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Tom Mazanec
2012-Apr-19, 06:37 PM
How much would a nuclear bomb cost, if you could buy one at the store?

antoniseb
2012-Apr-19, 07:19 PM
Do you mean if a minimal sized Hydrogen bomb was getting mass produced with all the efficiencies of modern industry? or do you mean based on supply and demand in the world today what would they cost? Or do you mean with material and labor costs in the market today, what would it cost?

Tom Mazanec
2012-Apr-19, 07:42 PM
Actually, I thought those three would be about the same.
How about giving the three answers, or at least which ones you want to.

antoniseb
2012-Apr-19, 07:46 PM
Actually, I thought those three would be about the same.
How about giving the three answers, or at least which ones you want to.

I don't have three answers. The question you ask is difficult, and I didn't want to spend the time required for three answers... hence my request to narrow what you're asking. I take it, since you thought they's be the same, that any answer would do. I am also assuming you are asking for some reason having to do with spaceflight or astronomy.

Ara Pacis
2012-Apr-19, 07:50 PM
Well, if I know a guy who works with them and wants to stick it to the man and will steal one for me (and then hide out in Bolivia), I might be able to get it for next to nothing, more if he wants me to pay for his retirement.

Tom Mazanec
2012-Apr-19, 08:54 PM
Not "any" answer ($9.95?), one that is actually close to what a nuke would cost, if they could legally be purchased in, say, a gun store.
And no, nothing astronomical, else I would have posted this in Space/Astronomy Questions and Answers, instead of Science and Technology.

Shaula
2012-Apr-19, 09:09 PM
It is a really hard question to answer - with most goods you are paying for more than the cost of the raw materials, you are paying for the development and other costs. The costs of the raw materials is tough as well - a lot of the specialist ones are very expensive now because they are tightly regulated and only made by a few highly specialist teams. If these things were made commercially then the prices would probably bear little relationship to the actual materials cost.

And when you say nuclear bomb - do you mean a uranium one? Plutonium? Fission-fusion bomb?

It is really hard to tease out actual per-unit costs for these things since the programs they are currently built under tend to include things like safety and security in their budget. Presumably if they were available at the corner store then secure storage sites would not be required!

Swift
2012-Apr-20, 03:06 AM
There is also (thank goodness) not a free market of suppliers and customers for such items, so it is hard to set a fair market price. And, they are not made in such large numbers, that you get the discounts of scale common in most other goods. Lastly, as Shaula pointed out, I suspect a lot of the cost is in developing the technologies.

JustAFriend
2012-Apr-20, 03:53 PM
You can't really put a free-market price on something that should never be on the free-market.

Ara Pacis
2012-Apr-20, 05:37 PM
You can't really put a free-market price on something that should never be on the free-market.Sure you can: Slavery.

Back to the topic. Perhaps if he wants to do the work himself you could just price him the material cost for the U or Pu, explosive lenses, neutron reflector and generator. Just assume that it became legal and some upstart wanted to manufacture them from plans without having to do R&D. Just as soon as he tells us what type of nuke he wants. Or should we just quote him Little Boy as a price leader?

Grey
2012-Apr-20, 06:23 PM
The cost to produce a Minuteman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGM-30_Minuteman), the only land-based ICBM currently in service in the United States, is $7 million. I'm not sure how much of that is the "physics package" and how much is the delivery device, but hey, what good is a nuclear weapon if you can't launch it?

NEOWatcher
2012-Apr-20, 06:37 PM
Sure you can: Slavery.
Unfortunately there was an unrestricted free market for that at one time, so it's not really the same.

Extravoice
2012-Apr-20, 06:44 PM
Word on the street is that there is 1 MT bomb available "free for the taking" off the coast of Georgia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1958_Tybee_Island_mid-air_collision) if you can find it.

The US government says that if you find it, they want it back. Spoil sports. ;)

Squink
2012-Apr-20, 07:45 PM
Quick calc of essential fission starting material costs:

Fusion or fission bomb, you need a fission core. Plutonium runs about $4000 a gram (http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2008/AndrewMorel.shtml). Uranium (0.7% U235) about $140 a kg (http://www.uxc.com/review/uxc_Prices.aspx).
Little Boy contained 64 kg (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Boy) of enriched Uranium.
A plutonium device needs at least 16 kg of Pu 239 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapon_design#Pure_fission_weapons) in order to function.

Assuming purchased Pu is 100% Pu239:
16000 * $4000 = $64,000,000 per bomb, plus parts and labor.

Assuming purchased U is 0.7% U235 (and enriching it to 90%) (7.8g prod/kg starting material)
8205kg * $140 = $1,150,000 per bomb, plus parts and labor. Perhaps double that due to inefficiency of enrichment.

