A nuclear test on 3 July 1970 at Fangataufa atoll, French Polynesia

Science History Images / Alamy

Fusion reactors could allow a country to accelerate its development of nuclear weapons, producing the necessary radioactive ingredients in as little as a few weeks.

Nuclear weapons need specific radioactive isotopes, normally uranium-235 or plutonium-239, that can be easily split and start a chain reaction. This so-called fissile material is rare in nature, but can be produced artificially by a source that produces a lot of neutrons, such as a nuclear fission reactor of the kind in use today.…

Article amended on 10 May 2024

We have clarified the details of the computer simulation and the potential steps to avoid nuclear weapon proliferation

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