Defence Q&A how long does it take for a nation with a nuclear power plant to get nukes?

heartbang

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how easy it is to achieve nukes with an existing infastructure, assuming the legal framework is legit?
 
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Turkiye has the capability to mine uranium, turn it into the yellow cake, and enrich it via centrifuges and Turkiye can manufacture those centrifuges nationally in extremely high numbers without any need for foreign help. In fact, it was Turkiye that helped Pakistan with its own centrifuges. Turkiye has the capability to design and produce the electronic detonation system needed to trigger a nuclear bomb. Other than the delivery systems those things are what you need to get a nuke.

Gessler

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"How long it takes" depends on variables like how much you are prepared to spend, how many qualified nuclear scientists are available, how much working experience they have with nuclear tech, how much new infrastructure you have to build, what level of secrecy you need to follow etc. A country like Japan for example could theoretically make a working nuke in not more than 1-2 years from the green light. But it could be longer (decade or more) for someone new to the field, like Iran for example. As an analogy, before you build a factory to make cars, you have a build a factory to make tires, engines, lights etc.

An effective modern deterrence posture requires Plutonium-based fission/boosted-fission warheads. However, the plain old Uranium bombs are also nukes and deliver similar effects, though less efficient.

The biggest obstacle (besides having the reactors) is the construction and operation of enrichment facilities to make weapons-grade uranium (above 95% enriched U). Reactors require fuel of a much lower enrichment (5-20%) which can be imported under safeguards, but other than that you only need reactors for the tritium.

The most important part of building an actual bomb however are the enrichment facilities - which are difficult to hide. Iran for example has turned on its first reactor 11 years ago but they keep failing to make the enrichment work (partly due to incompetence, and partly due to Israeli sabotage).

Making plutonium bombs would require additional infrastructure in the form of reprocessing facilities to extract the Pu (and subsequentially enrich it into WG-Pu).
 

Yasar

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Having nuclear power plants doesn’t mean you are going to be able to make nuclear bombs.
Like in the case of Turkey, Akkuyu power plant’s used Uranium will be taken away by the Russians. So there is no chance for Turkey enriching Uranium of Akkuyu. Also whatever used uranium we obtain in Cekmece reactor, we give it to the US authorities as part of our agreement with non proliferation of nuclear weapons.
There is also the matter of Fission and Fusion. Atom bomb (fission) is the simplest form of nuclear weapon to have. Next stage is Hydrogen Bomb, thermonuclear (Fusion). This is more important as you get a lot more destructive power with it.
Without having to detonate both of them a few times you can never be sure you have a fully operating one. That is the biggest give away. Then comes the delivery system. N Korea has only recently managed to detonate a thermonuclear device. But still lacking a fully functioning delivery system to reach the heart of US.
It is a long, expensive, dangerous and a very controversial process.
But any country that can build a nuclear power plant on their own, can build an atom bomb within a year or so.
 
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heartbang

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Having nuclear power plants doesn’t mean you are going to be able to make nuclear bombs.
Like in the case of Turkey, Akkuyu power plant’s used Uranium will be taken away by the Russians. So there is no chance for Turkey enriching Uranium of Akkuyu. Also whatever used uranium we obtain in Cekmece reactor, we give it to the US authorities as part of our agreement with non proliferation of nuclear weapons.
im not interested in the legality of that, i assumed i was clear when i said "assuming the legal framework is legit?"
 

Yasar

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im not interested in the legality of that, i assumed i was clear when i said "assuming the legal framework is legit?"
”Assuming legal framework is legit” is a very open ended supposition.
1. If you are talking about legitimate legality related to nuclear bombs, then you are talking about a country that has signed nuclear non-proliferation treaty and has not got nuclear bombs. That means, that country can not build a bomb if it is going to stay legal in international platforms.
2. If it is a country that already is a nuclear power, then they are bound by international laws if they are party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
3. Any other country that doesn’t recognise the legal framework of non-proliferation treaty is assumed as a rogue state and treated as such like in the case of N Korea and Iran.

