eli5: Why can’t countries that want to build Nukes build Nukes? Especially since several countries built them, some 75+ years ago

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eli5: Why can’t countries that want to build Nukes build Nukes? Especially since several countries built them, some 75+ years ago

In: Engineering

They can, given some time and money. Actually the hardest part is refining nuclear material sufficiently for use in weapons. After that building a functional (if not optimal) bomb is pretty easy.

But you can’t go buy any of the equipment off the shelf, you have to do it all in your own. And usually people quickly figure out you are trying and do everything they can to stop you.

There are two answers to this.

– They don’t have the technology to do so. Not every country is technologically advanced as the US, UK, Russia, etc. Some countries have been trying for a long time to perfect the technology to do it, but unsuccessfully.

– It’s not to the benefit of the globe that there are more nuclear powers. There are only 9 countries in the world that have Nuclear weapons, as far as we know. Imagine what would happen if more countries did? If some of the countries in the middle east had them. We could end up in a nuclear war. It’s bad enough that North Korea and some other countries have them. So the United Nations and some of its member countries have worked hard to make it so other countries don’t develop them, sometimes turning to violence. The world doesn’t want more nuclear countries. We recognize the potential for much violence if that happens. So we keep it from happening.

A few reasons. One, its very difficult from a technical and engineering perspective. You will need testing and practice in order to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to reliably manufacture nuclear warheads. That leads into the second problem is that it’s very time and labor intensive to acquire and enrich the necessary Uranium. It’s a big undertaking logistically just to get that part done, which is the part that hangs up a lot of countries. Thirdly you are now responsible for a bunch of nuclear weapons that require their own security and delivery specialties. This is not necessarily something that every country wants to deal with. Especially when most countries will not realistically find themselves in a situation where they need an all-or-nothing weapon like that. A nuclear weapon is primarily a defensive deterrent weapon, and so it is valuable for countries feeling at risk of being overrun as a last ditch effort. The vast majority of countries do not find themselves in this situation, so the only countries willing to put in the time and effort are either very rich or very afraid.

Can is a difficult word. If by “can” you mean has the physical capability, most countries have that. If they had the desire and the all-clear from the rest of the world, they absolutely could do it. If by can you mean “would be allowed to”, then the reason they can’t is that the international community and the current nuclear powers don’t want it to happen.

All of that is, of course, is a moot point because not many countries truly want nuclear weapons. It only makes them less safe. Once you let that nuclear genie out of the bottle, you paint a target on yourself. If you get into a war with another nuclear power, you risk far greater destruction than a conventional war could cause.

They can and do (see Israel, India, Pakistan, NK, South Africa, etc.), except for signatories to the non-proliferation treaty (if they feel compelled to take the treaty obligations seriously). Of course it’s expensive and difficult to do so, but the technology is not beyond the reach of most nations. For most though, it’s not in their economic interest to build nukes, but it does make sense for them to seem to want to. Diplomacy involves carrots and sticks. Shelving a nuclear program might yield some diplomatic and economic carrots, or provide latitude in other unseemly areas. Throw in sabotage by other countries (see [stuxnet](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuxnet) for example) and it’s a tough climb to get to nuclear capabilities even with adequate know how, funding and political will.

To add, it is also a geopolitical issue. Building nueclear weapons is highly threatening to your neighbors and violates a number of intentional treaties. There is a good chance you will end up isolated and sanctioned like North Koera and Iran. Or worse, just invaded during development, like Iraq or Libia. Most countries find that developing an alliance with a nuclear power gives sufficient protection without the massive international blow back. There is a reason the push in Ukrain to defend itself from Russia is to join NATO, not build a nuclear arsenal. It’s sort of a isolated basket case country that wants them to begin with.

Wow, lots of great answers and information in here.

I’m very anti-nuke, but have never really understood why countries that want them didn’t have nukes.

Nukes should be reserved for one purpose. Eliminating a hostile alien invasion (Zerg) before they get to Earth.

Making a nuclear weapon requires a recipe, just like making cookies. You need all of the right ingredients and you need to know how to use them.

You’re only five. You probably don’t have any money of your own, so you can’t even buy the ingredients. If you find a way to buy them, or you happen to find the ingredients laying around, your mom might punish you if you use them without permission, so you still might not be able to make your own cookies.

And you’re only five, so you might not know how to put all the ingredients together. Maybe your mom doesn’t want to teach you because she doesn’t want you making cookies whenever you want. The same as she doesn’t want you to make them even if you can get the ingredients. You’d ruin your dinner if you could have all the cookies you want! No cookies in the house!

Even if you have all of the ingredients *and* you know how to use them, a nuclear weapon also requires you to use some tools and machines and things, like making cookies requires an oven.

Your mom doesn’t want you to use the oven because you’re only five and she’s afraid you might hurt yourself. So, even if you know what the recipe is, you’re not supposed to use the oven. Maybe you don’t even know how. But if you do, you know that your mom might come in the kitchen and find cookies and a hot oven, and she’ll know you broke the rules. Then she’ll punish you, by taking things away.

So maybe you’re better off letting mom make the cookies. She’ll give you the cookies she thinks you should have, you won’t hurt yourself trying to learn the hard way how to make them, and you won’t get punished for trying to do it yourself.

Initially only a few powerful nations had the permission to build nuclear weapons. US, Russia , China etc. After the Indo – China war India started to develop our own nuclear weapons but was stopped by the CIA and the second time the CIA officials actually came to India with proof collected from their spy satellites.

India continued to make nuclear warhead over the next few years evading the US spy satellites and tested the warheads known as the Pokhran tests. After the tests were concluded CIA director apologised to the American public.

Short 5 min youtube clip :https://youtu.be/Rz6a_tXVP7c

You need weapons grade fuel, which you can’t buy on Amazon. The few countries that can supply it are very carefully monitored. You can also build a reactor to generate fuel, but the materials needed to do that are also specialized and carefully monitored.

Something I haven’t seen people here touch on is the payload delivery system.

Building a nuke is hard, but feasible for many nations.

What is more difficult is making a system that can deliver it to your potential target, otherwise what good is it?

75 years ago, they were dropped from big planes, but today? Those planes would be missile fodder and wouldn’t get close. Modern ICBMs are much harder to build. A reliable missile system is just as hard as building the explodey part itself.

Having nuclear weapons is the best way to avoid being attacked by the US (or any other country). The only reason the US hasn’t invaded North Korea is because they have nukes. If Iraq had nukes, no way would the US have invaded. “You only go to war when you know you’ve already won” as the mantra goes.