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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Arzamas-16 / Sarov
"The Installation"
Russian Federal Nuclear Center
All-Russian Scientific and Research Institute of Experimental Physics (VNIIEF)
N 54°49' E 43°22'

At present, the city-forming enterprise Arzamas-16 is a home to two nuclear weapons facilities: the VNIIEF design institute and the Avangard serial warhead assembly/disassembly facility. The population of Arzamas-16 is approximately 83,000. Of them 20,000 work at the institute and 10,000 at the Avangard plant. VNIIEF is the oldest of Russia's two principal warhead design institutes. (The second warhead design facility is the Institute of Technical Physics in Chelyabinsk-70.) The Institute is responsible for designing nuclear weapons and providing scientific support throughout nuclear weapons life-cycle. VNIIEF has an extensive theoretical and experimental capabilities, including multiple sites for conducting experiments with chemical high-explosives.

The first samples of nuclear and thermonuclear charges were created at VNIIEF, the task of boosting a nuclear explosion was solved, the world's most powerful thermonuclear charge was created, the foundations of miniaturization of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons were laid, methods for ensuring the safety of nuclear and thermonuclear charges and ammunition were developed, dozens of nuclear samples were developed charges and ammunition to equip all types of Armed Forces, various types of specialized nuclear charges were created, the problem of creating nuclear charges with controlled energy output was solved According to the plan, original approaches to overcoming the capabilities of missile defense were developed, and samples of nuclear weapons for defensive weapons systems were created.

VNIIEF laid the foundation for the implementation of a large-scale program of the USSR for conducting peaceful nuclear explosions. In 1962, in a special device, the unique task of providing ignition and combustion of thermonuclear fuel in the absence of fissile materials was solved. This was an important step towards a possible thermonuclear energy of the future. The successes of the RFNC-VNIIEF in the development of nuclear weapons, in the development of fundamental and applied research are marked by high state awards, provide significant assistance to the economic development of Russia, are of paramount importance for ensuring both non-national security and global stability.

Arzamas-16, currently Sarov, was established on April 13, 1946 as a home to the Design Bureau No. 11 (KB-11), currently the Russian Federal Nuclear Center - the All-Russian Scientific and Research Institute of Experimental Physics (VNIIEF, also known as Arzamas-16), Russia first nuclear weapons design center. It is the unnamed "Installation" of Nobel Peace Laureate Andre Sakharov's biography, responsible for the design of the first Soviet atomic and hydrogen bombs. It was inititally given several provisional names, such as Base 112, Site 550 or simply the "Site".

One of the brightest pages in the history of the institute is the creation of the first Soviet atomic bomb (RDS-1), which passed successful tests on August 29, 1949. Later, the first transportable hydrogen bomb in the world, tested on August 12, was developed and assembled within the walls of the institute under the guidance of future academician Andrei Sakharov. 1953

The Institute’s developments were also used for peaceful purposes: to eliminate emergency gas fountains, create underground storage facilities and bury harmful industrial wastes, intensify the influx of oil and natural gas, crush ore for underground work and seismic exploration. So, on September 30, 1966, with the help of detonating a nuclear charge lowered to a depth of 1,500 meters, a 70-meter gas torch was extinguished at the Urta-Bulak gas field in the Uzbek SSR.

Currently, FSUE RFNC-VNIIEF is the largest scientific and technical center in Russia, which successfully solves defense, scientific and national economic problems. The main objective of the RFNC-VNIIEF has been and remains to ensure the reliability and safety of Russia's nuclear weapons.

The RFNC-VNIIEF includes several institutes: theoretical and mathematical physics, experimental gas dynamics and explosion physics, nuclear and radiation physics, laser physical research, the scientific and technical center for high energy density physics and directed radiation fluxes, as well as design bureaus and thematic centers united by a common scientific and administrative leadership. The scientific and technical staff of the center has several hundred doctors and candidates of sciences and about 10,000 researchers.

