|This is an interesting read AFAIC (it's a good story), and holds value and perhaps data points with regard to the proliferation issues in Iran and with terrorism.
I'll let this excerpt speak for itself, but it's probably best read in its entirety. ;)
http://www.thebulletin.org/article.php?art_ofn=ma03stober target=_blank>Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: No experience necessary
The Nth Country experiment showed that three post-docs with no nuclear knowledge could design a working atom bomb.
By Dan Stober
March/April 2003 pp. 56-63 (vol. 59, no. 02) © 2003 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Thirty-nine years ago, in the dusty ranch town of Livermore, California, the U.S. government secretly chose three newly minted post-doc physicists, put them off in a corner of a laboratory with no access to classified information, and told them to design a nuclear weapon.
What can the unsettling results of that experiment tell us about the likelihood that today's Al Qaeda, or some other terrorist group, will build the bomb?
Much of the proliferation debate centered on industrial capabilities for enriching uranium or producing plutonium. But there was a second argument, one with a whiff of elitism and scientific arrogance. Were the scientists from a small, possibly Third World country, smart enough to design an atomic bomb? Or did it require an Oppenheimer?
There was also the myth of the "secret" of the atom bomb, reinforced by the publicity surrounding the Fuchs and Rosenberg spy cases of the 1950s. David Lilienthal, the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, had argued as far back as 1948 (in the Bulletin) that the idea of a "secret formula" was "nothing less than a gigantic hoax upon the people of this country." But many still believed that if only the "secret" could be guarded, proliferation might be prevented.
They were briefed by physicist Art Hudgins, who handed them a copy of the "operating rules," stamped "Secret" on every page.  The first paragraph said it all: "The purpose of the so-called 'Nth Country Experiment' is to find out if a credible nuclear explosive can be designed, with a modest effort, by a few well-trained people without contact with classified information. The goal of the participants should be to design an explosive with a militarily significant yield. A working context for the experiment might be that the participants have been asked to design a nuclear explosive which, if built in small numbers, would give a small nation a significant effect on their foreign relations."
Although banned from classified information, Dobson and Pipkorn needed security clearances--and any sketches they drew would be "born secret." As Hudgins put it years later, "It's against the law to design nuclear weapons without a clearance." They were to represent an imaginary Nth Country, assumed to have a good university library, some competent machinists to shape plutonium or uranium, and an explosives team. They envisioned their nameless country having more resources than Ghana, but less than an industrialized nation. They were given no directions on how to proceed.
If they wanted to conduct an experiment, perhaps involving high explosives, they would describe the experiment in great detail, and their memo would be passed on to an anonymous team of experienced bomb designers who would calculate the results and pass them back through Hudgins. They began in isolation, with a simulated technical staff. They worked in a plain office in barracks left behind by the navy after World War II. Dobson had a desk and a filing cabinet protected by a combination lock. Their notebooks were bound and numbered sequentially, to preserve a record of their progress.
Dobson had never heard the terms Trinity, Little Boy, or Fat Man. Gun design versus implosion was unknown to him. His knowledge of nuclear fission was limited. "I had seen an exhibit with a model of a chain reaction made up of mousetraps and ping pong balls," he wrote in a later report.
By the end of 1964, seven months after they began, Dobson and Pipkorn made their first crucial choice. They opted to design a Nagasaki-style plutonium implosion bomb instead of a Hiroshima uranium gun-assembly weapon. They picked plutonium not because it was easier, but specifically because it would be more difficult. It was a career-enhancing move: The gun bomb was too simple a project to build a reputation on. The implosion method "seemed to be a more sophisticated, challenging, and hence appealing problem," as they later wrote in their report. Designing a mere gun bomb would have been "a pretty crummy showing," Dobson said.
They continued to mine the open literature. As Selden described it, "You just go to the library and you start looking under all the subjects, you look under plutonium and uranium and high explosives and you look under nuclear physics and you ju