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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Post War Developments

In April 1945, Kurchatov reported to Stalin the four major objectives: the uranium-graphite reactor, the diffusion plant for producing uranium-235, receiving heavy water for the uranium- heavy-water reactor, and finally building the bomb. The long-awaited end of the war against Germany allowed the USSR to boost the work on the uranium project. The Americans’ atomic bombardment of the Japanese cities in 1945 further accelerated the work rate. Stalin's response to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the decision to reorganize the management structure of our nuclear project. By decree of the State Defense Committee of August 20, 1945, a special committee of the government was created with extraordinary powers. Beria as a member of the Politburo and deputy chairman of the State Defense Committee was appointed its chairman, Pervukhin - deputy, General Makhnev - secretary. TheA Special Committee headed by Beriya was created; it supervised the USSR Cabinet First Head Office (FHO) headed by B.L. Vannikov. A Technical Council was created in the FHO that included ministers of corresponding departments, as well as scientists and directors of design bureaus and atomic industry plants. Kurchatov got virtually unlimited powers.

April 8, 1946 came Resolution of the USSR Council of Ministers No. 806-327, which on the basis of the branch of laboratory No. 2 was organized KB-11 (p / y Arzamas-16), headed by Yu.B. Khariton. The task of KB-11 was to create a "product", that is, a nuclear bomb.

In early 1946, there were three departments formed in the Laboratory #2. The “K” department headed by Kurchatov developed the industrial-scale production of plutonium on a uranium-graphite reactor, did nuclear physics research and calculations for bombs, and handled essential issues of radiochemistry, primarily in plutonium production.

The “D” department headed by Kikoin dealt with creating a diffusion plant for enriching uranium to 90% by the uranium-235 isotope. The “A” department headed by Artsimovich progressed toward the same goal by developing electromagnetic units. Kikoin and Artsimovich were appointed as Kurchatov’s assistants at the Laboratory #2. These eminent scientists eventually became the founders of powerful and promising fields of science: the former — of molecular physics, the latter — of thermonuclear research.

In woody Meschera lands, in the small town of Sarov, the most secret affiliate of the Laboratory #2 was organized — KB-11. There, under Yuliy Borisovich Khariton’s supervision, the atomic bomb was engineered. Later, the Laboratory #2 got two more affiliates: HTL — the Hydrotechnical Laboratory in Dubna headed by M.G. Mescheryakov, and RTL — the Ratiotechnical Laboratory in Moscow headed by A.L. Mints. In a few years, each of the affiliates became an independent high-class science and research facility.

In the fall of 1946, Moscow had enough building material to begin the construction of the nuclear reactor. It took 45 tons of pure metal uranium and about 450 tons of the purest graphite. Uranium was mined at the Wismut mine in East Saxony on the other side of the Ore Mountains. From the beginning of December 1946 Kurchatov attempted to launch a chain reaction in the nuclear reactor. Three methods were tried, and they all failed. All have already begun to fear the anger of the authorities - Beria. And only the fourth method, tested on December 25, led to success. Beria himself came to see this test. In his study there were two lists of scientists. In the first list, those who, if successful, were to receive higher awards and privileges, and in case of failure they were to be shot. In the second, those who were entitled to less honors or a term in a concentration camp.

In December 1946, the Laboratory #2 launched the first Soviet atomic reactor F-1; in summer 1948 the first commercial atomic reactor started operating in the closed town Chelyabinsk-40 — it produced A-1 (“Annushka”) plutonium; and in August 1949, the first Soviet atomic bomb exploded on the Semipalatinsk nuclear range.

The KB-11 team had to develop a nuclear bomb in two versions: in plutonium using spherical reduction (RDS-1) and in uranium-235 with cannon approach (RDS-2). The plutonium bomb was planned to be submitted for testing before January 1, 1948, and the uranium bomb to June 1, 1948. But in February 1948, the production and testing of nuclear bombs were postponed to March-December 1949. Both versions were developed in parallel, but the production of uranium charge for a number of objective and subjective reasons was delayed by a year and a half.

In the spring of 1948 the term of two years expired, tempered by Stalin in the Soviet atomic bomb project. But this time was not sufficient for the production of the fissile material for the bomb. Government Decision of February 8, 1948 set a new production time for the bomb RDS-1 - March 1, 1949.

The first reactor "A" at the works number 817 was launched on 19 June 1948 (22 June 1948. Reached its design capacity and was decommissioned in 1987 only) radiochemical plant (Plant "B") was built for the allocation of plutonium from the nuclear fuel in the plant number 817. The irradiated uranium blocks and dissolved by chemical means separated plutonium from uranium. The concentrated plutonium solution is further purified from intensely radioactive fission products in order to reduce its radiation activity on admission to the metallurgists.

In April 1949, the "B" started to manufacture parts of the plutonium bomb technology NII-9. At the same time, the first heavy water research reactor was launched. The development of the production of fissile materials went hard with numerous accidents in eliminating the consequences of which were cases of overexposure personnel location (if on such trifles do not pay attention). By July plutonium charge kit of parts I was ready. To carry out physical measurements on the plant left a group of physicists led by Flerov, and to process the results of these measurements, calculate the values of efficiency and probability of incomplete explosion - the theory group was under the leadership of Zeldovich.

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Page last modified: 22-04-2018 18:58:22 ZULU