Voices from Russia

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Peacemaker: How the Soviet Tsar Bomba Helped Prevent Nuclear War

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Fifty-five years ago, the USSR detonated a 50-megaton bomb over an uninhabited island north of the Arctic Circle. The most powerful thermonuclear weapon ever built by man, aptly called the Tsar Bomba, gave the USSR nuclear parity with the USA.

The Super Bomb was a Necessity

The “thaw” in Soviet-US relations resulting from, amongst other things, Nikita Khrushchyov’s visit to the USA in autumn 1959 ended on 1 May 1960, when the Soviets shot down a US U-2 spy plane flown by CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers in their airspace as it performed photographic aerial reconnaissance of the Baikonur cosmodrome and a number of Soviet military and nuclear facilities. Powers parachuted safely, the Soviets captured him, and he admitted the military nature of his mission. As a result, Khrushchyov cancelled the scheduled opening of an east-west summit in Paris. The incident prompted a marked deterioration of US-Soviet relations, especially after US-backed Cuban emigrants bungled an attempt to invade Cuba in April 1961. The Moscow-proposed moratorium on nuclear tests by the USSR, the USA, and the UK, in effect since 1958, left the USSR lagging far behind the USA in the size of its nuclear arsenal. By 1960, the Americans used the moratorium to bring the number of their nuclear and thermonuclear warheads to 18,600 from 7,500 in 1958. In July 1961, Khrushchyov decided that he had enough of the moratorium and decided to start work on super-powerful thermonuclear weapons to restore nuclear parity with the USA. He also announced the need to build a 100-megaton thermonuclear bomb as a means of forcing the Americans to wake up to reality.

The Tsar Bomba

A four-man development team of nuclear physicists… Viktor Adamsky, Yuri Babaev, Yuri Smirnov, and Yuri Trutnev… had the responsibility to design and build a three-stage thermonuclear device in just 15 weeks. Officially designated the AN602 thermonuclear bomb, the Tsar Bomba used the common three-stage Teller-Ulam design. The primary fission reaction compressed a secondary mixed fission/fusion fuel layer, which in turn compressed a large tertiary thermonuclear payload, essentially stringing a pair of hydrogen fission reactions together to generate enough energy to activate fusion in a uranium payload.

Record-Breaking Blast

At 09.00 on 30 October 1961, a specially modified Tu-95 strategic bomber took off; it carried the Tsar Bomba and a Tu-16A flying laboratory accompanied it. They headed for a testing range on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. At 27 tonnes, the Tsar Bomba weighed nearly as much as the Tu-95 that carried it; it was so big that groundcrew had to cut off the bomb-bay doors to fit it in. At 11.30, the crew released the device from 10,500 metres, using a parachute to retard its fall so that the bomber and its companion craft had sufficient time… 188 seconds… to leave the area. The bomb went off at an altitude of 4,200 metres. The calculated power of the unprecedented explosion was 51.5 megatons. In reality, its power was between 57 and 58.6 megatons. The fireball from the explosion was 4.6 kilometres across; it was visible 1,000 kilometres away, despite dense clouds. The mushroom cloud rose up to almost 70 kilometres and had a diameter of 95 kilometres. For about an hour after the explosion, people observed radio signal distortions hundreds of kilometres from the epicentre due to ionisation of the atmosphere. The shockwave circled the planet three times. On Dikson Island, some 800 kilometres from the range, the shockwave shattered windows, bringing the sound of cannonade with it.

Aftermath

Even though the Tsar Bomba wasn’t an active service weapon, its creation confirmed the USSR’s ability to have as many megatons of nuclear might as it desired. With this realisation in mind, the USA stopped their nuclear buildup. On 5 August 1963, the USSR, the USA, and the UK signed a treaty banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater. Thus, the test of the Tsar Bomba played a crucial role in achieving nuclear parity between the USSR and the USA. This prevented nuclear war.

30 October 2016

Sputnik International

https://sputniknews.com/russia/201610301046887680-ussr-bomb-history/

Monday, 10 August 2015

Oscillating Neutrino Discovery Could Shed Light on Origins of Universe

Filed under: science — 01varvara @ 00.00
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The NOvA neutrino detector produced its first evidence of oscillating neutrinos; the neutrino is the most abundant massive particle in the universe, but one of the least understood. Researchers working on the NOvA experiment announced that its particle detector observed oscillating neutrinos fired underground from 500 miles [805 kilometres] away, a finding hailed as a huge leap in understanding the poorly understood particles, which are able to pass through great distances in matter without being affected by it. Neutrinos are part of the lepton family of particles and come in three “flavours”, what is especially interesting about them is that they can change flavour (oscillate) while in flight, so whilst a neutrino might begin its journey as a muon neutrino, it can magically morph into a tau neutrino by the time it hits a detector.