Other than that, I think you have your answers;

1. The country has to behave as a rogue state.
2. It has to have nuclear reactors that it can fuel, and keep Uranium to enrich.
3. Since it is going to be a learning curve for the country, it would take many years to develop an atom bomb. Iran’s first reactor was finished in 2011. But it was in 2003 when news was leaked to international media that Iran was clandestinely working on nuclear weapons. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) clearly stated that in 2011 Iran was working on nuclear weapons development. To this date, they still haven’t got a nuclear weapon. So on your own it is not that easy.
But a country like Germany or Japan that can build it’s own reactors, can build an atomic bomb within a year.
 

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I'd like to add that a reactor is not necessary at all.

In fact there is no reactor involved in creation of U-235....it is purely a refinement process.

One can simply enrich uranium (235) to the high degree (from bulk ore) needed with just centrifuges and so on.

Both the rudimentary (inefficient) gun type bomb or (more advanced) implosion device can both be fabricated with highly enriched U-235 material.....and no reactor is involved in any of this.

The design choice elected there depends on the country's technical and manufacturing ability....and that would then dictate the time it takes to develop one.

A gun type bomb is a horrible waste of uranium 235 (less than 10% of the potential is harnessed)....which is why implosion design is preferred given the costs involved of producing the HEU to being with.

Regardless, the time considerations (for gun type bomb) are only the enrichment technology and production of enough material, it can be done within a year...or it can take a lot longer than that as these supply chains are heavily monitored, fairly easily detected and sanctioned/pressured.

Implosion type would need some years of research into the much more precise fabrication and assembly needed and the cold testing for it. That totally depends on the country capacity and/or whom it is able to cooperate with and/or get assistance/designs from etc.

======================================================================

The only reason you want to use a reactor (for fissile WMD material) is for production of Plutonium 239.

A reactor is the only known steady producer of neutron flux to achieve U-238 neutron capture to change it to Pu-239.

If a country has a nuclear power reactor, it will have to:

- violate IAEA safeguards (unless it has prior reactors not subject to IAEA)
- understand the science for optimal neutron flux for Pu neutron capture (its different compared to regular power generation)
- design and implement a U-238 bedding/blanket for that reactor with an optimal extraction process

No reprocessing capability is technically needed as you can design these points to say extract Pu-239 quickly and frequently.

i.e Unfavourable Pu-240 build up etc becomes an issue only if you leave the material in the neutron flux too long.

Though bedding and extraction is often most optimal when you do have reprocessing available since you can insert more U-238 in bulk for longer times and improve yields.

Plutonium production from a power reactor thus depends on the reactor design (i.e its max neutron flux) in question and many other variables.

Then you would add the same implosion device RnD to this.....as a gun type rudimentary design is impossible for Pu-239 (given even the smallest amount of Pu-240 among it fizzles it out).

Once you have enough reactors, the economies of scale for Pu-239 are far better than U-235 (centrifuge) route.

This is all only atomic (fission) device of course.... boosted device and fusion devices (which achieve much greater destructive potentials in both absolute and efficiency levels) require more research time after the fission "primary".
 

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- violate IAEA safeguards (unless it has prior reactors not subject to IAEA)

If it does this, it will have to have enough Uranium ore reserves domestically or some other way of acquiring it....as all uranium trade for IAEA power purposes will be halted by all IAEA signatories at the minimum.
 

Agha Sher

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@TheInsider, what is the probability of Turkey already having/operating a few nuclear research reactors in secrecy for trianing of nuclear scientists and gaining experience in military and civilian nuclear technology? I guess Pakistan could secretly be helping Turkey.
 

heartbang

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@TheInsider, what is the probability of Turkey already having/operating a few nuclear research reactors in secrecy for trianing of nuclear scientists and gaining experience in military and civilian nuclear technology? I guess Pakistan could secretly be helping Turkey.
what we most need is centrifuges. what about those?
 

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China got nuclear plants several decades later after she got nukes.
First atomic bomb: 1964
First hydrogen bomb: 1967
First nuclear plant: 1994
 
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Yasar

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@xizhimen and @Nilgiri have given the answer to many questions here.
What you need are Uranium, centrifuges and most importantly the nuclear knowhow. With Cekmece reactor -albeit small- operating for many decades now, we should have the knowhow needed. If there is a will there is a way. We don’t need Pakistan to help us with technology that much. May be with thermonuclear reaction we may need a little help. Most important point in these matters is the testing. Underground testing is the way to go. But that too can be registered by other countries that see themselves as the policemen of the world. Yet these countries are still helpless when countries like Israel or N Korea become nuclear powers.
Or another option is; simply trade something for a few thermonuclear bombs. Better still buy the complete tech from a friendly country clandestinely and arm your missiles just in case. We can’t be in a geography where countries like Israel, Russia and Iran can wield their nuclear capability over us, like the sword of Damocles.
 