The KB-11 Design Bureau (now the world-renowned RFYaTs-VNIIEF) was organized in the Gorky (now Nizhni Novgorod) Region. KB-11, headed by its first director Pavel Zernov and Yuly Khariton who was its chief designer and scientific supervisor for many years, made a decisive contribution to the elimination of US nuclear armament monopoly. This center developed and manufactured the first Soviet atomic bomb RDS-1 detonated in 1949 and the first Soviet thermonuclear charge RDS-6S (academician Sakharov's brainchild) successfully tested in 1953. Arzamas-16 is often referred to as the Russian Los Alamos. Some of its residents even refer to its alboratory as Los Arzamas in recognition of its close similarity to Los Alamos. In December, 1993, the Los Alamos County Council agreed to invite Sarov to be a Sister City.

The history of the Russian Federal Nuclear Center - the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) dates back to 1943, when the State Defense Committee (GKO) decided to establish in the city of Kremlin (previously - the city of Saraklych, from August 1995 g. - Sarov) the first organization in the USSR engaged in research on atomic problems - the Laboratory of measuring instruments No. 2 of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

On April 9, 1946, a decision was made to create, and on June 21, 1946, a resolution of the USSR Government was signed on the construction of a special research and design organization for the practical development of nuclear weapons — the Design Bureau-11 of the USSR Ministry of Medium Machine-Building (KB-11 of the Ministry of Environment THE USSR).

Plant No. 550, located in Sarov, was chosen as the main base for the construction of the center. Pavel Zernov was appointed the head of KB-11, an experienced physicist, corresponding member (later academician) of the USSR Academy of Sciences Julius Khariton, who later (1952-1992) served as the scientific director of the VNIIEF. At that time, other outstanding Soviet physicists were transferred to the object, in particular, Yakov Zeldovich and Kirill Shchelkin. For Khariton himself, such work actually began in 1939, when he, together with Zel'dovich, for the first time in the world, calculated the chain reaction of uranium fission, and a little later he was engaged in theoretical development of the issue of stability of nuclear reactors.

The construction of KB-11's facilities began in May 1946 and its first phase was completed in the fall of 1946. General Pavel M. Zernov was appointed as the director of KB-11, and Yuli B. Khariton was the first Chief Designer. Research and design activities began in the spring of 1947. The KB-11's principal mission was to design and produce a nuclear explosive device for testing and to develop a deliverable nuclear bomb. In February 1947, by a resolution of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, KB-11 was classified as a special regime enterprise with the transformation of its territory into a closed regime zone. In the summer of 1947, the security forces began to build a perimeter and access control facilities around the closed area. The isolation of Arzamas-16 from the outside world was completed by 1948.

Arzamas-16 is located on the lands of the former Sarov Monastery, 75 km south-west of Arzamas in the Nizhegorod region, approximately 400 km from Moscow. The old town of Sarova was known for its monastery built in 1654 on the site of a Tatar fortress abandoned in the 15th century. The monastery's most famous resident was St. Seraphin Serovsky, one of three principal saints in the Russian Orthodox church who lived from 1759 to 1833. Historically, the monastery town was called Sarov for St. Seraphim Serovsky. When the Soviet nuclear weapons program started, the town name was changed to Arzamas-60, a postal code designation to show that it was 60 km from the city of Arzamas. But the "60" was considered too sensitive, and the number was changed to "16." In 1947 the entire city of Sarov (Arzamas-16) disappeared from all official Russian maps and statistical documents. The facility has also been known Moscow-300, the town of Kremlev, and Arzamas-75. The existence of the closed administrative-territorial unit (ZATO) of Arzamas-16 had not been made public until 1994.

