RE: MIL: Warfare Basics
Wed, 24 Mar 1999 04:07:50 -0800 (PST)

Billy Brown [] wrote:
>To build a nuke, you need either plutonium or enriched uranium. Producing
>either of these materials requires a capital investment on the order of
>hundreds of millions of dollars (or much more if you want to produce it in

False. A laser seperation setup would probably be down in the millions for volume production. Note how scared the Feds became when they learnt that China had stolen the details of their laser seperation system.

Anyway, so what if it did cost a hundred million dollars? That just means that you have to mark up the cost of the uranium and plutonium a bit when you sell it to your customers; that's the great thing about mass production. If you sell enough material for ten thousand nukes the nukes will just cost $10,000 more than they otherwise would.

>You also need special explosives (and thus a dedicated explosives
>manufacturing plant),

As far as I'm aware, C4-level explosives are perfectly adequate for implosion bombs; the problem is shaping it correctly, not explosive force... and a) the basic details of the technology are now in the public domain and b) the rest is mostly a simulation problem which is now cheap.

Someone mentioned gunpowder: that's borderline for gun-type bombs, but it should work. That said, it would probably be so inefficient that you'd spend far more buying extra uranium than you'd spend on buying proper explosives in the first place. C4 will definitely work well for gun bombs, and it's cheap.

>very high precision manufacturing (still rather

Depends on how efficient a bomb you want to make... and again it's more applicable to implosion bombs than gun bombs. Even then it's probably cheap compared to the basic cost of the uranium or plutonium.

>and some special electronics (probably adaptable from civilian

Not for a gun bomb, and the electronics themselves are cheap; they're only expensive today because the governments work hard to keep them out of anyone else's hands.

>If technology advances bring the
>cost of a nuke down to a few thousand dollars,

Uh, the figures I've seen for the cost to the US government for a modern nuke are around $250,000; and that's with very limited production. Mass production should bring the cost down a lot lower, though I very much doubt it would reach the $10,000 figure someone else quoted. Even without mass production, a one-off gun bomb would probably only cost you a couple of million dollars.

>If you are going to assume that future technology increases the ability of
>the individual to purchase expensive hardware by three orders of magnitude,

Who's assuming that? Building space launchers is pretty much a cottage industry these days, and building a short-range solid-fuelled missile capable of carrying a nuke for a few hundred miles would not be hard, or terribly expensive; you could knock them out in bulk for another couple of hundred thousand dollars, if not less. If a half-million dollar nuclear missile can wipe out a thousand soldiers and a hundred $20million tanks, it's well worth having.

And even if you can't afford to launch them on a missile, why not bury them in front of the advancing forces, or drive them over in a truck? The Palestinians never had a problem finding people willing to blow themselves up in the name of freedom.