What It Take to Build a Nuclear Weapon?

Nuclear weapons have been making a lot of noise lately. Whether it's a new START agreement, a United Nations summit or a hard-fought consensus on the Non-Proliferation Treaty, everybody and their diplomat mother is talking nukes—and terrorism.

In this day and age, you really can't have one without the other—but not so long ago, nuclear weapons were strictly the domain of the world's most formidable armies.

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Since then, proliferation's spread, superpowers have crumbled, and now nukes are the must-have accessory of fashionable terrorists from Indianapolis to Islamabad.

Want your own?

You have three choices: you can steal a nuke, buy a nuke, or build a nuke.

All options are available, but in terrorism knitting circles across the globe, more and more fanatics are spinning their wheels about building their own. And why not? By expert accounts, going DIY on a nuke ain't exactly rocket science.

All it takes is a one enterprising goon, a few science fair winners, and a fistful of dollars.

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And just to prove it, the TakePart crew set about building our own—then realized we're more debate club than science fair, so we're giving the plans to you.

Dust off the tool box and stub out your open flames, this is TakePart's pocket guide to building a nuke.

Please note: TakePart assumes no responsibility if the following lands you in dutch with just about every living person on the planet, law enforcement agencies far and wide, and whichever heavenly deity you call your own.

Getting Started

Options are a-plenty when it comes to making the world's most dangerous weapon. You got your fission bombs, fusion bombs, highly enriched uranium (HEU), plutonium-239, gun assembly, implosion device, or if you can't decide, Neopolitan.

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Assuming you're a terrorist cave-dweller short on resources, or a weekend warrior on a time crunch, you'll want to pass on enriching your own uranium or home brewing plutonium.

Instead, find some brazen thieves hell-bent on revenge against the modern world, flash a stack of coin, then tell them to steal some nuclear material ASAP—but ask politely.

The Nuclear Material

The most important ingredient in a nuclear bomb is the nuclear stuff itself, which is also the hardest to get. No way can you find nuclear material like plutonium or highly enriched uranium stockpiled in a tool shed behind some half-hearted padlock. Right?


Every nuclear-powered nation on the planet has nuclear material, and not all of it's under lock and key. Civilian stockpiles in Europe and Japan aren't staffed by armed guards, nor are most nuclear research reactors on U.S. college campuses.

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But if you're looking for a truly easy score, try Russia.

Russian nuke plants never bothered with a "mass balance" accounting system to keep track of their nuclear material, nor did they pay a decent wage during the Soviet era.

So when Soviet plant employees needed extra cash, they stole office supplies from the job and sold them on the black market. Unfortunately, if their gig was at a nuke plant, the big-ticket office supply was usually plutonium or HEU.

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