One of the great things about being unemployed is you have the time to truly indulge those ideas you have always had, but perhaps never had the chance to deploy because of work commitments. That musical instrument you wanted to learn, that book you wanted to write or that drug you wanted to try – all are now possible now that you don’t have to spend 8 hours a day working in an office.
With that in mind, have you ever considered building your own nuclear bomb? The way things are going between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un at the moment, it might require the efforts of an outsider with their own big red button to make them see the sense in not obliterating the entire planet simply because of a deep seeded hatred of one’s hairdresser.
If smashing uranium particles together whilst ignoring nuclear non-proliferation treaties sounds like it could be a blast (pun fully intended btw), here’s what you’ll need to do to build your own nuclear bomb:
1. Decide on the type of nuclear bomb you’d like to build
There’s basically two types of nuclear bomb design that you could go for if waging war on a foreign enemy is your bag. You could either use a gun-type design, which is the easier of the two to construct and works by bringing two pieces of fissile material together that are not themselves at ‘critical mass,’ but reach criticality as a result of their combined weight. The other way is to use the implosion design which uses an assortment of explosives to compress the nuclear material together. The latter approach requires less fissile material so might be more useful if you’re only able to secure a finite amount from a dodgy Ukranian businessman that has managed to ‘acquire’ some that was left over from cold war manufacturing facilities.
2. Acquire some nuclear material
You’ll need to use either Uranium or Plutonium to make your nuclear bomb. Whereas Uranium is a metal that can be found naturally in the earth’s rock and mined much like any other ore, Plutonium is only found naturally in trace amounts. This of course is completely contrary to Doc Brown’s 1955 prediction in Back to the Future that Plutonium will be readily available on supermarket shelves by the year 1985 – it isn’t, and is in fact harder to get hold of than gold plated selfie sticks!
3. Make sure your nuclear material is ‘fissile’
If nuclear material is ‘fissile,’ this basically means that its nuclei can be split by bombarding it with neutrons which in turn cause a self-sustaining chain reaction. The splitting of each nucleus releases additional neutrons which themselves go on to split the other neighbouring nuclei. Each nucleus split or ‘fission’ releases a large amount of energy, hence the reason why you should never split atoms at home on your own without a responsible adult being present.
4. Enrich your Uranium
Natural Uranium mainly contains the 238 isotope which is the sum of the number of protons and neutrons in the atom’s nucleus. For a fully-functioning nuclear bomb however, Uranium needs to be specially treated to concentrate the 235 isotope within it which only comprises about 0.07% of unenriched Uranium – therefore it’s the equivalent of looking for a very radioactive needle in a haystack. You enrich Uranium by spinning it at very high speed in a gas form using a centrifuge and this process causes the lighter 235 isotopes to separate from the heavier 238 ones. A single centrifuge can only really produce a modest amount, so you’ll need to employ a large number of centrifuges to generate enough fissile material to make your bomb. This is the main reason why the rest of the world gets its knickers in a twist when the likes of Iran and North Korea place an order for 12,000 centrifuges on Alibaba claiming they’re being used for ‘scientific research,’ only.
5. …………or obtain Plutonium from a nuclear reactor
In the absence of Waitrose selling nuclear weapons grade Plutonium at its deli counter, you’ll need to acquire some from a nuclear reactor. Nuclear weapons tend to be made with plutonium 239, which is the most fissile of the plutonium isotopes although all types of plutonium are considered to be of weapons grade. Plutonium is created as a by-product from nuclear reactors and is extracted from the reactor fuel rods via a complex process known as “reprocessing.”
6. Make sure you have enough
You’ll need about 50kg of enriched Uranium or 10kg of Plutonium to make a half-decent nuclear bomb – any less than that and it’ll be a bit like trying to light a firework in the rain. This is because your fissile material needs to be at its ‘critical mass’ before you can expect a mushroom cloud and the utter devastation of a large city as a result of a nuclear chain reaction, so make sure you have a decent set of weighing scales before declaring war on your enemy.
7. Declare war on someone
Feel free to threaten foreign powers now that you have your nuclear bomb built, or maybe your ex-boss would like to know what your current status is in terms of being able to exact revenge on someone that has caused you problems in the past. All we ask is that you make sure that you’re either (a) in a different continent to whoever you aim your nuclear weapon at or (b) you are in possession of factor 1,000,000 sunblock – or attending job interviews when you finally decide to seek work again will be as likely as Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un settling their differences with a game of paper, rock, scissors.