posted on Nov, 29 2004 @ 11:34 AM
It's really elementary, my Dear Watson.
You see, DEPLETED Uranium is an alloyed mixture of Uranium, Isotope 238 and other metals such as titanium, for example.
Natural Uranium ore (pitchblende) from the ground/earth is a composition of primarily U238 (97%) and U235 (3%). This mixture is refined through
various methods including gaseous diffusion and centripedal separation. In the end, what people want for BOMBS and REACTOR CORES is very high
concentrations of the nasty fissile U235.
Thus, the excess U238 (almost entirely non-fissile, because it's more stable, and emits LESS radioactivity) is discarded as sludge and then combined
into things like aircraft counterweights, tank armor and SHELL COMPONENTS for the famous DU Penetrators (mentioned in this thread).
But, heck, any terrorist with a little furnace, a neutron source and some time on their hands can:
-> Seperate / smelt the DU away from the alloyed mixture (not that hard, any decent metallurigcal engineer can construct a low cost project to do
-> Combine the U238 into forms and then bombard them with neutrons. This is the same thing that happens in a reactor such as a breeder reactor.
However, when the U238 is bombarded with neutrons, it becomes (after a short mutation), our wonderful and deadly friend PLUTONIUM 239!
Yes, kids, just pick up about 100 spent penetrators (there are hundreds of thousands lying in the sand in Iraq), melt them, extract the U238 and
submit it to a neutron source.
Voila! A very potent core for your next suitcase/backpack nuke. Then, you only need several pounds to produce a subcritical sphere, and then some
plastic explosives, some beryllium to relfect neutrons (tamp), and then a nice electronic gadget to fire it simultaneously to ensure prompt
criticality so that the fission doesn't blow the nuke apart before it smartly detonates and irradiates New York city!