Suppose I had near infinite money to build my own nuclear reactor, super conducting super collider, power plants, etc. Assuming I don’t mind losing money on the deal, would it be possible for me to literally turn lead into gold in significant amounts (say, at least one ton)?
It’s possible to turn lead into gold with that kind of equipment, but only a few atoms at a time. Money wouldn’t be your obstacle - it would be time. It would just take a horribly long time to transmute your way to a ton of gold, atom by atom. I’ll let someone else do the maths, but my WAG is that you might just be able to produce a visible speck of gold in the rest of your lifetime, assuming you’re still fairly young.
The only reports I have found state that in 1972 Russian scientists found the presence of gold in their lead shielding of one of their reactors. However, I have found no primary literature to say that is possible to turn lead into gold or has been done independently elsewhere. This source for instance seems about third hand http://chemistry.about.com/cs/generalchemistry/a/aa050601a.htm
One of the problems is that you are unlikely to hit upon a stable isotope of gold, and thus your gold is both unstable and radioactive.
I would be interested if anyone has a more authoritative source for lead into gold
And don’t forget that the more gold you have in the reactor, the more likely it is itself to be changed into something else.
Take all the lead. Sell it. Use the money to buy gold.