and build nuclear weapons has existed for decades now, and more countries are developing their own nuclear weapons programs (sometimes with the help of other nuclear-capable countries). Here are just a few things that might keep you awake as the Doomsday Clock is just 5 minutes away from midnight. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 6:04pm

    They should do the nth country experiment again and see if it takes the same amount of time today. I suspect the blueprints for an atomic bomb are easier to write up than actually try to build.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Alan (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 7:12pm

    Re: Difficulties in building

    The primary difficulty is obtaining the high-grade fissile material. Once you have that, the rest is (relatively) easy.

    The second difficulty is casting and machining the stuff without killing ourself in the process. If you are lucky, you will die (relatively) quickly (hours to days). If not, you will linger (in a most unpleasant manner) for much longer.

    There are many other engineering and logistical hurdles, but nothing a rogue government, bent on having such a weapon, couldn't handle. Any organization smaller than a government would be hard-pressed to find the resources.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 12:41am

    Atomic Bombs are easy to make

    And the knowledge of them was a bit obvious after Japan in WW2

    Australian Electronics mag in the 80s had a project to make your own atomic bomb (yes a real one).

    It IS true though that it is very hard to make a small size and high yield weapon, but it is very easy to make a low yield and large atomic bomb. (the electronics mag used your house for the bomb (not small high yield).

    The only you need is a ready source of plutonium, but once you have that, it's just a matter of making two chunks of it and firing one into the other,, kaboom..

    its no easier today to make plutonium than it was 60 years ago, the laws of physics have not changed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 12:49am

    Re: Re: Difficulties in building

    your absolutely correct, one problem is the collapse of the USSR, with a huge potential for weapons grade material being available on the black market, or just not help in very secure locations.

    It is very hard to build atomic bombs that are small enough for a war head, but as you said, if size does not matter building a big ass, but low yield nuke is VERY doable. Assuming you get the plutonium that is.

    And yes, learn how to build it quick, otherwise you will be dead before you get to pull the trigger.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 12:54am

    Re: Re: Difficulties in building

    it would not even have to be a rogue Government, with a source of material an individual with determination could do it. Easy with 2 people, and only basic engineering skills as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    abombinous coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 4:00am

    The national technical means to isolate fissionable isotopes is not as limiting as it used to be: the SILEX methodologies and tunable desktop lasers makes isotope isolation more compact and energy efficient. While 'dual-use' devices, such lasers are becoming more common. Progress in the total energy and fine tuning of such lasers makes the selective excitement of an isotope more feasible. The current limitations of centrifuges and gaseous diffusion may not be so limiting soon, and the cost of making fissionable materials may drop to the point that agents smaller than nation states might start affording them. Whee!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    MacCruiskeen, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 4:55am

    Indeed, bomb-building is more of an engineering challenge than basic science, which is fairly well understood. For instance, it took several years of effort for Iran to build the centrifuge that was damaged in the infamous Stuxnet attack. Much of what we keep secret about our bomb programs is the test data and designs that allow for modern weapons--the high-yield missile warheads carried by our sub and bomber fleet. (You might recall that early bombs were very large and heavy and relatively low-yield). You might remember the kerfuffle a few years back when it was thought that China had gotten a hold of the key designs, the W88.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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