Zhores A. Medvedev relates that "After two business trips to Arzamas-16 in 1949, the Tamm group had to completely relocate there in 1950 to carry out not only theoretical studies, but also to implement a constructive solution. There was also a need for new complex industries - the construction of a special reactor for the production of tritium, as well as a plant for the isolation of a light lithium isotope from natural lithium. The technology of deuterium production has already been developed in the IFP under the leadership of Anatoly Alexandrov. But for large quantities of deuterium, it was necessary to build a special enterprise. Many other problems arose, since the materials from which the hydrogen bomb was designed differed from those from which atomic ones were mounted.

The decision to send the Tamm group to Arzamas-16 was formalized as the Decree of the Council of Ministers and signed by Stalin. But despite such an authoritative signature, the most important member of the group, Vitaliy Ginzburg, Tamm's deputy for the theoretical department and one of the co-authors of the entire "puff" project, did not get permission from the security authorities to go to such a secret "object". Ginzburg was older and more experienced than Sakharov. Unlike the non-partisan Sakharov, Ginzburg was a member of the CPSU (b). However, Ginzburg's wife, Nina, was at that time in political exile. In 1945, when she was a student at Moscow University, she was arrested along with a group of students on charges of "counter-revolutionary activities". After 9 months in prison, she was sent into exile. She was able to return to Moscow only in 1953, after the death of Stalin. Therefore, Ginzburg was recognized as "unreliable". This saved him from the glory of being with Sakharov the "father" of the first Soviet hydrogen bomb, but in general he benefited. "

In 1959, a decree of the USSR Council of Ministers "On the restructuring of the scientific leadership of KB-11" was issued. As a result, two design bureaus were created in the institution’s structure: No. 1 for the development of nuclear charges, headed by E.A. Negin and No. 2 on the development of nuclear weapons, headed by S.G. Kocharian.

The most important task of KB-2 was the development of nuclear ammunition (nuclear warheads) for almost all types of the Armed Forces, as well as the automation unit for detonating a nuclear charge and the automation system for engaging nuclear warheads. In other words, it was necessary to design a special warhead and develop such an automation system that would take into account the specific features of the nuclear charge and warhead and at the same time meet the requirements of reliability, safety and efficiency. At the turn of the 70s. The development of a new generation of warheads began, in the control systems of which were used new, high-precision command instrument systems and on-board digital computers (BCMs) that control the operation of all rocket components, including nuclear warhead automation.

Testing the design of nuclear warheads required a large amount of experimental research in ground conditions and flight tests at test sites, for which unique systems and installations were created. One of them is a rocket-catapulting installation, which allows measuring aerodynamic forces and moments, as well as pressure acting in free flight on a large-scale or full-scale model during ground tests using a specially developed on-board radio telemetry system. In general, the experimental base created in KB-2 makes it possible to simulate almost the entire spectrum of possible effects on nuclear warheads during their operation and use, including vibration shock loads and climatic effects (lightning discharges, electromagnetic fields), ionizing radiation of various nature.

Over the years, KB-2 has developed a large number of nuclear warheads for various types of the Armed Forces, which became the basis of the country's nuclear shield. The most famous of them are the warhead for the first R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile, the military equipment for the intercontinental ballistic missile with a multiple warhead (according to the Western classification SS-18-3, SATAN), as well as for the modern Topol-M missile systems , "Yars" and others.

The creation and establishment of KB-2 took place under the leadership of twice Hero of Socialist Labor, chief designer S.G. Kocharyants - founder of KB. Next, KB-2 was led by chief designers G.N. Dmitriev and Yu.I. Faykov,, then by chief designer V.N. Morozov.

Over the years, a highly professional team has formed in KB-2. The labor merits of many workers were marked by state awards: since 1959, 112 people became laureates of various prizes, 36 were awarded honorary titles, 652 were awarded orders and medals of the USSR and the Russian Federation. The scientific, technical, technological and production potential of KB-2 and the entire FSUE RFNC-VNIIEF, accumulated over 70 years, allows today to ensure Russia's most important national task - nuclear deterrence at both the global and regional levels of any potential adversary.