NOvA co-spokesman Peter Shanahan (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, near Chicago IL USA) said, “People are ecstatic to see our first observation of neutrino oscillations”. The massive particle detector, 50 feet [15 meters] tall, 50 feet [15.25 metres] wide and 200 feet [61 metres] long, is located in Ash River MN USA, 500 miles away from the neutrino beam generated by the accelerator at Fermilab. The neutrino beam passes through an underground detector that measures its neutrino composition before leaving the site. The laboratory’s accelerator sends, once per second, trillions of neutrinos to the detector at Minnesota, where only a few will register. Shanahan said, “For all the people who worked over the course of a decade on the designing, building, commissioning, and operating this experiment, it’s beyond gratifying”.

A neutrino makes its presence known at the NOvA detector by colliding with an atom, after which it releases a trail of particles and light. The trail is different depending on whether it is an electron, muon, or tau neutrino; the type of neutrino relates to its corresponding charged particle. The neutrino beam originating at Fermilab is composed almost entirely of muon neutrinos, and the researchers are able to detect oscillating neutrinos by measuring how many muon neutrinos disappear over their journey and reappear as electron neutrinos. The scientists found that instead of 201 muon neutrinos arriving at the NOvA far detector, they detected only 33, proof that the oscillation of neutrinos took place.

The NOvA collaboration comprises 210 scientists and engineers from 39 institutions in the USA, Brazil, Czechia, Greece, India, Russia, and the UK, and aims to gain greater understanding of the neutrino particle, one of the fundamental particles that make up the universe, but one of the least understood. Scientists believe neutrinos could hold clues as to why matter overwhelmingly survived after the Big Bang instead of just energy in the form of light. Physicist Thomas Coan, a principal investigator on NOvA, explained, “If we want to understand the universe on a large scale, we have to understand how neutrinos behave. Experimental observations from NOvA will be an important input into the overarching theory”.

Last month, the accelerator at Fermilab set a world record for most powerful high-energy particle beam ever generated for a neutrino experiment, when it generated a sustained 521-kilowatt beam, beating the 400-plus-kilowatt beam sent to neutrino experiments from particle accelerators at CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider. The next aim for the accelerator is to deliver 700 kilowatt beam power, and then upgrade to power in excess of 1,000 kilowatts, or 1 megawatt.

10 August 2015

Sputnik International

http://sputniknews.com/science/20150810/1025578854.html

Monday, 1 September 2014

Dr A A Brish: “I Wasn’t Afraid to Create the First Atomic Bomb”

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Editor:

There is much irresponsible talk, especially by rightwing nutters, that the USSR “stole” the atomic bomb. That’s ludicrous. Russia’s always been one of the scientific and mathematical powerhouses in the world. It took the Americans 44 months to develop an A-bomb (December 1941 to July 1945); the USSR took 50 months (June 1945 to August 1949)… the timeframes are similar… the urgency behind both were similar… the two countries had equal prowess in mathematics, physics, and engineering. Bear this in mind… the USSR could copy the B-29 for series production without blueprints (and converting from American measurements to metric, to boot) in less than two years, a feat possible only because the USSR had engineers equal in skill to their American colleagues. It was likewise with “the bomb”. Anglo Americans are spoilt juvenile brats who think themselves the crème de la crème of the world. Such isn’t so…

By the way, during the VOV, A A Brish was a partizan fighting the fascist occupiers in Minsk… he was NOT a coward like Willy Romney, Rush Limbaugh, Paul Ryan, or Bill O’Reilly… he served, and served with honour. A man well-worth attending to, I’d say…

BMD

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On 29 August 1949, the USSR exploded its first atomic bomb in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. It was code-named “First Lightning” by Soviet scientists and “Joe 1” (after Joseph Stalin) by the Americans. To test the bomb’s destructive capacity, engineers built houses, bridges, and even a metro line. The explosion was 50 percent more destructive than initially planned. This took the world by surprise, because the Soviet nuclear development programme was a well-kept secret for nearly 10 years. The USA reacted with President Truman’s announcement that he was aware of the nuclear explosion in the USSR. From that moment on, the Cold War shifted towards a balance of power. On the eve of the 65th anniversary of “First Lightning”, Rossiya Segodnya met with one of the bomb’s creators, Dr A А Brish, a renowned Russian nuclear weapons engineer. Brish told us about Stalin, nuclear myths, and why you can’t steal a bomb.

Rossiya Segodnya

Arkady Adamovich, what significance does 29 August 1949 actually have in world history?

A A Brish

On that very day, we proved that we had the ability to create our own nuclear weapons and were able to break the monopoly of the USA, which was planning to attack our country with atomic bombs. Thus, we excluded the mere possibility of a unilateral and punitive nuclear war. Because of that, we’re still able to preserve the postwar peace. However, I should specify that it was an atomic detonation with an automatic control, put on a tower, without the body of a bomb. Therefore, it wasn’t a full-bodied nuclear weapon.

RS

Our first atomic explosive was made in the shortest time-frame, in a country left half-ruined after the war. How on Earth was it possible?