BigDon
2012-Apr-20, 08:01 PM
Okay wait now!

A large part of the cost is the process of getting it to all fit in a small, mobile package.

Some proof of concept nuclear devices were made the size of buildings, because it's easier and small size wasn't the point of the experiment.

It's odd to look at an entire building as a nuclear warhead by the way.

HenrikOlsen
2012-Apr-21, 07:25 AM
You can't really put a free-market price on something that should never be on the free-market.
You can if it IS on the free market. Never mind if it shouldn't be.

Solfe
2012-Apr-21, 05:44 PM
As I read through this thread, this line from Contact kept popping up in my head:
"First rule in government spending: why build one when you can have two at twice the price?"

Strange
2012-Apr-21, 05:57 PM
Word on the street is that there is 1 MT bomb available "free for the taking" off the coast of Georgia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1958_Tybee_Island_mid-air_collision) if you can find it.

One went missing off the coast of Okinawa as well: Broken Arrow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B43_nuclear_bomb#Broken_Arrow).
"I don't know what's scarier, losing nuclear weapons, or that it happens so often there's actually a term for it."



"Tom! There are two gentlemen in dark suits and sunglasses here to talk to you..."

tlbs101
2012-Apr-21, 10:15 PM
According to a report or book listed by Brookings ( http://www.brookings.edu/projects/archive/nucweapons/silverberg.aspx ) the US has spent $5.5Trillion to produce all nukes since 1940. According to http://www.rense.com/general47/global.htm the US has produced approximately 70,400 weapons of various yields and configurations for that $5.5T.

That works out to US$78million, each.

Solfe
2012-Apr-21, 11:39 PM
I would place the value on a Davy Crockett (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Crockett_%28nuclear_device%29) much lower than. I might pay $78 million not to be the guy firing it. It had a range of 1.7 miles. I don't care if it only had a "sub-kiloton" warhead, I would want to be many more miles away than the 1.7 mile range. :(

SkepticJ
2012-Apr-22, 12:39 AM
The claim that the ionizing radiation would be the most deadly effect sounds fishy to me. I think the shock wave from the equivalent of ten tonnes of TNT going off a few hundred meters from your location would ruin your day more than the flux of x-rays.

Solfe
2012-Apr-22, 01:06 AM
I googled around and came across this article (http://www.damninteresting.com/davy-crockett-king-of-the-atomic-frontier/). I can't tell if the author is being tongue in cheek or is going for the whole 1950's nuclear happy vibe.

This thing looks like an Atomic Molotov Cocktail.

tlbs101
2012-Apr-22, 04:11 AM
I would place the value on a Davy Crockett (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Crockett_%28nuclear_device%29) much lower than. I might pay $78 million not to be the guy firing it. It had a range of 1.7 miles. I don't care if it only had a "sub-kiloton" warhead, I would want to be many more miles away than the 1.7 mile range. :(

I used to work at the test site (but long after atmospheric and Davy Crockett testing were completed).

The old joke around the test site was that they name the test after the poor soldier who was assigned to press the fire button -- presumably in memorium. That probably contributed (a little bit) to the device never being fully deployed.

I got to see the whole Davy Crockett setup, including an empty grenade case and the firing control console, at the National Museum of Nuclear Science -- just two weeks ago.

And... I agree that a 20 Ton device should cost far less than a 20 kiloton or 20 Megaton device.

Solfe
2012-Apr-22, 05:18 AM
The claim that the ionizing radiation would be the most deadly effect sounds fishy to me. I think the shock wave from the equivalent of ten tonnes of TNT going off a few hundred meters from your location would ruin your day more than the flux of x-rays.

As far as atomic weapons go, it may be nothing. It MIGHT not vaporize you, but I suspect it would be exactly like having Godzilla stomp on you.

In the second link I posted, it is actually a modeler doing research for a project. He has some mad scale modeling skills, but perhaps the research stopped at the looks of the weapon.

Shaula
2012-Apr-22, 06:01 AM
The old joke around the test site was that they name the test after the poor soldier who was assigned to press the fire button -- presumably in memorium. That probably contributed (a little bit) to the device never being fully deployed.
The Mark 45 torpedo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_45_torpedo) (11 kt) was deployed - and the Soviets had something similar. And that one would probably have been 100+ men dead every time you ordered one fired. Definite weapon of last resort. They also had nuclear depth charges. Personally I'd want those things launched from a carrier catapult....

Trakar
2012-Apr-22, 05:22 PM
How much would a nuclear bomb cost, if you could buy one at the store?

