1. XerXes

    XerXes New Member

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    What do you need to create a nuclear weapon?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by XerXes, Feb 7, 2017.

    Hello everyone!

    I've been making a new story content for my game, and my question is - what would you need to create a fully functional nuclear weapon? Information I've gathered so far is that the main protagonist would need:
    • person with knowledge of nuclear weapons (probably unappreciated post Soviet era scientist)
    • weapons-grade uranium (enriched 90% U-235) or plutonium, don't know exactly what is more efficient
    • KN-22 Krytron Tube - used as a trigger
    • military grade explosive (Semtex or C4) - used to trigger nuclear reaction
    These are 4 basic points I've been thinking about, it's mostly based on information I've gathered from various movies I've seen and various books I've read. I'm definitely sure there is also something more to add.

    Main idea is that the protagonist needs to visit various locations to retrieve the materials, so more things the better. Also, I've seen a movie recently where they acquired a WMD and needed to initiate the "transportation safety switch" in order to be able to safely transport it. This knowledge of nuclear weapons safety mechanisms would be also greatly appreciated. I know that the US has their WMDs secured so no one could fire it without proper authorization - because of this, the WMD needs to be built, not stolen (and it's kinda unrealistic to just go and try to steal a nuclear warhead from the US, I'm trying to be as much realistic as possible here, not hollywood style).

    Thanks in advance for any help provided!

    Sorry for my horrible English, it's not my first language, but I'm trying! :)
     
  2. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Contributor Contributor

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    Okay, are you trying to build a bomb or build a story? If you're trying to build a story, it need not be exactly factual. Since the Manhattan project scientific thinking has shifted towards quantum theory which in some cases throws the whole atomic theory (proton, neutron, electron) out the window. In short, the bombs blow up but does anyone really know why for sure, certain, positive? Ah, no... Allow yourself a little latitude. Atomic bombs are not weapons unless your enemy is the biosphere of the planet. By the way, your English is very good.
     
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  3. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    95%+ Would be better.

    Make two disks to smash against each other with some dynamite or other explosives as a catalist.
    So unless your MC can get their hands on 10-200 kilos of enriched Uranium or Plutonium.
    Suppose they could use lower yield nuclear fuel rods from a reactor, but they better be able to
    hand the high temperature of the rods (approx. 4000-5000 degrees F).
    Could also farm the hell out of junkyards for the materials in smoke detectors, but it will be in
    very small quantities and be low yield.
    Another possible way to get material would be to go to a Uranium/Plutonium mine, and find
    the materials there.
    They would need an expert or a few in missile technology (the ballistics type), and the equipment
    necessary to safely handle the radio active materials.
    Alternatively you could make nuclear mortar/artillery shells that detonate on impact. To be accurate
    the military did actually make nuclear artillery ordnance so it would be much more feasible and
    safer to transport shells, and not missiles.
    Simply easier to hide and move artillery/mortar shells than an ICBM. Though you would still
    need the more sophisticated tactical nukes.
    The other advantage to using mortar/artillery shells, is they will still keep the user well outside
    of the fallout radius. They could be roughly 7kilometers to around 30 kilometers, depending on
    caliber and bullet weight.
    And finally these will be fire when ready, as opposed to having to spend a ton of money on personnel
    and resources for missiles. You could even make airdrop ordinance if they have access to a plane.

    I hope this has been helpful in some capacity, and hopefully avoid the Hollywood problem. :supersmile:
     
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  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    95%+ Would be better.

