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Hidden Travels of the Atomic Bomb
NY Times ^ | December 9, 2008 | WILLIAM J. BROAD

Posted on 12/09/2008 1:07:36 AM PST by neverdem

In 1945, after the atomic destruction of two Japanese cities, J. Robert Oppenheimer expressed foreboding about the spread of nuclear arms.

“They are not too hard to make,” he told his colleagues on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, N.M. “They will be universal if people wish to make them universal.”

That sensibility, born where the atomic bomb itself was born, grew into a theory of technological inevitability. Because the laws of physics are universal, the theory went, it was just a matter of time before other bright minds and determined states joined the club. A corollary was that trying to stop proliferation was quite difficult if not futile.

But nothing, it seems, could be further from the truth. In the six decades since Oppenheimer’s warning, the nuclear club has grown to only nine members. What accounts for the slow spread? Can anything be done to reduce it further? Is there a chance for an atomic future that is brighter than the one Oppenheimer foresaw?

Two new books by three atomic insiders hold out hope. The authors shatter myths, throw light on the hidden dynamics of nuclear proliferation and suggest new ways to reduce the threat.

Neither book endorses Oppenheimer’s view that bombs are relatively easy to make. Both document national paths to acquiring nuclear weapons that have been rocky and dependent on the willingness of spies and politicians to divulge state secrets.

Thomas C. Reed, a veteran of the Livermore weapons laboratory in California and a former secretary of the Air Force, and Danny B. Stillman, former director of intelligence at Los Alamos, have teamed up in “The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation” to show the importance of moles, scientists with divided loyalties and — most important — the subtle and not so...

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: atomicbomb; china; france; india; israel; nukes; pakistan; russia; science
Graphic - A Chain Reaction of Proliferation

Audio & Photos - Voices of the Manhattan Project modified Times webpage

When you get redirected to the regular webpage, try pasting a copy of the printer friendly URL into the address and clicking "Go" to the right of it. Maybe you can avoid all the advertisements being downloaded.

1 posted on 12/09/2008 1:07:36 AM PST by neverdem
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To: El Gato; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Robert A. Cook, PE; lepton; LadyDoc; jb6; tiamat; PGalt; Dianna; ...
A Promising Catalyst for Solar-Based Hydrogen Energy Production

A metal-free polymeric photocatalyst for hydrogen production from water under visible light

Warning Given on Use of 4 Popular Asthma Drugs, but Debate Remains

FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.

2 posted on 12/09/2008 1:26:13 AM PST by neverdem (Xin loi min oi)
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To: neverdem

Atomic bombs are very easy to make if you use Uranium. The problem is that the Uranium is difficult to make.

You need about 3-5000 gas centrifuges arranged in a ‘cascade’ to synthesize the HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium) from Yellowcake. These gas centrifuges are prone to breaking down and not reliable. The environment is highly corrosive so you need special materials.

The power needed to run these centrifuges is enough to power a good sized city.

However, if you can get your hands on some Uranium or Plutonium, building the bomb is really easy.

The Hiroshima bomb just smashed two pieces of HEU together and boom! That’s all it takes.

The amount of plutonium necessary to build an atomic bomb is actually smaller than an orange. A plutonium bomb is a bit more tricky to make, but not hard if you have the other elements... a beryllium reflector and some tritium and you can go thermonuclear...

3 posted on 12/09/2008 3:20:34 AM PST by Bon mots
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To: neverdem

All it takes is Bill Richardson in charge of the DOE and our nuke secrets become neatly packaged for the Chinese government.

4 posted on 12/09/2008 4:46:08 AM PST by Incorrigible (If I lead, follow me; If I pause, push me; If I retreat, kill me.)
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To: neverdem; patton; theDentist; EODGUY; Cyber Liberty

Well, as pointed out, they were never very “easy” to make, and - most important of all - the USSR did not PERMIT their distribution and proliferation to the Soviet Union's growing Muslim guerrilla forces.

(And, of course, the USSR did not trust Castro, North Vietnam, or North Korea with nuclear weapons. They were doing well enough with conventional forces and propaganda.)

The Muslim terrorists across ALL the lands we are fighting did not need nuclear weapons for their small camp/religious-based attacks; and an attack against Israel with a stolen weapon would IMMEDIATELY cause a US (or Israeli!) attack back against Russia itself.

So, only the democracies needed to grow nukes, and the Communists didn't PERMIT their countries/slave states to get the technology.

5 posted on 12/09/2008 4:50:10 AM PST by Robert A Cook PE (I can only donate monthly, but socialists' ABBCNNBCBS continue to lie every day!)
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To: Incorrigible

I think he took care of that during the Clinton years.

6 posted on 12/09/2008 5:20:48 AM PST by wolfcreek (I see miles and miles of Texas....let's keep it that way.)
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To: neverdem

Unfortunately it appears that laser enrichment technologies will make it feasible for poor countries to easily and cheaply build bombs. The technology is still experimental, but yields incredibly large amounts of enriched material per dollar. The long and short of laser enrichment is that uranium is ionized by a laser, and the radioactive uranium is easily collected using charge separation techniques.