At present, RFNC-VNIIEF is a multidisciplinary research center, which includes: Institute of Theoretical and Mathematical Physics (ITMF), which carries out theoretical developments in the field of nuclear charges, numerical simulation of processes occurring in charges during an explosion; Institute of Explosion Physics (IFV), which conducts research in the field of explosion physics, experimental work with explosives and components containing explosives; Institute of Nuclear and Radiation Physics (INRF), which carries out experimental work on nuclear reactors, powerful electrophysical installations, research on nuclear constants; Institute of Laser Physical Research (ILFI), which conducts laser and electrophysical studies at facilities and stands with unique characteristics; KB-1 and KB-2, which carry out design, engineering and technological work with nuclear charges, ammunition and automation systems; units that deal with conversion topics. The institute includes an integrated research complex, in the experimental facilities and test benches of which continuous tests of the designs of nuclear charges, ammunition and their elements and units are carried out.

The Russian Federal Nuclear Center - VNIIEF is the country's largest research institute that solves the complex tasks of defense, scientific, and national economic importance. The Institute made a decisive contribution to solving the problems of creating nuclear and thermonuclear weapons in the USSR, and the liquidation of the US atomic monopoly. The Institute’s activities ensured the achievement of nuclear equilibrium during the Cold War and contributed to the balance of power in the world, which kept humanity from global military conflicts.

VNIIEF scientists and specialists are developing a wide range of nuclear and thermonuclear charges and nuclear ammunition for various types of the Armed Forces and military branches, including for the Strategic Missile Forces. More than half of the nuclear munitions in service with the Strategic Missile Forces are developed at the VNIIEF.

In 1992, VNIIEF received the status of the Russian Federal Nuclear Center. The main task of the nuclear center today is to ensure and maintain the reliability and safety of Russia's nuclear weapons.

RFNC-VNIIEF has powerful design, experimental, test, technological and production bases that allow to quickly and efficiently solve the tasks assigned to it. The RFNC-VNIIEF is intensively working to improve the technical characteristics, efficiency, safety and reliability of nuclear weapons. In modern conditions, when the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is in force, the main areas of research for solving nuclear weapons problems are concentrated in the theoretical and theoretical, design and experimental divisions of the institute.

The Institute includes two pilot production facilities. The Plant No. 2 produces high-explosive components of nuclear warheads. The Plant Kommunist assembles experimental and pilot warheads and devices. These two VNIIEF's plants were the only Soviet warhead assembly facilities until 1951, when the first serial production plant Avangard was built and went into operation at Arzamas-16.

The Arzamas-16 city and research and production facilities are located within a hexagonal restricted area of 232 km2. Arzamas-16 is surrounded by an outer defensive ring 25 miles out that is carefully monitored. The city inside that ring is surrounded by a double, barbed-wire fence that is patrolled by the Russian army. Uniformed troops from the Russian Ministry of the Interior patrol the inner city. Areas that house nuclear materials are surrounded by multiple fences and walls, and the spaces between the fences are plowed and patrolled. Sensors are in place to detect unauthorized intruders.

The township of Sarov occupies 29 km2 and is located in the northern part of the restricted area, south of the airport. VNIIEF's main administration building is located near the Sarov Monastery, the symbol of Arzamas-16. There are several protected areas within the city, which are probably associated with VNIIEF. The Avangard plant is located in the western part of the restricted area. The southern part of Arzamas-16 is covered with woods and contains multiple experimental facilities and storage areas.

The town, still fenced off to the outside world, is almost totally dependent on the Russian government. The economic situation of the city continues to deteriorate. Scientists who are dependent on the struggling Russian government for financial support find that essentially all consumer goods are now priced out of their reach. For several years, there have been warnings that nuclear materials might be smuggled out of the former Soviet Union. Declining living standards combined with instances of lax security provided motives and opportunities for criminal sales of nuclear materials. For example, the Russian press reported in March 1993 that eleven kilograms of uranium 238 were stolen from the Arzamas-16 nuclear research and development centre and that local law enforcement authorities were investigating "dozens" of similar cases.

