CAN AN INDIVIDUAL MAKE AN ATOM BOMB? PRELIMINARY KNOWLEDGE
PART I OF III
This year we might see the world go through more violent transformations rather than one of peace worldwide. That is, violence could increase in every individual part of the globe. Why? Because of social, political, economic, and religious disparity globally. From the sixteenth to the twentieth century, the hand gun, TNT, and rifle, were the weapons of mass destruction. Today, nuclear bombs are the weapons of choice. From this, two questions arises. (1) Can an individual on his own acquire the ability and technology to build an A-bomb? and (2) How might he go about doing it?
Before I get into the technical aspects of how to make an atom bomb, theoretically, let me say, essentially all you need is U-238 which is quite abundant. It can be found in nature in various minerals, such as, pitchblende, uraninite, carnotite, autunite, uranophane, and tobernite. Also according to the book 'the Making of an Atomic Bomb' which I read over ten years ago and still pretty much can recall, you need an initiator, that is, something to get the fission process started. Besides that you need to understand, you are exposing yourself to radiation. Alpha, and beta radiation is not life threatening. But gamma radiation can be if exposed for to long a time.
Such isotopes as, Polonium-210, Americium-241, or Thorium-232, and even U-238 will emit alpha particles, (Helium-4) and can be used to begin the process of fission or help to get it started. Ernest Rutherford and Paul Villard were responsible for the discovery of alpha, beta, and gamma rays. From an abstract viewpoint this seems quite boring, in terms of, work. But believe me this is just the prep phase at this stage in the development of the device. We have tons and tons of work to do. With this knowledge in mind we can proceed.
Basically we need to use the alpha particle to slam into a Beryllium-9 isotope, in order to knock a neutron loose and use it to start the nuclear change reaction. According to Jame Chadwick’s Experiment and nuclear physics they both tell us we will need to have the Be-9 in some sort of foil form. Further, the Po-210 has to be near the Be-9 in the bomb. But! We need to avoid having the Po-210 emit an alpha particle before it is needed. Here is the nuclear reaction for this step:
4Be9 + 2He4 + 1/2mv2 of α or alpha particle -----> 6C12 + n1 + KE of 6C12 + KE of n1; (this is gamma radiation)
what this says is, our starting materials consist of one mole of Be-9 reacted with one mole of He-4 to yield one mole of Carbon-12 and one neutron. The kinetic energy, KE, which is the product of the body’s mass and its velocity, in our reaction the body is the neutron, is moving at or near the speed of light and emitting energy in the form of heat. We call this energy in SI units, joules • second. That is the amount of heat being radiated from the motion of the neutron in the reaction. This neutron will be the driver for our explosion when it bombards another Uranium nucleon splitting it into two lighter elements and knocking loose on average two or three neutrons. The KE is important in this major step of the fission process.†
Kinetic energy is often ascribed to such phenomenon in Classical Mechanics as elastic and inelastic collisions. We will be using this physical process to help us make our own bomb, hypothetically. This prep information as we go along will simplify our understanding of what we are doing as the process gets more complicated.
If you have no knowledge of chemistry or nuclear physics don’t worry about it. The point of this commentary is to prove that what was done in the past nearly sixty years ago can now be done in a fraction of the time it took the physicists, engineers, and scientists, at Los Alamos New Mexico, to do from 1943 to 1945. The reason it took over two years to complete two bombs was because they were dealing with so many unknowns. Today many of these unknowns have been declassified and are available to the public. But that does not mean you can readily manufacture your own nuclear bomb. It means you have a opportunity to read how the bombs were made and the work energy that went into the whole process right up to the time they, Little Boy and Fat Man, were used to end the war with Japan. Moreover when you look at some of the photos of these two aforementioned primitively made bombs and compare them with nuclear bombs of today you can see just how far we’ve come in nuclear bomb design and structure.
Newton’s second law of motion states: force = mass x acceleration. What does this mean in terms of our nuclear bomb? One, it means we are going to need to compute how much force will be needed to trigger the explosion among other uses of the equation by design. Second, since we are focused on a type of technology, a certain type of geometry will almost undoubtedly play a major role in most of our calculations. That is to say, we want to manufacture the most efficient nuclear bomb, using the least amount of materials, but getting the maximum explosive yield available from all the inputs.
One of the most important steps in the making of a nuclear bomb is the ability to grasp the process of separation. This operation is used continuously in chemistry. I have done chemical separations in the lab and totally understand that the work can be easy and then again it can be hard as well as dangerous. In addition, there are many types of separation, such as, absorption, ionic, (that is using reagents) chromatography, spectrometry, crystallization, distillation, evaporation, electrophoresis, which I have done to separate proteins, and the list goes on. But one of the kinds of separations we are interested in is centrifugation, albeit on an industrial scale, the cost of electricity would make this process expensive and beyond the average man’s income possibly.
What are the principles of separation of any two elements from each other? Or, what do you need to know in order to find the best method of separation in our situation? This last question tells us we need to understand that if something is lighter, its mass, than something else, which may be heavier or lighter but not have the same mass, and they are mixed together in one of three states, liquid, solid, or gas, we may be able to purify each element by this particular property of different masses.