That is more of a Market question than component question. With a large enough industrialization effort the prices of the individual components could easily plummet (could probably get overall price down into the range of a lower end luxury car). If you are talking current conditions, then you are talking black-market which has its own seperate market structure, so it is more a matter of what the party who has the device is willing to sell it for and how much the party who wants the device is willing to pay for it.

A few tens of (to a hundred or so) millions of dollars is probably a good rough estimate for most plausible situations.

Trakar
2012-Apr-22, 05:24 PM
The cost to produce a Minuteman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGM-30_Minuteman), the only land-based ICBM currently in service in the United States, is $7 million. I'm not sure how much of that is the "physics package" and how much is the delivery device, but hey, what good is a nuclear weapon if you can't launch it?

That is just the delivery platform cost, payload price is a seperate issue.

Trakar
2012-Apr-22, 05:34 PM
Quick calc of essential fission starting material costs:

Fusion or fission bomb, you need a fission core. Plutonium runs about $4000 a gram (http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2008/AndrewMorel.shtml). Uranium (0.7% U235) about $140 a kg (http://www.uxc.com/review/uxc_Prices.aspx).
Little Boy contained 64 kg (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Boy) of enriched Uranium.
A plutonium device needs at least 16 kg of Pu 239 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapon_design#Pure_fission_weapons) in order to function.

Assuming purchased Pu is 100% Pu239:
16000 * $4000 = $64,000,000 per bomb, plus parts and labor.

Assuming purchased U is 0.7% U235 (and enriching it to 90%) (7.8g prod/kg starting material)
8205kg * $140 = $1,150,000 per bomb, plus parts and labor. Perhaps double that due to inefficiency of enrichment.

You're leaving out manufacturing, labor, shipping & handling, and let's not forget profit!

BTW - your mass of Pu is a bit heavy, you'd definitely be tickling the dragon's tail trying to stack that much into a pit assembly - if you are good with your lens design you can get by with almost half that much Pu. But then you are putting money into the design and manufacture which is probably more expensive than more Pu and a more robust and simple design.

Trakar
2012-Apr-22, 05:37 PM
I would place the value on a Davy Crockett (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Crockett_%28nuclear_device%29) much lower than. I might pay $78 million not to be the guy firing it. It had a range of 1.7 miles. I don't care if it only had a "sub-kiloton" warhead, I would want to be many more miles away than the 1.7 mile range. :(

As long as there is a ditch nearby, no worries!

BigDon
2012-Apr-22, 10:15 PM
The Mark 45 torpedo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_45_torpedo) (11 kt) was deployed - and the Soviets had something similar. And that one would probably have been 100+ men dead every time you ordered one fired. Definite weapon of last resort. They also had nuclear depth charges. Personally I'd want those things launched from a carrier catapult....

Shaula, if I recall correctly things like this are usually delieved as a submunition to an ASROC. The rocket propels it over the submerged sub, then releases it over the submarines head to both lower the reaction time and increase the stand-off.

Shaula
2012-Apr-23, 05:35 AM
Sadly the 45 could not be used like that - it was a wire guided sub-launched weapon. Plus it weighed six times as much as a standard ASROC weapon, the 46 (without the nuclear charge). The depth charges (Mark 101 and later a variant of the B57) were air dropped. There was a nuclear warhead for the ASROC, it was the W44 (the W34 was the one on the type 45).

The 45 really was there to deal with targets that nothing else could get - the very deep diving Soviet subs that scared the west so badly. Then they built their ADCAP models and the need for such a weapon went away. I think the Soviet version's stated use was to remove an aircraft carrier group. In either case they were basically only for use in a scenario that meant a) the sub would be killed for sure trying to stop the threat on its own and b) the consequences of the threat getting through were considered too high to pass up the opportunity to destroy it.

Ilya
2012-Apr-23, 08:57 PM
Word on the street is that there is 1 MT bomb available "free for the taking" off the coast of Georgia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1958_Tybee_Island_mid-air_collision) if you can find it.

The US government says that if you find it, they want it back. Spoil sports. ;)
How much is US governement willing to pay me to find it?

chornedsnorkack
2012-Apr-24, 12:10 PM
There is also (thank goodness) not a free market of suppliers and customers for such items, so it is hard to set a fair market price. And, they are not made in such large numbers, that you get the discounts of scale common in most other goods. Lastly, as Shaula pointed out, I suspect a lot of the cost is in developing the technologies.

True, but it is precisely the lack of free market which through monopsony could assure pricing at real cost.

A sole buyer military is not going to want to pay market/monopoly prices to the suppliers whose alternative is going out of the market. On the other hand, they do not want to bankrupt their suppliers either - so independent suppliers should be getting the actual cost plus some profit, and military´s own departments should be getting the real costs and no profit whatsoever.

