The First Soviet Atomic bomb
Creation of the first Soviet atomic bomb, as to the complexity of scientific, technical and engineering problems solved, turned to be a truly unique event, which effected significantly the political balance in the world after the Second World War. Development of the bomb in the country, which had not enough time to recuperate from severe destruction and shocks of the four-year war, became possible only due to combined heroic efforts of scientists, production captains, engineers and workers. For the Soviet atomic project to be implemented the real scientific-technical breakthrough had to happen, which resulted in establishment of the domestic atomic branch. As being reviewed retrospectively, heroism of the soviet people justified itself. Having mastered the secrets of atomic weapons, our Homeland provided military and defensive parity between the two world leaders – the USSR and the USA for the long run. The nuclear shield, built from numerous elements, RDS-1 bomb being the first of them, is still protecting Russia today. Igor Kurchatov was assigned as the Head of the Atomic Project. Since the end of 1942 he started building the team of scientists and engineers, capable to make the project live. Initially it was V.Molotov, who headed the atomic project in general. On 20 August, 1945 (several days after bombing of Japanese cities) the State Committee for Defense established a Special Committee to be headed by Lavrenty Beria. Thus, Beria became the official leader of the first atomic project.
RDS-1 is the code name of the first atomic bomb to be produced in the USSR. Humorously people interpreted it as “Russia makes it itself” or “Motherland gifts it to Stalin” (by the first letters of the Russian equivalent), but officially it was decoded as “Jet Propellant S” in 21 June, 1946 Statement of the Soviet of Ministers. It was pointed in the corresponding Task Order, that the atomic bomb is to be developed in two versions: with “heavy fuel” (plutonium) and “light” fuel (uranium-235) incorporated into its design. Task Order for RDS-1 and the follow-up design stage were developed on the basis of the documents for the US plutonium bomb, first tested in 1945. The documents were recovered by the Soviet intelligence service. The German physicist Klaus Fuks – the participant of the American and UK nuclear projects delivered the most important pieces of information.
Intelligence related to the US plutonium bomb helped to skip the number of mistakes in the course of development of RDS-1, as well as to significantly reduce the associated expenses and the time frames, although it was quite clear from the initial stages, that certain technical solutions of the American side were far from being excellent.
On April 9, 1946 the secret statement of the USSR Soviet of Ministers was adopted, establishing the Design Department N11 (KB-11) under the auspices of Laboratory 2 of the Academy of Sciences. P.M. Zernov, the outstanding production manager, headed KB-11, whereas Y.B. Khariton took the responsibility for the scientific issues.
Experts from multiple organizations were invited to participate in the first Soviet Atomic Project. The leaders of KB-11 were looking for the best and most promising scientists, engineers and workers everywhere, notwithstanding their previous occupation. All the candidates were thoroughly scanned by the secrete service prior to being hired.
Thus, development of the Soviet atomic weapon is the result of the combined effort of a huge team of participants. It has to be underlined here, that the members of the team were all bright personalities, who had left the appreciable trace in the history of the domestic and world science. The Project served as the focus for the valuable scientific, engineering and executive staff ever.
Test activities played a very special role in the course of RDS-1 development. Firstly, only the tests could give the final answer to the question, whether the first domestic sample of the new weapon was effective or not. Secondly, it is hard to overestimate the political importance of this event. Successful tests were not only the first step to stop the American monopoly for nuclear weapons, but the starting point on the road, which leaded to unprecedented safety of out country.
On August 29, 1949, the Semipalatinsk test site was illuminated by the dazzling flash. The measuring devices confirmed, that the expected yield of 20 kt was achieved. The Soviet Union had successfully completed development and testing of the first home-made atomic bomb.