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Mysterious Lab Guarding Russia's Nuclear Secrets Marks 70th Anniversary

Sputnik News

19:38 09.04.2016(updated 19:55 09.04.2016)

April 9 marks the 70th anniversary of the creation of the nuclear institute at Sarov, which would become one of the most important and sensitive military facilities in 20th and 21st century Russian history.

The facility, formally known as the Russian Federal Nuclear Center of the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute for Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF), was formed in April 1946 in Sarov, a closed city in central Russia. It would become the heart of the Soviet, and later Russian nuclear research program. The facility was so secret that until 1991, the town was referred to only as Arzamas-16, and was not listed on public maps.

Marking the historic occasion, RFNC-VNIIEF director Valentin Kostyukov sat down with Russia's RIA Novosti news agency to discuss the institute's glorious past and its plans for the future. In any case, he suggested, it wouldn't be exaggeration to say that the famous institute, which remains shrouded in mystery to this day, was and remains "the pride of Russia."

The institute, first known simply as KB-11 ('Design Bureau-11'), "became our country's first nuclear center," Kostyukov recalled. "The achievements of its professionals laid the foundations to our country's nuclear deterrence capabilities, which continue to serve as the crucial foundation of Russia's military technical security to this day."

In August 1949, scientists at KB-11 developed the RDS-1, the first Soviet nuclear warhead. "This test," Kostyukov noted, "demonstrated that our country had mastered one of the key technology sets of the 20th century. The 1950s saw the testing of thermonuclear weapons, whose development laid the foundation for the creation of the [security] guarantee of nuclear deterrence."

Scientists at the center had to put forward and to implement dozens of original and ambitious ideas, which enabled the USSR to eventually catch up to the US's nuclear capabilities, despite America's vast superiority of resources.

"The unique system of labor organization at KB-11, which concentrated not just outstanding scientists, but also talented designers, engineers, technologists, and managers, all of whom passed through the school of industrialization and the Second World War, quickly led to the creation not just of individual nuclear weapons, but their mass production."

The institute's achievements, Kostyukov noted, serve to illustrate the tremendous technical and scientific achievements that are possible when the right conditions are met. These, the director said, include the existence of a "supertask" of momentous, life-changing importance, the unification of the efforts of top specialists, and the necessary support from the state.

Today, Kostyukov pointed out, the institute remains one of Russia's most important centers of high technology, working in areas including nuclear weaponry, conventional high-tech weaponry, and innovations for the civilian economy. The latter include innovations in the field of IT, including Russian-made supercomputers, the associated software, and information security technologies, primarily for use by state institutions, in both the defense, state, space and civilian sectors.

Ultimately, Kostyukov noted, "it can be said without exaggeration that the RFNC-VNIIEF is the treasure and pride of Russia."


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