Therefore we need to have this data available, which can be found online. But for the most part we need to understand the Periodic Table. Preferably, one with names and atomic mass units. This data will provide us with vital information that will allow us to solve all kinds of physical problems as we move ahead with the making of our nuclear bomb.
Data such as, binding energies of nuclei and mass defect are essential. It would be good to know projectile motion and how to convert from a two dimensional x,y, coordinates system to a two dimensional r,θ, polar coordinate system. Albeit, this knowledge is not that important it would still be good to know it just in case. When it comes to reading data from older sources like the declassified book by Robert Serber, ‘the Los Alamos Primer’, or books on nuclear physics.
Thus far we have gathered a lot of information vital to our needs. But we have not talked about where we can go to get our U-238. I have stated the different types of minerals and rocks that have Uranium in some percentage but I have not said anything at all about where you might be able to find the stuff. Depleted Uranium is one source of the element. Then again, lets look at a random solid called Talc. Its composition is: Mg3Si4O10(OH)2, that is to say, it has three Magnesium atoms, four Silicon atoms, ten Oxygen atoms, and two Hydroxyl groups, attached to the inorganic structure of this complex molecule in some geometric formation. But as you can see essentially no Uranium. On the other hand, Potassium Uranyl Sulfate, K2UO2(SO4)2 appears to have U-238, in the form of Uranyl II Oxide, flanked by Potassium on its left and two Sulfate ions on its right. This we can separate out for purification.
If we arm ourselves with a Geiger counter and a UV light, then seek out rock sediments in woods, on banks of lakes, rivers, in plants, and quarries, our chances of finding the stuff gets better. The UV light will help us to see the radioactive substance, while the Geiger counter will provide us with two things. One, where the Uranium is, and how concentrated it is in rocks.
These devices are relatively inexpensive and can be bought over the counter. Many people collect minerals with Uranium in them.
So now we have some idea of where we can go to get our nuclear material for our bomb.
Next, we should have some apprehension of bomb design and metallurgy. The point being the container of the bomb must disallow the bomb from exploding until all the Uranium-235 nuclei have fissioned, which is about 85 to 100 daughter generations, called shakes, or equivalent to the natural logarithm of 2^n. If we substitute in the above numbers for example, 85 or 100 for the power n the answer gets close to infinity or it goes to infinity. This is a huge amount of energy in the form of heat being released. Hypothetically if we reinforce our container with an inner tamper, say U-238 to reflect perhaps nonfissionable material back into the mix, this will increase the overall KE of each individual neutron and thereafter the sum of our total KE should increase by some factor.††
According to the Federation of American Scientists, they tell us at their website, http://www.fas.org:
• The design and production of nuclear weapons in 1997 is a far
simpler process than it was during the Manhattan Project.
• Indigenous development of nuclear weapons is possible for
countries with industrial bases no greater than that of Iraq in 1990.
Given a source of fissile material, even terrorist groups could
construct their own nuclear explosive devices.
Certainly this informs us that our road to success is not merely idealistic. That in fact some rationale is operating from within to assert that what we are attempting is not impossible given the current limitations. Certainly we can run into government intervention and possibly arrest. But this is a paper to prove such possibilities do exist and are not crazy nor improbable.
Armed with the above information our next step is knowledge of basic classical and nuclear physics. Do we possess some rudimentary knowledge of these subjects? Can we do experiments in these disciplines? And do we understand the meaning of data we derive from these experiments within some margin of error? If all this is true than we can push ahead with our objective.
In Part II we will get into bomb design. This will be the most fascinating phase of building our A-bomb on paper. Also we will employ more of the Calculus to calculate force, distance, time, in seconds, and yields. We will try various combinations of geometries to figure out which one is the most advantageous for our purposes. So stay tuned for the second paper on this fascinating topic.
† Note: If this were a discussion about a nuclear reactor rather than fast neutrons for a A-bomb, we would be focused on slow neutrons as the topic of our talk.
†† When something is growing logarithmically it is increasing by a factor of 10. Examples, 10 x 1 = 10; 10 x 10 = 100; 10 x 10 x 10 = 1000; 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 = 10,000 etc. rather than, 1 x 2 x 3 x 4, etc. The latter could be the summation of:
ST = ∑ n-1; S = sum, T = total, n = 2 to ∞.
In a very short span of time, a fraction of a second, in many cases, growth can go to infinity. The graph is a curve at the points (0,1), x = 0, and y = 1. From there it curves upward increasing along the x-axis until it goes to infinity. There may be a vertical asymptote involved too at some number x = a on the x-axis.
Biography - Wesley McCants
Disabled Vietnam Veteran
In addition to writing commentaries, poetry and novels, I am one half of the macbrothers, Inc. We are songwriters and not artists or performers. We write music for others to perform or record. I do not do tours since I am not an artist. Like I said, we write & record our own songs and release them for purchase online. However, we are interested in nonprofessional or professional artists seeking songs. If you are an artist interested in songs for your album please email me. I will send you the demo and lyrics (and any changes to the lyrics), or you can listen online to our songs readily.