Brish

It was really a surprise. It was a real miracle, as our industry was devastated. Millions of people were killed. Our leadership displayed true courage, will, and talent, gathering outstanding experts and leaders who were able to develop an atomic bomb in the shortest time-frame possible, as they gave us all the necessary resources. We were really pressed for time. If we were late, the Americans could’ve used their nuclear weapons against us. (By the time of the First Lightning test, the USA had already dropped two bombs on Japan: Rossiya Segodnya) It was really a stroke of luck that Stalin appointed the then-young I V Kurchatov as scientific research director. Kurchatov was the one who recruited all the scientific staff for the atomic bomb project. He also suggested Yu B Khariton for the post of chief designer of the first Soviet atomic bomb. The development of its own nuclear weapons was undoubtedly a great feat for Russia.

RS

Quite often, one hears that our intelligence agents simply “stole” the bomb from the USA and thus the major role in the development of our atomic weapons belongs to intelligence agents and not to scientists.

Brish

This isn’t true. People who simply don’t understand what they’re talking about say that. What could it possibly mean to “steal” a bomb? One might get some documents, which would be meaningless in and of themselves. You need high-profile experts, technology, and a separate branch of industry to implement them, and it involves much work. Experts, who understand how complicated technical systems are developed, have no doubt about it. By the way, the claim that we only developed our atomic weapon thanks to our intelligence agents first emerged in the USA in 1950, shortly after the exposure of Klaus Fuchs… a participant in the American nuclear programme, who voluntarily supplied our intelligence community with information about his work. Later, American journalists and some American scientists claimed that, with the help of its intelligence agents, the USSR not only obtained the secret of atomic bomb development, but the hydrogen bomb as well. Thus, the USA could provide an easy explanation for the outstanding success of Soviet scientists.

However, our scientists do give credit to our intelligence community. The information they provided was of particular importance at the initial stage of our atomic project, up to 1945. That data forced the leadership of our country to give special attention to the development of the atomic bomb for the nation and inspired scientists such as N N Semyonov, Yu B Khariton, and Ya B Zeldovich, who had already achieved substantial success in nuclear research before the war. In 1945, however, the USA published a book, Atomic Energy for Military Purposes, where it openly described the process of how the USA developed the atomic bomb. The people who made the decision to publish that book were absolutely convinced that we wouldn’t be able to develop our own atomic bomb quickly. Nevertheless, they were wrong. They didn’t take into account that we had outstanding scientists. Regardless of all the military losses, our country managed to preserve its powerful scientific and technological potential.         

Those who talk about the alleged “theft” of the bomb don’t take into account the historic and political connotations. We needed to demonstrate as soon as possible that we also possessed atomic weapons. It was all about the safety of our motherland and not a question of technical priorities. One can’t say that our first atomic detonation was a full copy of the American one. Thanks to the intelligence, we only knew its scheme, which didn’t need a blueprint. Our experts worked out all the engineering and technical documentation for the development of an atomic charge using that scheme. By mid-1949, we had conducted our own scientific and technical engineering studies for the development of our own innovative atomic bomb, but the leadership made the decision to use a charge developed using the American scheme for its first test. It was justified… at that time, a war with the USA could have broken out at any moment. To test our own innovative construction would’ve meant we increased the risk of an unsuccessful test. We couldn’t afford that. However, already by 1951, during the second test, we used a charge for an atomic bomb fully developed by our scientists. It was twice as powerful and twice as light as the one developed using the American scheme.  Soviet scientists placed the utmost priority on the development of the first transportable hydrogen bomb, which we successfully tested in the USSR on 12 August 1953. At that time, the US didn’t have anything even remotely similar, and American scientists admitted that.

RS

There is a myth (which, like any myth, does not have any documented confirmation), that the Soviet scientists who worked on the bomb received honours for their achievement based on the penalties they would’ve suffered had the test failed. Those who would have faced the death penalty if the bomb failed to detonate received the order of Heroes of Socialist Labour and those who would’ve merely been imprisoned received different orders and slightly less prestigious awards. Allegedly, that was the decision of L P Beriya, who oversaw the atomic project, who struck fear in the hearts of the scientists.

Brish

There was no fear! Rather, there was an extreme sense of responsibility and an urge to defend the Motherland. As for Beriya, he was an outstanding organiser, and he did a lot for the development of our nuclear weapons. We should always keep this in mind when talking about that work.

RS

Work… is it the most important aspect of your life?

Brish

When you develop new nuclear weapons with unique characteristics, it captivates you; you need to prove that it’s going to work. I’m a devoted person who’s easily carried away, but my most important occupation has been the development of a weapon that would defend our country. This inspired me to devote my whole life to all the issues that I’ve worked on. We couldn’t let any country use nuclear weapons with total impunity. Now, I’m eager to live on, to be able to pass the knowledge I have to younger generations, and the feeling of personal responsibility for the results of this work, which was always a hallmark of the atomic scientists of my generation.

29 August 2014

Rossiya Segodnya

http://en.ria.ru/interview/20140829/192449869/Dr-Arkady-Brish-I-Was-Not-Afraid-to-Create-the-First-Atomic-Bomb.html

Monday, 10 December 2012

10 December 2012. RIA-Novosti Infographics. Nuclear Chain Reactions

00 RIA-Novosti Infographics. Nuclear Chain Reactions. 2012

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8 December 2012

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/infographics/20121208/177985581.html 

 

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