Is there a list which provides the nations that could, without either external expertise or external materials (say from current domestic inventory of nuclear energy industry), develop a nuclear weapon?

  • I found a list at fakeisthenewreal.org/capable but the source site is hard to navigate (and I had to use the Wayback Machine to do it). The map at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_proliferation can be of help. – liftarn Sep 18 '17 at 12:41
  • "without either external expertise or external materials" - many (if not most) current nuke club countries would not fit that. Heck, technically, USA had "external expertise" in the form of tons of immigrant scientists. – user4012 Sep 18 '17 at 12:53
  • This is not "off-topic". Geeze, stop the personal attacks, not the questions. Developing a nuke is a political enterprise. So who can build them, and why they haven't, is inherently a political question. – Christopher King Sep 18 '17 at 20:01
  • This "experiment", en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nth_Country_Experiment, seems to indicate that most countries could develop nuclear weapons... – DJohnM Sep 18 '17 at 21:42

This isn't the kind of thing that people list publicly. It would stand as a challenge to countries that are not on the list and serve as encouragement to those on the list. The closest official list would be the list of forty-eight countries in the Nuclear Suppliers Groups (NSG). The NSG is a list of countries that are officially approved to trade in nuclear materials, selling them to other countries. However, that list has some obvious omissions for this purpose.

In particular, the two candidate countries, India and Pakistan, already have nuclear weapons but aren't yet in the NSG. North Korea and Iran aren't on that list, but North Korea already has nuclear weapons and Iran should be considered a risk. Israel probably has nuclear weapons but is not in the NSG.

Without help

It's also worth noting that countries that have developed nuclear weapons in the past have generally had help from other countries. In some cases, they stole that help through espionage.

The United States had help from the United Kingdom and Canada in its Manhattan Project. This also included support from German citizens like Albert Einstein and Rudolf Peierls (who lived in the UK after the beginning of World War II) and French citizens like Bertrand Goldschmidt. The UK and France thus were also helped by the US and each other.

The Soviet Union took some of the German scientists after the war and was engaged in active espionage against the Allies.

China had help from the Soviet Union in their program.

Israel was helped by Jewish scientists around the world, possibly including some who worked on the Manhattan Project.

India was still part of the British empire at the end of World War II and bought some nuclear technology from the Soviet Union.

Pakistan bought technology from China and engaged in espionage to develop nuclear weapons.

North Korea had help from Pakistan and possibly China and Russia.

Iran has had help from Russia.

Perhaps there are countries that could develop nuclear weapons alone. But in practice, that's not the way that any did it.

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  • It seems many people though nuclear fission is as simple as a walk in a park, as there are little risks associated with the experiment itself. – mootmoot Sep 18 '17 at 17:03

Any sufficiently industrialized nation can develop nuclear weapons nowadays, especially if they invest vast amounts of money into it.

The principles behind nuclear fission and nuclear fusion are well understood by now all around the world and thus it is mostly a question of gaining access to raw materials and money to develop and run a nuclear weapons program.

I'd dare say that all of the G20 states could - if they are not already doing it or have done it - develop a fission weapon in 12-24 months and a fusion weapon in another 24-36 months if they really wanted to.

Even North Korea could develop fusion weapons. So except for some micro nations and some really really poor nations or failed states probably everyone could create nuclear weapons - albeit at the cost of their own population starving etc.

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  • There is problems with getting the raw materials which do not occur over the planet evenly and are not easily obtainable. It is not true that every industrialized nation has the technology. The shear amount of different technologies and disciplines that are required to create a nuclear bomb make it difficult to answer this question even for the head of the CIA. Just to get heavy water requires a huge investment. To shoot a rocket requires rocket science. – Frank Cedeno Sep 18 '17 at 13:23
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    No one said you need to put that thing on top of a rocket. And the problem for the CIA is not the knowledge and technology not being available but the problem arises from most of these technologies can be used for a lot of different things and thus it's difficult to track for what purpose they are used when they don't have to be declared as dual use tech. – Adwaenyth Sep 18 '17 at 14:23
  • Can you back up this answer? – indigochild Sep 18 '17 at 14:42
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    As I studied physics I know that the biggest problem a nation would run into would be obtaining (if it doesn't have it already) and refining the nuclear fuel to pure enough levels. Everything else can and literally is being used for thousands of other conventional applications from the most simple construction work to military grade explosives. – Adwaenyth Sep 18 '17 at 14:53

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