7 posted on 12/09/2008 5:44:33 AM PST by krogers58
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To: Robert A. Cook, PE

That ignores the fact Russia pretty much provided China, and India with much of what they needed to make nukes; and that China helped Pakistan with its program.

8 posted on 12/09/2008 5:47:45 AM PST by genefromjersey (So much to flame;so little time !)
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To: neverdem
What accounts for the slow spread?

Once you have them, you are a readily justifiable target for them. That just might dissuade the smaller nation who cannot compete with the bigger ones' arsenels and delivery systems.

Of course, that does not account for certain religious overtones and less sophisticated means of delivery.

9 posted on 12/09/2008 5:57:17 AM PST by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly.)
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To: Robert A. Cook, PE

It makes one wonder what kind of conversations went on in Washington and Moscow during the fifties and sixties, when they were choosing which tin pot dictators to support.

“How about Umpappamaumau, what does he want?”
“He wants an H bomb.”
“Screw him.”
“His opponenent wants a Bemtley and a Browning High Power.”
“That’s our guy.”

10 posted on 12/09/2008 6:28:03 AM PST by sig226 (1/21/12 . . . He's not my president . . . Impeach Obama . . . whatever)
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To: neverdem

Readt Tonight Bump!

11 posted on 12/09/2008 8:06:31 AM PST by Pagey (Sarah Palin has Mayoral and Governors' Experience. B. Hussein Obama has NEITHER!!!!!)
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To: Bon mots

The amount of plutonium necessary to build an atomic bomb is actually smaller than an orange. A plutonium bomb is a bit more tricky to make, but not hard if you have the other elements... a beryllium reflector and some tritium and you can go thermonuclear...

A few photo-electric triggers, some creative wiring, a box that camoflages the contents as “Live Animals”...

And you have a bomb...Bingo!!!

Why didn’t I think of this before!!!

Wait...I know why...

12 posted on 12/09/2008 9:46:36 AM PST by stevie_d_64
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To: stevie_d_64
It's really that easy if you can get your hands on the Uranium.

You don't even really need the explosive charge. All you need to do is have a big enough chunk of critical mass and it explodes all by itself. That's why these 'gun' type bombs are so easy to make. You just slam two pieces of Uranium together and boom.

A terrorist would not need all that bomb casing, fins and other stuff. Just a tube and two chunks of Uranium that would fit inside of a half gallon milk container.

If the terrorist had plutonium, and a bit more skills - he/she could build a very small bomb that would do a lot of damage.

HEU is the scariest. It's so dangerous that they have to be very careful in places where they store it, so that no storage rooms are adjacent to one another. If someone were to stack a bit of this in the corner of one room, and someone else were to stack another bit of HEU in an adjacent room where it were up against the same wall as the first stack... that could be enough to cause a nuclear explosion!

You cannot have too much of this stuff in the same place or it will just blow up on its own. Even if half the mass is on one side of a wall, and the other half is not seen to you on the opposite side of a wall.

If terrorists can get their hands on it, the explosion is easy to make.

They have already caught people with plutonium and uranium in Germany and the Czech Republic.

Sadly, it's probably only a matter of time.

13 posted on 12/09/2008 10:40:49 AM PST by Bon mots
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To: Bon mots

They will blow themselves up before they get to us. Terrorists aren’t usually very bright

14 posted on 12/09/2008 10:48:14 AM PST by AppyPappy (If you aren't part of the solution, there is good money to be made prolonging the problem.)
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To: neverdem
I was stationed in Thailand, at the thai Ministry of Defense, when the Chinese exploded their first A-bomb. Shortly thereafter a team from the US came through to present a briefing to high-ranking Thai military and civilian MoD people. I was invited in, probably as a formality.

The US team was obviously trying to convince the Thais that despite the fact that the Chinese had popped a nuke, they weren't yet a nuclear threat. They showed aerial photos of French and US uranium enrichment plants, and did their best to make it look difficult to produce an A-bomb.

Even though I knew that most of what the US team was saying was propaganda, I kept my mouth shut. The big objective was to retain the Thais as allies, and we didn't want them spooked by the Chinese and their new bomb.

I think this book is another example of the same thing. Whether it's "official" or just a couple of knowledgeable guys doing it on their own, I have no idea. However, I think it's one more effort to lull people into thinking that nuclear proliferation is easy to stop.

15 posted on 12/09/2008 2:57:29 PM PST by JoeFromSidney (My book is out. Read excerpts at
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To: neverdem

Those two links about the polymer catalyst were much more interesting! Thanks!

16 posted on 12/09/2008 6:51:57 PM PST by SunkenCiv ( finally updated Saturday, December 6, 2008 !!!)
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