The following textbooks range from introductory to advanced material, and all require some basic physics and associated mathematical sophistication. For obvious reasons, textbooks on actual weapon design, testing, engineering and maintenance are difficult to come across. There's a wide variety of excellent books on political theory of nuclear weapons, which I'm neither qualified to rate nor interested in becoming expert with; see blogs like Arms Control Wonk and Total WonKerr for more information, or your local university's political science department.
- Kenneth Krane's Introductory Nuclear Physics (assumes an undergraduate background in quantum mechanics)
- Weston Stacey's Fusion Plasma Physics (assumes a strong background in electromagnetics)
- James J. Dunderstadt's Nuclear Reactor Physics
- Robert Serber's Los Alamos Primer
- Glasstone and Dolan's The Effects of Nuclear Weapons is mandatory reading, and freely available online.
- IANUS scientists Andre Gsponer and Jean-Pierre Hurni authored the technical report "The Physical Principles Of Thermonuclear Explosives, Inertial Confinement Fusion, And The Quest For Fourth Generation Nuclear Weapons". It can be ordered or downloaded from the IANUS website.
There's pretty much an endless line of popular-audience books about nuclear weapons, especially their early design and the characters behind them (I've got about a dozen biographies of J. Robert Oppenheimer alone). These require no particular scientific or mathematic background. Of them, the best include:
- Richard Rhodes's The Making of the Atomic Bomb (winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction)
- Richard Rhodes's Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb
- Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin's American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in biography)
- Energy-mass equivalence - electron-volts - curve of binding energy - energy scales (chemical vs nuclear vs annihilative)
- Pressure - temperature - ideal gases - brownian motion - radiative ablation - ionization - plasmas
- The atom - the nucleus - periodic table - size scales (electron vs proton vs neutron vs alpha particle vs large nucleus vs atomic radius vs molecular size)
- Electodynamics - strong nuclear force - weak nuclear force - quantum tunneling - radiations (alpha, beta, gamma) - transmutations (there are many!)
- Liquid drop model - superdeformation - hyperdeformation
- Neutron moderators - fueling - MOX - breeders - inherently safe designs
- Intertial confinement fusion - hydromagnetic confinement fusion - cold fusion - bubble fusion
- Etienne Parent (2003). "Nuclear Fuel Cycles for Mid-Century Deployment".
- Criticality - subcritical - supercritical - prompt criticality - critcial insertion time - insertion (gun-type) method - spontaneous fission - implosion method - levitated pits
- Th232 - U233 - U235 - U238 - Pu249 - Pu240 - minor actinides - transuranics - fissile, fissionable, fertile
- Enrichment levels - enrichment methods - degradation - downblending
- Observable properties of processing tech (plutonium's more intensely thermal)
- Robustness of methodologies/materials/geometries (eg easiest to make a big, wasteful, HEU gun bomb)
- Safety/reliability of materials/assemblies (Decay of Pu, tritium, polonium, neutron moderation by seawater, fire hazards)
- Neutron sources - prompt neutrons - delayed neutrons - fast neutrons - slow neutrons - initiator design - neutron reflectors
- High explosives, Taylor-Rayleigh instabilities - assembly geometry - neutron multiplications
Fusion Weapons and Boosting
- Hollow pit - DT infusion - dial-a-yield
- Layer-cake model - sparkplugs - Teller-Ulam design - stage chaining
- Core boosting - enhanced radiation weapons (neutron bombs)
- Pure fusion weapons
Delivery Systems, Effects, and Defense
- Blast theory - shock front - double flash - optimum delivery altitudes
- Miniaturization - MIRV's - penetration aids - neutron fluxes
- "Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems." R.L. Garwin and H.A. Bethe. Scientific American, Vol. 218, No. 3, pp. 21-31, March 1968.
- Missile Defense Agency, with garish Flash as of 2008.12.27.
- Hans Bethe and Freeman Dyson both have some great material in their books; collect it
- Project Plowshare - Project Orion - Atoms for Peace - Project Rover
- Testing - test detection - treaties