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Universal History

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Uranium for the First Soviet Atomic Bomb
B.S. Gorobets

The essay treats the problem of searches for uranium ores in the initial period, i.e. from 1943 up to 1950. In autumn, 1942, the Uranium (Atomic) Project started, in the USSR. Then there were known but 5 small uranium deposits, all whithin Fergana Valley. Their total stocks were equal about 200–400 t, its mining for radium having been ceased when the War started. In 1945, when mining recommenced, only 14,6 t of uranium metal have been recovered out from 18 thousand tons of ores, transported down from mountains, essentially by asses. After the nuclear explosions by the USA, in 1945, Soviet hunting for uranium got off at a quickened pace. Searches have been carrying out on Soviet territory, as well as in occupied East Germany and satellite Tchekoslovakia. There were known several high-grade ore deposits of uranium, placed in the Ore Mts, stretching along the frontiere between the two countries.
In May, 1945, a group of Soviet physicists disguised as colonels of NKVD Yu. Khariton, I.K. Kikoin, L.A. Artsymovich et al. were sent to the East Germany in order to get documents and other materials as more as possible of the Germam Uranium Project. They knew for sure that somewhere, in Germany, have to be stocked uranium concentrates, oxides and salts imported from Belgium as captured material. For uranium ores had been mined in Belgium Congo for a long pre-war period as source of radium. Аfter more than a month detective searches the physicists discovered a stock of barrels with, in sum, about 200 t of uranium oxides and salts. All this uranium was reduced in metal which then was used as first charge into the reactor «F-1» and partly the industrial reactor «A» for plutonium to be produced. Lack of uranium was filled in uranium from East Germany, Tcheckoslovakia and a little from Bulgaria and Poland. In 1948 uranium from Soviet deposits was but a minor part in the first charg.
In the spring, 1949, crushing of the Ministery of Geology, as well as arrests of more than twenty leading ore-geologists, have taken place. Among them were professors I.Grigoriev, A. Vologdin, V. Kreiter, Ya. Edelstein, B. Likharev, M. Rusakov, some of chief geologists of the huge Krasnoyarsk territorial department. Мinister of Geology I.I. Malyshev and almost all head geologists of the Ministry were dismissed. Some of arrested geologists were liberated in 1951–1952. But I.Grigoriev, Ya. Edelstein, V. Kotulskii, L. Shamanskii perished in the GULag. Stalin nominated new minister of geology, general of MGB P.A. Zakharov, a creature by L.P. Beria. The development of uranium geology was sharply slowed down. In 1954, P.Ya Antropov has been nominated as new Minister of Geology.
These foreign deposits proved to be the main source of uranium which, after processing, fed up the two first Soviet uranium-graphite reactors meant for Physical researches (F-1 in Moscow) and for plutonium production in large scale (factory «A» in the Middle Urals).
Some part of the essay is concerned with «human factor» illustrated by particular events: unusual episodes and persons who acted at the secrete «uranium front». As a whole, a magnificent view openes (though in fragments) which presents the Soviet state and its people working in extremely hard situation, in the end of 1940-ies, over the global problem of their security.

Keywords: uranium, deposit, Taboshar, the Ore Mountains, Jochymov, Сombine № 6, Director Chirkov B.N., I.K. Kikoine, Yu.B. Khariton.

Contacts: Е-mail: bgorobets@rambler.ru

Pp. 20-40.

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