This is a story of ‘fissile material’, which is an essential component of nuclear weapons. How is fissile material produced? How is it used to make nuclear weapons? What to do with fissile materials after nuclear weapons are dismantled? Are civilian nuclear power programmes also producing fissile materials? How to prevent such materials from being used to make nuclear weapons? What are the imminent threats posed by fissile materials and how to reduce these threats? And, finally, can we eventually dispose fissile materials? If you are interested in any one of those questions, this book provides the answers. Based on many years of research, writing, teaching and policy activities, the authors have assembled very extensive and useful information on fissile materials. Although it is not a ‘story telling’ book, it is often amusing and interesting to read how those fissile materials have been produced, used, stored and now pose serious security threats to the world. In fact, it is a chilling story identifying many potential risks frequently unrecognised by many policy-makers and experts.
–Tatsujiro Suzuki, Global Change, Peace & Security, 2018 (PDF)
Unmaking the Bomb: A Fissile Material Approach to Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation is supremely successful in displaying the extreme superfluity of fissile materials in today’s nuclear world order. Moreover, backed by an extensive bibliography and well-cited arguments, the authors make their obvious expertise in the realm of nuclear physics accessible to a general audience. Whether the reader be a student of international relations, a policy-maker, or simply somebody interested in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, they need not possess a deep understanding of the technicalities involved in the production and elimination of fissile materials before opening this book, as the authors clearly convey such information in laymen’s terms.
–John Dyke, Review of International Law and Politics, volume 11, no. 43, 2015, pp. 167-170 (PDF)
This is a good book for learning about nuclear fissile material issues. It is enjoyable to read, and you will come out with a better appreciation for the global security threat posed by having excessive amounts of fissile materials spread throughout the world. Although the proposed vision of the complete elimination of fissile materials seems unlikely to be realized, it is an idea worthy of consideration.
–Lt. Cmdr. Harold A. Laurence, (US Navy retired), Military Review: The Professional Journal of the US Army, March-April 2016, pp. 127-128 (PDF)
Unmaking the Bomb presents, in careful and meticulous detail, a persuasive case that the best way to deal with nuclear weapons, over the coming years, is to tackle the fissile materials problem… If you want to understand the facts about fissile materials and how they might sensibly be controlled and eventually eliminated, there is simply no better source.
– Ward Wilson, Parameters (Quarterly Journal of the US Army War College), Winter 2014
Unmaking the Bomb: A Fissile Material Approach to Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation is a brilliant survey of how weapons-usable materials are controlled and produced. In clear, concise prose, Harold Feiveson, Alexander Glaser, Zia Mian, and Frank von Hippel take us from the dawn of the nuclear age to the present. … Unmaking the Bomb paints a deeply disturbing picture. Our species has produced enough separated plutonium and HEU for well more than 100 000 nuclear weapons. Those materials, which exist in hundreds of buildings and bunkers in more than 20 countries—with widely varying security measures in place— create grave security dangers and potentially impose obstacles to disarmament…. Fundamentally, managing the dangers posed by plutonium and HEU is one of the greatest challenges our species will face for decades—perhaps centuries—to come. Unmaking the Bomb is essential reading for understanding that challenge and the steps that would be needed for the world community to rise to it.
– Matthew Bunn, “Managing the bomb’s supply side,” Physics Today, May 2015
All nuclear weapons require fissile materials — plutonium and/or highly-enriched uranium (HEU) — to function. As many of the world’s nuclear powers reduce their stockpiles of weapons, an issue that will come to the fore is that of securing and eventually disposing of the global supply of excess fissile materials. This book describes the history, production, current stockpiles, and uses of fissile materials, and sets out possible policies for reducing and eventually eliminating them….This book should be read and carefully considered by every serious student of the world nuclear situation.
– Cameron Reed, Forum on Physics and Society, American Physical Society April 2015
The book masterfully breaks down a very technical and politically charged subject so that its most salient facts are accessible and understandable to technical and nontechnical readers alike. It marshals clear, accurate, and broadly supported data, graphs, charts, and photographs that describe and explain the evolution of the fissile material age and the current global status of these materials in military and civilian programs… Unmaking the Bomb is an invaluable tool for historians, educators, military strategists, students of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, and those who advocate the elimination of nuclear weapons.
– James Doyle, “The Material World of Nuclear Weapons,” a review of “Unmaking the Bomb, ” Arms Control Today, March 2015
a succinct, authoritative account of all the fissile material produced in military and civilian nuclear programmes since 1945… To ensure nuclear disarmament, the authors argue, all these materials have to be eliminated.
— Rob Edwards, “Taping Over the Red Button,” New Scientist, 6 December 2014, p.51.
Feiveson, Glaser, Mian and von Hippel convincingly argue that this problem [of fissile materials] demands a real and immediate solution. Along with the history of nuclear weapons, they cover attempts to control the weapons’ spread, including the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; the physics and technology of producing, downblending and storing fuel; and the complexities of convincing nations to agree to be supervised and controlled by an international agency.
— Ann Finkbeiner, “Military Science: Scientific Spoils of War,” Nature 515, no. 7528 (November 27, 2014): 489–90, doi:10.1038/515489a.
Praise for Unmaking the Bomb
“Nearly seventy years after the world’s first atomic explosion, stocks of weapon-usable material sufficient for more than 100,000 nuclear warheads continue to pose one of the gravest threats to our very survival. This book by some of the world’s leading experts provides sober technical and policy assessments that should be required reading for all of us yearning for a world free from nuclear weapons. Elimination of these nuclear materials is not only key but also possible. This valuable and timely book shows us how.”
— Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 1997–2009
“This is a comprehensive text on fissile material, with a much-needed historical perspective and a detailed analysis of the present situation. It is invaluable for all those who teach a university course in nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament, and nonproliferation and for those who are thinking of ways to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether.”
— Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, Secretary General of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
“Unmaking the Bomb is the most up-to-date encyclopedia of the history and present state of nuclear weapons and peaceful nuclear energy—their overlap and contradictions. The book is also valuable since it is designed not only for professional nuclear physicists, military strategists, and arms controllers, but also for the interested public and journalists.”
— Alexey Arbatov, Director of the Center on International Security, Russian Academy of Sciences
“Achieving a nuclear-free world is a common ideal of the international community. The authors of this book have been long involved in the study of nuclear materials. Based on their abundant research achievements, they have made four specific suggestions for the gradual reduction and eventual elimination of worldwide fissile materials, providing an opportunity for the international community to have a more extensive and in-depth discussion in this regard.”
— Hu Side, former President of the China Academy of Engineering Physics
“To address the challenges of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, the Princeton team persuasively details why and how it is necessary to go beyond nuclear weapons as the units of account. They show that accounting for, verifying, and ultimately eliminating stockpiles of fissile materials will be vital to international security and can be done.”
— George Perkovich, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC
“Fissile materials pose a ‘perpetual menace to human security,’ Niels Bohr famously argued in 1944. This book both highlights the continuing truth of that observation and importantly outlines policies that can reduce the risks. It will be an invaluable guide to the subject for students of international relations, security studies, and nuclear engineering.”
— Scott Sagan, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University
“Among the toxic and threatening legacies of the nuclear arms race are thousands of warheads, and stockpiles of plutonium and enriched uranium. How can these best be safeguarded and disposed of? The distinguished authors have had a sustained involvement in the science and the politics of these issues. This cogent and authoritative book deserves to have wide influence among policymakers worldwide.”
— Martin Rees, Cambridge University, former President of the U.K. Royal Society (2005–2010)