Agha Sher

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@xizhimen and @Nilgiri have given the answer to many questions here.
What you need are Uranium, centrifuges and most importantly the nuclear knowhow. With Cekmece reactor -albeit small- operating for many decades now, we should have the knowhow needed. If there is a will there is a way. We don’t need Pakistan to help us with technology that much. May be with thermonuclear reaction we may need a little help. Most important point in these matters is the testing. Underground testing is the way to go. But that too can be registered by other countries that see themselves as the policemen of the world. Yet these countries are still helpless when countries like Israel or N Korea become nuclear powers.
Or another option is; simply trade something for a few thermonuclear bombs. Better still buy the complete tech from a friendly country clandestinely and arm your missiles just in case. We can’t be in a geography where countries like Israel, Russia and Iran can wield their nuclear capability over us, like the sword of Damocles.

Then question is, what is the probability for Turkey secretly designing, experimenting and producing centrifuges?

Erdogan has several times hinted that Turkey wants nukes. Also, Turkey cannot sit back till Iran gets nkes and then after that start from 0 with their nuke programme.
 

TheInsider

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Turkiye has the capability to mine uranium, turn it into the yellow cake, and enrich it via centrifuges and Turkiye can manufacture those centrifuges nationally in extremely high numbers without any need for foreign help. In fact, it was Turkiye that helped Pakistan with its own centrifuges. Turkiye has the capability to design and produce the electronic detonation system needed to trigger a nuclear bomb. Other than the delivery systems those things are what you need to get a nuke.
 
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Turkiye has the capability to mine uranium, turn it into the yellow cake, and enrich it via centrifuges and Turkiye can manufacture those centrifuges nationally in extremely high numbers without any need for foreign help. In fact, it was Turkiye that helped Pakistan with its own centrifuges. Turkiye has the capability to design and produce the electronic detonation system needed to trigger a nuclear bomb. Other than the delivery systems those things are what you need to get a nuke.
Huh. So theoretically, if the issue of delivery systems is worked out, Turkey could have functioning nukes in 2-3 years?
 

TheInsider

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Huh. So theoretically, if the issue of delivery systems is worked out, Turkey could have functioning nukes in 2-3 years?
Yes pretty much. Developing a warhead is easy for Turkiye. Current Turkish uranium reserves are around 40k tonnes but there are a lot of promising areas we never looked at because well it was a waste of time. Most of the reserve studies are done as a scientific endeavor.
 

Agha Sher

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Turkiye has the capability to mine uranium, turn it into the yellow cake, and enrich it via centrifuges and Turkiye can manufacture those centrifuges nationally in extremely high numbers without any need for foreign help. In fact, it was Turkiye that helped Pakistan with its own centrifuges. Turkiye has the capability to design and produce the electronic detonation system needed to trigger a nuclear bomb. Other than the delivery systems those things are what you need to get a nuke.

could Turkey be running centrifuges in secrecy or is it to difficult to hide?
 

Nilgiri

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There is remote sensing employed to detect domestic uranium mining + processing.

I believe Turkey has so far not operationalised any of its uranium reserves....or imported bulk ore to create future stockpile.

Doing these will be the only way Turkey can enrich uranium without an externally monitored and pressured supply chain (IAEA or otherwise).

Running centrifuges secretly does not enter the picture currently till you do the necessary prerogatives more openly.
 

heartbang

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Turkiye has the capability to mine uranium, turn it into the yellow cake, and enrich it via centrifuges and Turkiye can manufacture those centrifuges nationally in extremely high numbers without any need for foreign help. In fact, it was Turkiye that helped Pakistan with its own centrifuges. Turkiye has the capability to design and produce the electronic detonation system needed to trigger a nuclear bomb. Other than the delivery systems those things are what you need to get a nuke.
how is Turkiye doing on the subject of WG-plutonium production and fusion bomb development?
 
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