Latent Capacity Proliferation Model
Latent Capacity Proliferation Model
The model used of latent capacity used in this presentation was developed by
Dr. Stephen Meyer of MIT (Meyer, 1984) and modified by
Dr. Richard Stoll of Rice University.
A country is said to have a latent capacity when it has sufficient
technical, industrial, material, and financial resources to support a
wholly indigenous weapons program. Even though a state may have a latent
capacity, it must still make an explicit decision to develop the
particular facilities necessary to create weapons. However, once
a state has a latent capacity, it is very difficult --
perhaps impossible -- to deny it nuclear weapons, since it is in
essence self-sufficient. It may still be possible to alter the
motivations of the state so as to persuade it not to proceed.
There are ten major indicators in the model, all of which are necessary
conditions for the production of nuclear weapons. These resources cover
the entire production process, from refining the uranium ore to building
the mechanism itself. The ten indicators are:
Previous National Mining Activity
- To efficiently extract uranium, the country should have some
experience with mining activity. The presence of this experience is
assumed if some fraction of the country's labor force has at some time
been engaged in mining activity.
Indigenous Uranium Deposits
- Uranium is a critical element in the production of both uranium-
and plutonium-based nuclear weapons. Meyer taps this aspect of latent
capacity by indicating the presence of known uranium deposits within
the country. Beginning in 1970, however, Stoll drops this requirement
due to the ease with which any country may purchase a supply of
uranium on the world market. Thus, after 1970, all countries
are granted this prerequisite.
- Some experience with metallurgy is necessary to process uranium.
The training necessary to process uranium can be learned in a few
months by a knowledgeable metallurgist. The presence of a corps of
trained metallurgists is indicated if the country produces steel in
- Steel is necessary to build both weapons facilities and parts of the
weapons themselves. Indigenous steel production is required if the
country is to perform the heavy construction required for weapons facilities
without importing materials.
Construction Work Force
- To build the specialized industrial facilities necessary for a
weapons program, a corps of workers (less than one thousand) must be
familiar with construction involving both steel and cement. A country
is listed as having the necessary construction work force if it
produces both steel and cement.
- Chemical processing and conversion is an important part of latent
capacity. The surrogate measure for the presence of this body of
knowledge is an indigenous capacity to produce one of several acids.
This ability is indicated by the domestic production of either nitric
acid or sulfuric acid.
- Nitric acid is used in the weapons production process. An
ability to produce nitric acid is indicated by the domestic production
of nitric acid, or if the country produces both sulfuric acid and
non-organic nitrogenous fertilizer.
Electrical Production Capacity
- Meyer assumes that the electrical power demands for a latent
capacity are under 10 megawatts. Since the development of this
capacity is supposed to occur without imposing a significant hardship
on the country, Meyer assumes that no more than five percent of the
country's electric power production capacity can be diverted for the
weapons program. Consequently, the country has the requisite
electrical power capacity if it has an installed capacity of at least
Nuclear Engineers, Physicists, and Chemists
- Trained and experienced personnel with these specialist skills
are necessary to have a latent capacity; in particular a sufficient
pool of these skills is necessary to assemble a critical mass to
produce a fissile explosive. The presence of these skills is
indicated if the country has sufficient experience in the operation of
research reactors. This level of experience is defined as three
reactor years (i.e., one reactor in operation for three years, three
reactors in operation for one year, or any other combination totaling
to three years).
Explosives and Electronics Specialists
- A country with a latent capacity needs a group of specialists
that are knowledgeable in the design and construction of electronic
ignition devices; this would allow for the design and construction of
the fusing and detonator system for a bomb. These types of skills are
similar to those required for automobile ignitions and radio or
television production. These skills are indicated if the country
manufactures motor vehicles, or assembles motor vehicles and
manufactures radios or televisions.
Shortcomings and Omissions
The United States and the Soviet Union are not included in the data
set. It is assumed for presentation purposes that these nations both
have latent capacity in 1946. The data on uranium deposits in
Eastern Europe is incomplete, so some countries may have had this resource
prior to the indicated date. There is considerable dependence between
the ten resources listed, so these statistics should not be considered
completely independent of each other.
Meyer, Stephen M. 1984. The Dynamics of Nuclear Proliferation.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.