    Make two disks to smash against each other with some dynamite or other explosives as a catalist.
    So unless your MC can get their hands on 10-200 kilos of enriched Uranium or Plutonium.
    Suppose they could use lower yield nuclear fuel rods from a reactor, but they better be able to
    hand the high temperature of the rods (approx. 4000-5000 degrees F).
    Could also farm the hell out of junkyards for the materials in smoke detectors, but it will be in
    very small quantities and be low yield.
    Another possible way to get material would be to go to a Uranium/Plutonium mine, and find
    the materials there.
    They would need an expert or a few in missile technology (the ballistics type), and the equipment
    necessary to safely handle the radio active materials.
    Alternatively you could make nuclear mortar/artillery shells that detonate on impact. To be accurate
    the military did actually make nuclear artillery ordnance so it would be much more feasible and
    safer to transport shells, and not missiles.
    Simply easier to hide and move artillery/mortar shells than an ICBM. Though you would still
    need the more sophisticated tactical nukes.
    The other advantage to using mortar/artillery shells, is they will still keep the user well outside
    of the fallout radius. They could be roughly 7kilometers to around 30 kilometers, depending on
    caliber and bullet weight.
    And finally these will be fire when ready, as opposed to having to spend a ton of money on personnel
    and resources for missiles. You could even make airdrop ordinance if they have access to a plane.

    I hope this has been helpful in some capacity, and hopefully avoid the Hollywood problem. :supersmile:
     
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  5. XerXes

    XerXes New Member

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    No, no, I'm certainly not trying to build a bomb. :eek: As you can see from my input, I'm no rocket scientist. To be more specific, I'm making a short campaign for ArmA 3 game, involving a WMD device.

    They actually have their own "earthquaking device" already incorporated into the game, but I'm aiming more on Cold War era setting, thus nuclear bomb seems as my best shot. Earthquakes seems a little bit too sci-fi even for a 2035 setting.

    It seems like nuclear artillery shells would be best, you can just stole them from military warehouse on the island.
     
  6. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    That is not a bad idea, stealing from an installation. They will be met with really heavy resistance, if you want it to be authentic.
     
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  7. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    This guy did it IRL and caused a lot of fervor back in 1976: John Phillips
     
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  8. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Final Flight by Stephen Coonts has PLO terrorists stealing nuclear devices from an american carrier in the med, while the Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy has a very detailed description of terrorists building a bomb. TheFourth Protocol by frederick forsyth also describes the building of a bomb from prefabbed parts smuggled in to the uk

    End of the day if you want to steal a nuke, i'd say somewhere disorganised like russia or possibly pakistan is a better bet than the US
     
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  9. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Contributor Contributor

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    I live very near the Hanford nuclear reservation. The government is still cleaning up from WW2. It is THE major industry around here. I'm pretty sure that although the original bomb project did unpleasant things to Japan, long term it did more harm to the US. Think beyond the blast. Good luck on the game though.
     
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  10. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Not that I dislike the UK, but it would be better to go through Russia provided they have the funds to bribe and pay for the materials. :)

    I never said where. But you are probably right. I read about how to build such a device from a book called Things Not Everyone Should Know.
    It said to use a diplomat to smuggle in the nuclear materials on them, but that would be a costly venture and take quite some time. :p

    Then there are different ways to make it spread more fallout called salting.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobalt_bomb
     
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  11. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    You need at least one nuclear physicist. Even if you have all of the parts and a basic understanding of how the bomb works, in order to actually build it you need a degree of precision that you couldn't get from guesswork.
     
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  12. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    In the forth protocol the prefabbed parts are being smuggled in the the UK by the russians - the idea is to nuke the town of Thetford in Norfolk (having been there I'd say that was a fucking good idea but I digress) and claim that it was an accidental detonation of an american nuke from nearby USAF lakenheath in order to cause the fall of the thatcher government and a labour landslide victory, just before a hard line marxist takes over the labour party

    Far fetched ? You betcha , but for the purposes of the OP it does give an idea of how a bomb could be put together from prefabbed parts without the assembly having to be done by an expert
     
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  13. XerXes

    XerXes New Member

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    Some very interesting ideas here!

    I've read Sum Of All Fears, getting the nuclear material from a disabled warhead seems like a good idea. Guess I'll need to read more books mentioned here.

    Game takes place on a fictional island Altis, which is simmilar to Lemnos , therefore, materials required needs to be "sourced" from another area. As I said above, disabled warhead seems plausible, I was also thinking that it's theoretically possible to get the required material from Chernobyl NPP, but they wouldn't have weapons-grade uranium. As I understand, fission material used in NPPs is not usable in nuclear weapons.