Unless the military contractors are being given extra profits as political cronies.

Regarding the development costs, for an independent contractor these may be hidden into net price as business secrets - but they may not, especially for own department. If the development and tooling costs are fully paid for to produce the first batch of arms, then the subsequent batches may be produced at pure marginal cost.

How much details of the costs of nuclear warheads are publicly available to Congress and private voters to see whether the masses of nuclear warheads cost what is budgeted for them or whether the military budget contains waste or worse?

Extravoice
2012-Apr-24, 12:21 PM
How much is US government willing to pay me to find it?

Nothing. I stumbled across a TV program a while back (not sure which channel, maybe NatGeo, or H2) where they interviewed a retired guy who spends his time looking for the bomb. He says that he is under strict instructions not to disturb it (duh!) if he finds it, and to alert the authorities so they can fetch it.

He says his motivation is to prevent the bomb from falling into the wrong hands, and has no problem with leaving the recovery to professionals. The bomb is assumed to be buried deep in silt, so I'm not sure how he can determine if he has actually found the bomb to any level of certainty without disturbing it.

There is also some debate whether the bomb has a plutonium pit installed. So, if you find it, you may have to order some parts to get it operational.

Ilya
2012-Apr-24, 06:55 PM
Nothing. I stumbled across a TV program a while back (not sure which channel, maybe NatGeo, or H2) where they interviewed a retired guy who spends his time looking for the bomb. He says that he is under strict instructions not to disturb it (duh!) if he finds it, and to alert the authorities so they can fetch it.
Cheap *******s. :)

I guess they must not want it back THAT badly.l

DonM435
2012-Apr-26, 10:58 PM
I thought I saw those for sale in the Edmund Scientific catalogue just a few years back.

BigDon
2012-Apr-28, 12:10 AM
Cheap *******s. :)

I guess they must not want it back THAT badly.l

And I bet they wouldn't even consider any claim to salvage rights if you DID dredge it up.

Of course they'ed pull that whole patriotism thing if you said for them to just be the highest bidder on Craig's List...

neilzero
2012-Apr-29, 12:16 AM
There is also personel risk to those making the transaction. The person who bring the money is likely to be killed by the person delivering the bomb, or vice versa or both dead. Even a successful trade may be bomb that works poorly or not at all. Neil

DoggerDan
2012-Apr-30, 01:09 AM
How much details of the costs of nuclear warheads are publicly available to Congress and private voters to see whether the masses of nuclear warheads cost what is budgeted for them or whether the military budget contains waste or worse?

Quite a lot, if not nearly all. Read on:


Not "any" answer ($9.95?), one that is actually close to what a nuke would cost, if they could legally be purchased in, say, a gun store.

Parts plus labor, R&D, storage, and security? I would imagine it would range somewhere between $1 Million and $1 Billion.

A more practical approach might be to:

- ascertain how many were in the US inventory at our inventory's peak (33,000)

- the date of that peak (1966)

- find the beginning date and number of the rapid increase in number (4,000 in 1956)

- Average the result (18,500 warheads in 1961)

- find out what the DoD budget was in 1961 ($344 Billion)

- take a reasonable percentage for what portion might have been used in the design, development, manufacture, storage, and security of nuclear weapons (5%, or about $15 Billion)

- divide the result by the number in inventory (about $800,000 per warhead)

- then use an inflation calculator to drag that value into today's dollars ($6 Million per warhead)

For the inflation calculator, I get two different values:
- $5,915,616
- $6,137,579

So, let's call it $6 Million. However, that's just the price (very roughly) the U.S. might charge were it to ever sell one. I don't think that'll happen! Meanwhile, a country like North Korea, with it's vastly different ideology and whose conscript troops and scientists are paid with little more than food, clothing, shelter, and the "privilege" of living, and who probably appropriated much of the design details from elsewhere, could probably deliver one today for as little as one-half to perhaps even as little as one-tenth that cost.

I don't know how accurate this is, but the data, such as my 5% guess, comes from sources such as this (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0904490.html) and that (http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/nuclear_weapons.aspx), a quote from the latter of which is: "...in the late 1950s the total budget was probably close to $15 billion," so I think I'm at least within an order of magnitude.

Does this answer your question?

Getting back to the idea of a third world country selling one, you have to factor in all sorts of additional costs, including dodging AEC supervision, and underwriting the economic effects of sanctions and embargoes. That's not cheap, particularly when you consider how a small impact today can have huge long-term impacts. Just look at the economic difference between North Korea and South Korea, or similar neighbors such as Taiwan.