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Zidbits – Learn something new everyday! | September 2, 2014

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Which Country Is Closest To Building Their First Nuclear Weapon?

Which Country Is Closest To Building Their First Nuclear Weapon?

Many countries have advanced nuclear power programs to supply energy to their citizens. Most of them, however, do not have a stockpile of nuclear weapons.

The lack of nuclear arms development among the majority of the world’s countries can be attributed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT). The treaty states that those with nuclear weapons programs get to keep their nuclear weapons and will focus on disarmament, while those without nuclear weapons will not attempt to develop or acquire them.

Since the treaty was signed 40 years ago, science and technology has made significant advancements in virtually every field. Many countries, if they so wished, could develop nuclear weapons without much, if any, help from outside. One reader wanted to know, hypothetically of course, “Which countries could develop nuclear weapons the quickest?

Developmental History

Without nuclear power plants or any technological precursors that many counties now have the luxury of, it took just 4 years for the Soviet Union to build their first nuclear weapon – the second country to go nuclear.

France was able to achieve nuclear capability in 2 years while India was able to do it in 7. With information and technology (laser isotope separation) more widely available than ever, the average for most countries would hover around 5 years. That’s 5 years from the decision to go ahead with the project, to an actual viable nuclear bomb.

Who Would Reach The Finish Line First?

Right now, the nations with the most potential are Japan and Germany. Both countries are extremely active in nuclear science and engineering. Their expertise in nuclear non-proliferation issues is very similar to the expertise you need to create bombs. Both could develop nuclear weapons in an extremely short time frame if they so desired.

While Germany has the cash on hand, an educated workforce, access to some of the best technology in the world, and has access to fissile material thanks to the decommissioning of their reactors; Japan stands in a league of its own. Japan has an active breeder reactor development program and has tens of tons of reactor grade plutonium (enough for 10,000 nuclear warheads).

Latent Nuclear Power

nuclear weapon storageThanks to Japan living in a region where tensions are high (China’s rapid growth and constant threats from North Korea), Japan has a much greater incentive to maintain a latent nuclear weapons program.

According to U.S government nuclear proliferation assessments, no non-nuclear country is as well positioned to “break-out” and develop advanced nuclear weapons than Japan. It is believed that Japan could go from a decision to viable nuclear weapons in as little as a few months.

In addition to the difficulties of building a bomb, countries wishing to pursue a nuclear weapons program would also have to maintain the weapons they create. This is an extremely costly and complex process which requires very specific & world-class infrastructure. Countries like the UK lease the rights and technology to do so from the US. This factor alone drastically lowers the chances of countries ‘going rogue’ and secretly developing nuclear weapons.

Citations:
John H. Large (May 2, 2005). “The actual and potential development of Nuclear Weapons Technology in the area of North East Asia” (PDF)
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
Disarmament and Non-Nuclear Stability in Tomorrow’s World,” Conference on Disarmament and Nonproliferation Issues, Nagasaki, Japan 2007 (PDF)
Hans M. Kristensen, National Resources Defence Council, 2005, U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe: A Review of Post-Cold War Policy, Force Levels, and War Planning (PDF)
Summary of the 2010 NPT final outcome document, Beatrice Fihn, Reaching Critical Will, June 1, 2010

Comments

  1. Dilan Ormisiarseeking

    I currently think that germany will produce a nuclear weapon due to their Respect seeking eg. world war I,II, so they might start their own nuclear weapons…

  2. corners

    I seriously doubt Japan will go that route considering how tarnished nuclear energy is after WW2 and the tsunami that destroyed the reactors.

    Japanese have little patience for nuclear, in fact, the country is making plans to shut them down.

  3. Haha very funny. Some countries have a right to produce nuclear weapons while others do not.

    • Polar

      The countries that are allowed to produce nuclear weapons, already have them. Now, the reason why we don’t want Iran and North-Korea developing nuclear weapons, is because this weapons are extremely dangerous to the global world. If we let any country build atomic bombs, we could potentially destroy much of the earth in one simple war.

      Countries like the USA and Russia are building down their nuclear weapon storage. They try to set an example for the rest of the world. Sadly, not everyone seems to understand this.

      A nuclear war is one of the biggest threats to to humanity, yet to this day.

  4. david

    “The countries that are allowed to produce nuclear weapons, already have them”

    Like Israel, India, Pakistan?

    Or a fair number of countries that host US bombs and have armies that are able to use them if war, e.g. Germany and Turkey.

    Cuban missile crisis, first Turkey on USSR border had American nukes, then USSR put nukes in Cuba, then US depth charged Russian subs in international waters which nearly led to a nuclear exchange. Russian commanders thought WWIII may have started and only one guy stopped the rest from launching a nuke at Americans. Subs can’t communicate with homeland/know what is going on when underwater.

    Lots of countries play dangerous game. UK helped Israel get heavy water for “illegal use” from Norway. France openly says they will never get rid of nukes which goes against spirit of NPT. In 50 years will be much easier for any group to make nukes or bio weapons, and bio weapons may be more dangerous than nukes.

    Given for example the failures of “Biosphere 2″, very hard to predict what would happen if a nuclear war… drastic changes possible… oxygen levels could go down and/or co2 levels go up so that not enough oxygen for humans to survive. So even those able to live in bomb shelter with radiation filters may die from lack of oxygen.

    • david

      US and Russia with still thousands of nukes each supposedly set example by reducing them, China with 100s of nukes may see that as not much example as still many times less so no reason to expand to have closer to same number.

      Easier to say reduce if I reduce when you don’t have 10x+ as many as everyone else.

  5. Jahangir koleini

    It is a hypocritical ideology, and a very one sided treaty to let current owners keep their nukes while the other countries cannot make their own. It should be a TOTAL disarmament of nuclear weapons – another arms race will take all of us to brink of annihilation.

  6. Carbonscam

    When is Israel going to obey International Law and sign the non-proliferation treaty?

  7. Peter Simcox

    The question of why one country has the “right” to possess nuclear weapons and another does not is not the question. All the countries that built them did so because they felt they needed them to survive in the world environment and because they could do it. But then, having established a track record of having but not using them, the nuclear states became alarmed at the prospect of less stable governments getting them gave impetus to the NPT. The nuclear powers have tried to use defense guarantees and other inducements to encourage countries to sign the NPT. But as America’s resolve seems to weaken in the eyes of the world, key countries like Germany and Japan are likely to reconsider. Each could be online with nukes within 12 months max, Japan probably sooner.

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