"Fabricating a Bomb Is 'Child's Play.'"
Hardly. An editorialist in Nature, the esteemed scientific journal, did apply that characterization to the manufacture of uranium bombs, as opposed to plutonium bombs, last January, but even that seems an absurd exaggeration. Younger, the former Los Alamos research director, has expressed his amazement at how "self-declared 'nuclear weapons experts,' many of whom have never seen a real nuclear weapon," continue to "hold forth on how easy it is to make a functioning nuclear explosive." Uranium is "exceptionally difficult to machine," he points out, and "plutonium is one of the most complex metals ever discovered, a material whose basic properties are sensitive to exactly how it is processed." Special technology is required, and even the simplest weapons require precise tolerances. Information on the general idea for building a bomb is available online, but none of it, Younger says, is detailed enough to "enable the confident assembly of a real nuclear explosive."
A failure to appreciate the costs and difficulties of a nuclear program has led to massive overestimations of the ability to fabricate nuclear weapons. As the 2005 Silberman-Robb commission, set up to investigate the intelligence failures that led to the Iraq war, pointed out, it is "a fundamental analytical error" to equate "procurement activity with weapons system capability." That is, "simply because a state can buy the parts does not mean it can put them together and make them work."
For example, after three decades of labor and well over $100 million in expenditures, Libya was unable to make any progress whatsoever toward an atomic bomb. Indeed, much of the country's nuclear material, surrendered after it abandoned its program, was still in the original boxes.