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Unmaking the BombA Fissile Material Approach to Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation$
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Harold A. Feiveson, Alexander Glaser, Zia Mian, and Frank N. von Hippel

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027748

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027748.001.0001

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The History of Fissile Material Production for Weapons

The History of Fissile Material Production for Weapons

(p.43) 3 The History of Fissile Material Production for Weapons
Unmaking the Bomb

Harold A. Feiveson

The MIT Press

The production of highly enriched uranium and/or plutonium is the key challenge for a state seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. This chapter summarizes these efforts in the 10 states that have built nuclear weapons, starting with the World War II United States’ Manhattan Project, which pioneered key technologies and set the template for the nuclear programs to follow. As part of the Cold War arms race, the Soviet Union (Russia) produced both more highly enriched uranium and plutonium than the United States. The United Kingdom, France and China had much smaller scale military fissile material production programs. All five of these states have ended the production of fissile materials for weapons. Israel produces its plutonium in a dedicated reactor and reprocessing plant provided by France. India and North Korea initially focused on plutonium, and Pakistan on highly enriched uranium but all now produce both fissile materials. South Africa based its weapons on indigenously produced highly enriched uranium and has ended production and dismantled all its nuclear weapons.

Keywords:   Manhattan Project, Highly enriched uranium, Plutonium, Uranium enrichment, Reprocessing

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