Despite decades of energetic international control efforts, nuclear weapons technology continues to spread world-wide. To understand how these complex weapons programs can be developed, the author of this thesis assumes the role of a nation seeking to build a first fission weapon, and the ability to continue to build more. He introduces a large-scale project management model that includes alternate development paths to achieve certain key technical milestones. He shows how such a project can be optimally accelerated by expediting critical tasks. Next, he presents a new analysis tool to detect vulnerabilities in such a development program: he seeks optimal actions to impede, set back and/or otherwise frustrate completion of a first weapon, even if the proliferator knows what he is doing to delay things. This two-sided project evaluation tool is implemented with a combination of off-the-shelf project management software, optimization software and custom code. An illustrative case study of a first fission weapon program shows how this new analysis tool can be used. His methods also apply to chemical, biological and/or radiological dispersion weapons, as well as to more conventional strategic industrial and commercial activities.
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