The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction bill, passed in 1991, initiated collaborations between the US and the newly independent states (NIS), principally Russia. Arzamas-16 and its counterpart Los Alamos National Laboratory have begun working together extensively on scientific collaboration. LANL has also been working with other Russian labs, including Chelyabinsk-70 and the Kurchatov Institute. The idea of Los Alamos -Russian collaboration was proposed as early as 1989. Westerners first visited Arzamas-16 in October of 1990, though there were few developments prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in December, 1991. The first of a series of visits to began in November 1991, and the directors of Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore Laboratories first visited Arzamas-16 and Chelyabinsk-70 in Feburary of 1992. During the week of November 11, 1992 members of the nuclear weapons program at Los Alamos met with their Russian counterparts to work on collaborations. By the end of that week, an agreement was signed to allow for joint Los Alamos-Russian ventures.

Some of the joint experimentation with Arzamas and Los Alamos deals with the production of intense pulses of electrical current and ultrahigh magnetic fields. The results of this experiment can be used in fields such as plasma physics, high-pressure chemistry, microwave generation, astrophysics, and advanced electronics, as well as applied to help accomplish the goal of fusion power.

As one of the principal MINATOM nuclear weapon and scientific research laboratories, Arzamas-16 is a leader in Russian efforts to strengthen nuclear materials protection, control, and accounting (MPC&A) in the MINATOM nuclear complex. The pilot project at Arzamas-16 centered on the demonstration of MPC&A methods and technologies that could be applied at sensitive nuclear facilities in the MINATOM defense complex. Nuclear experts from the U.S. laboratories and several Russian nuclear institutes will demonstrate a new system at the Russian nuclear weapons design laboratory at Arzamas-16 that will help ensure the security of weapons materials at Arzamas and other Russian nuclear facilities. Similar demonstrations are planned at other Russian institutes.

There are at least five American supercomputers in two of Russia's nuclear weapons labs: Chelyabinsk-70 and Arzamas-16. Minister Mikhailov of the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy said in a speech in January 1997 that they will be used to simulate nuclear explosions, and that the computers are "10 times faster than any previously available in Russia." Four of the five supercomputers in Russia's nuclear weapons labs came from Silicon Graphics.

Regional Context

With more than 1.42 million residents, Nizhny Novgorod [formerly known as Gorky] is the third-largest city in Russia. It is located at the junction of the Oka and Volga rivers approximately 500 km northeast of Moscow. The machine-building, automotive, chemical, petrochemical, woodworking, pulp and paper, radioelectronics, shipbuilding, aerospace, pharmaceutical and construction industries represent the regional economic potential.

Until 1990, Nizhny Novgorod was a closed city, both to foreigners and to most Russians. This occurred primarily because of the city's concentration of armaments factories, as well as the presence of highly sensitive scientific and technical research and production facilities for the defense industry. Due to such a concentration, a sense of heightened local security exists in Nizhny Novgorod.

When Nizhny Novgorod was a closed city, it was designated for some of the most intense scientific and defense industry research and production in the country. As a result, the production facilities and the quality of the labor force located in this city are among some of the best in Russia. The decreasing demand for defense industry products has not only lead the way for successful defense conversion efforts, but has also opened the doors for foreign investment opportunities in the region. Some of the main sectors of activity here are aircraft production, automobile manufacture, chemical processing and manufacture, radio-electronics, shipbuilding, and wood, pulp, and paper processing.

The Nizhny Novgorod Oblast was one of the first regions to implement the Privatization Program adopted by the Russian Government. Soon the Oblast took leadership in reforms thanks to the local progressive and reform-minded administration and legislature.

Imagery Evaluation Report

As of 07 October 2000, the Space Imaging Carterra Archive had seven images of this area acquired in early 2000, of which all were unusably cloudy.

Larger Images [150-300kb]

Sources and Methods

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Page last modified: 11-08-2019 19:00:57 ZULU