When you saw the title of this article, if you got an evil grin thinking that you can nuke your noisy neighbor after reading this, then you came to the WRONG place. Making a nuclear bomb may be simple in theory but complicated in a practical environment. So basically you cannot develop a weapon of mass destruction in your backyard. It needs a million dollar infrastructure and matured knowledge to research, develop, test and maintain weaponry.
How things started
It all began in 1905 when Albert Einstein understood that everything around us is nothing but energy in different forms. So he came with the most famous equation E = MC2. He has proved that it’s possible to convert matter into energy and vice versa. As for Einstein’s theory, matter is just a condensed form of energy. Just imagine a situation where you make a hot cup of tea. When we heat up water it becomes steam. And if you cool it down, it becomes water again.
In Hiroshima, this is what happened. There it needed only 600 milligrams of uranium to generate the energy to kill almost 140,000 people and topple the city to the ground. This conversion of energy sometimes can be dangerous. The Sun does it naturally. We call that process fusion. The sun, which is a huge sphere that consists mostly of hydrogen gas, has intense pressure and heat at the core. This heat and pressure help hydrogen atoms to fuse together to create helium and release energy. That energy travels 149.6 million kms and creates life on earth.
Creating the sun’s environment is impossible(at least for now). So scientists invented a method called fission. Instead of fusing atoms together, in fission, the reaction process splits atoms into pieces. For example, the uranium atom splits into two smaller atoms and some energy is released when a neutron hits an atom of a radioactive fissile material like uranium. When the correct type of uranium is used the split will produce more neutrons that are capable of splitting more uranium atoms. This reaction is called the chain reaction. When we control the reaction we can also control the energy released. This is what happens in nuclear power plants. When we can’t control the reaction it causes a nuclear explosion.
To fuel a nuclear bomb we need uranium-235 or plutonium-239. These materials are highly radioactive, which means they constantly shred neutrons that are required to split atoms and generate energy. Before the explosion, the ingredients should be held in a compressed state for a considerable amount of time.
Methods of making a Nuclear Bomb
There are two methods to make a nuclear bomb. “Gun Method” is the first method. This is the simplest way to make a nuclear weapon. The weapon consists of a tube where half of the nuclear charge is fixed at one end and other at the opposite end. An explosive is placed behind one-half of charge and when the explosives detonate it races down to the charge at the opposite end. When both charges meet, the chain reaction triggers.
“Implosion Method” is the second method of making a nuclear bomb. The explosives are placed around a ball which is formed of nuclear fuel. The nuclear fuel ball explodes as the power squeezes it when the explosives are detonated. Here the explosives should be placed in a special manner as the shock waves generated should be accurately spherical in shape and detonated at once.
Then you may have the question, “If developing a nuclear bomb is that easy in theory,(assuming you have enough money to invest in infrastructure) then why doesn’t everyone make nukes?”. The answer is, uranium-235 and plutonium-239 are very scarce. The International Atomic Energy Agency is keeping track on nuclear materials. So it’s very hard to get hold of them even if you want them to generate electricity and not to make weaponry. Then how did Kim Jong-un get nuclear bombs in his pocket?. North Korea got help from Soviet Russia to make nuclear reactors for the peaceful nuclear energy program in the 1960s. Even though North Korea has a significant uranium ore, they were not able to develop mass destruction weapons as Soviet Russia didn’t give the centrifuge technology (to enrich uranium). But they smuggled the technology from Pakistan.