    Anyway, thanks for all the input so far!
     
  14. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I was thinking about clear weapons for another reason today and thought about this thread.

    It's worth mentioning that nuclear materials are extremely difficult to find and even harder to separate. You want one very specific isotope of uranium to make a bomb. Some isotopes are too unstable and will sort of pop rather than create a runaway bomb. Separating the atoms requires exact calculations on the mass of each isotope as well as REDICULOUSLY strong magnetic accelerators.
     
  15. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    I always thought, come the day, I'd get my hands on fertiliser and sugar. Failing that - diesel in a beer bottle, rag up top.
     
  16. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    better to use petrol or preferably premix - diesel doesn't light terribly well from a burning rag
     
  17. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    I new that, Moof x. I'm a bloody expert on molotovs. You have no idea how many riots I've lead, ffs.
     
  18. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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  19. gaja

    gaja New Member

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    If this is 2035, I would guess most of the old Sovjet scientists are dead or too old to care anymore? There are still disgruntled Russians, but why not look at the other nuclear nations; North Korea, Iran, UK, US, France, China, India, or Pakistan? A post-Brexit situation with an independent Scotland could be rather chaotic, especially if you get someone to insult France. Also, there are strong currents in Britain who want to kick out all the foreigner; you could easily make one of these a nuclear physicist.
     
  20. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If you can get hold of the April 1979 issue of Analog science fiction magazine, there's an article entitled "Build Your Own A-bomb and Wake Up the Neighborhood."

    It's been a long time since I read it (see: publication date above), and I was young, but IIRC, you need about 16 pounds of U-235 machined into perfect half spheres. The "half" part is important, if you put them too close to each other you'll get a miniature version of this:

    [​IMG]
    and a couple hours to reflect on your mistake as you puke your guts out.

    Then you die.

    Then what you do.....

    Shit, I'm going to get another entry next to my name on the watch list, aren't I?

    Okay, then what you do is get a three story building, and run a tube from the top floor to the ground floor. Or the basement, I don't remember. Put one half of the sphere at the bottom, and the other half at the top. Pack some wadding behind the top half, and then stuff a bunch of dynamite behind that.

    If all goes... Is "well" the correct word to use for the successful commission of an act of nuclear terrorism? Probably not, let's restart.

    If all goes according to your plan, you'll vaporize a couple city blocks and kill tens of thousands of people, depending on where you set it off. If not, you'll create the above melted mass of highly radioactive material, and kill fewer people.

    There are some important user-safety caveats in the article that I don't remember, and the fact that no one has successfully pulled it off suggests that homebrew (or, as I prefer to think of them, artisanal) nukes aren't quite as easy as all that, but the information is out there.
     
  21. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    What lain is describing is a gun-type nuke. It's not quite as easy as smashing two chunks together like that, you have to control it very exactly.

    Too much energy and the uranium gets blown apart without the chain reaction happening, too little and it doesn't even start.

    The really hard math though is the density of the material. You have to make the uranium at a very specific density of else the chain reaction will just sputter. Neutrons pop out of atoms in predictable ways, and have to hit another nucleus. Nuclei are tiny compared to the atoms themselves so you have to make sure they hit.

    It's not energy that cause this type of gun to work, its neutrons. The uranium 235 atom has an internal configuration that makes it stable, but can be easily popped apart by a stray neutron. (I'll post some Feynman diagrams of how it works and where the energy comes from if your interested. It's worth noting that almost all of the "weight" of nucleion is not in particles.)

    Getting the uranium is very very hard. During the Manhattan project HALF of the electricity of the entire nation went into separating the uranium. Less than 1% of uranium is 235, and the only thing you can use to seperate them is the tiny difference in weight. So if you need 16lbs of U235, you need to mine 1600lbs of raw uranium.

    You should also know that it's not possible to test a nuclear weapon in secret anymore. When North Korea detonated a nuclear test, the department of defense aren't the first people to know: astronomers are. A nuclear bomb anywhere on earth blinds neutrino telescopes because neutrinos are not blocked by matter, even an entire planets worth.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2017
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