Ya Yastrebby Viktor Nikitovich Mikhaylov
(I Am a "Hawk")
Memoirs of Atomic Energy Minister Mikhaylov
Kron-Press, Moscow, 1993
(signed to press 1 Nov 93)
5,000 copies, 128 pages, with illustrations
AnnotationThe author tells the story of his life and elucidates the problems connected with the development and testing of nuclear weapons. While he is a convinced supporter of general and complete disarmament, he at the same time emphasizes that, at this stage, stable peace on earth can be guaranteed only by nuclear parity, and warns of the possibly tragic consequences of unilateral disarmament by our country. Photographs from his family archives are used in the book.
PrefaceThe Russian Federation Ministry of Atomic Energy was created by an edict of the president of the Russian Federation of 28 January 1992. Viktor Nikitovich Mikhaylov became the first minister of atomic energy. The newspapers printed the edict and a brief biography of one of our domestic "hawks," known only as Professor "M" up to that time.
Viktor Nikitovich Mikhaylov was born on 12 February 1934 in the rural community of Sopronovo in Moscow Oblast. He graduated from the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute and worked in the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics and then in the Scientific Research Institute of Impulse Engineering. In March 1992 he became the head of the Russian Federation Ministry of Atomic Energy. Since December 1992 he has been in charge of scientific operations at the Russian Federal Nuclear Center--the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics (VNIIEF).
He is a doctor of technical sciences, a professor, the author of more than 260 scientific works, a recipient of the Lenin and State prizes, and the founder of the scientific school of the physics of explosive nuclear fission and penetrating radiation single-pulse diagnostics.
V.N. Mikhaylov is more than a scientist and statesman. In his book, he is primarily a citizen, who is disturbed by his contemporaries' misinterpretation of such concepts as the Motherland and its independence and security.
The main idea or focal point of his public statements and of the whole book in general is the idea of the inadmissibility of unilateral moves by Russia in the sphere of nuclear disarmament and the unilateral cessation of nuclear tests. The author makes a passionate appeal to the reason of the Russian people by reminding us of the frightening lesson history taught us at the time of the monopoly on nuclear weapons in 1945-1949. Every part of this book reflects his conviction that unilateral nuclear disarmament could have disastrous implications for our country, that this would lead us down a dark road on which it would be difficult to guess how many steps--ten or one--separate us from the edge of the precipice.
Viktor Nikitovich presents logical, conclusive, and persuasive arguments, and we sincerely hope that his words and his ideas will evoke a response in the minds and hearts of the readers and convince them that each state is only as strong as its defensive capabilities.
The editors are grateful to the SOLBY firm for its consistent promotion of multifaceted relations between the United States and Russia, including relations in the sphere of nuclear power engineering, and for its commitment to the publication of this book. We share its conviction that the book will be of considerable interest to researchers of the new Russia's nuclear doctrine, which was elaborated with the direct participation of the author, and to the general reading public in any country, because it will introduce readers not only to the "chief armorer" of a nuclear power, but also to a brilliant representative of the Russian people--a vital, optimistic, and somewhat romantic individual.
Am I a "Hawk"?The hawk is a bird known for its swift flight and graceful landings, its keen hearing and vision, its powerful beak, and its paternal concern for its progeny
Arzamas-16--A Closed CityI was born and raised in the country that was called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I grew up along with my people, taking the same path as millions of my contemporaries: progressing from kindergarten to school, with Pioneer camp in the summer, and then to the institute and the Komsomol. World War II changed many things in my life. My father was killed, and my older sister died of illness and consumption. Victory Day, however, will live in my memory forever. The sensations of springtime and the end of the terrible war made the world seem sunny and bright.
The death of loved ones, hunger, and cold--that is what the war gave my family. I remember how my mother and I went to all of the remote villages in Lesnyy Rayon, in the north of Tver Oblast, in the hope of trading one of our coats or suits for something to eat. We had to survive, and my mother knew that everything would be fine if we could just survive the cold and bleak winter of 1941-1942. She was right, but first we had to endure several more grim years of war.
My mother loved me very much, and she always said that I gave her nothing but happiness and no worries at all. Before I was born, she and my father moved from Kalinin Oblast to Moscow Oblast with their three-year-old daughter in search of a living. One day one of my mother's friends invited her to go shopping: "Nadya, calico fabric is on sale today in Tsaritsino. Get ready, and we'll go to the store."
"But I have an appointment at the hospital...," my mother replied.
"Go ahead and have another one. It might be a boy," her friend said, and they went shopping for material. That is how my fate was decided!
On a cold and snowy morning in 1934, on 12 February, my mother was taken to the maternity center by sleigh, and before the driver had finished smoking a cigarette, the head nurse ran outside and shouted to him: "It's a boy!" It was an easy labor, and that is how I came into the world because of a woman's passion for shopping.
One of my most vivid memories is of the military van in which my mother, my younger sister, my stepfather, and I rode to the city of Nikel in the north of the Kola Peninsula on a labor recruitment drive. After my native Tver (Kalinin Oblast), the north became my second home. That is where I first saw the forbidding blue mountain ranges of the north and the unforgettable dancing colors of the Northern Lights. Seven years went by quickly in the Far North, and after I graduated from secondary school in Nikel I went to Moscow, where I hoped to become an engineer-physicist. I had done well in school, especially in physics and mathematics.
I was admitted to the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute in 1952. The institute was on Malaya Pionerskaya Street at first, and then it moved to Kirovskaya. At that time it was called the Moscow Mechanics Institute. During my third year I was transferred to a theorists' group. I worked on my thesis with Academician Ya.B. Zeldovich. I graduated from the institute with honors and a specialty in "Theoretical Nuclear Physics." My classes at the institute were easy and enjoyable, and I took all of my tests and examinations ahead of schedule. I led the life of the average student, but my life took a dramatic turn after I met Lyudmila, my future wife, in Losinka, a suburb of Moscow, and had to exchange my carefree lifestyle for the destitute existence of a married student.
My son Sergey was born during my fourth year at the institute. I forgot about vacations and worked in the summer, learning plumbing from my father-in-law in the private dachas where we worked together, installing water heaters. In spite of everything else, things were still going well at the institute. The only problem was that the three of us were living in a single room, measuring only eight square meters--one bed with a night-table, and one chair for all three of us. That is why I agreed with pleasure when Ya.B. Zeldovich asked me to take a test for a job in the restricted city. As soon as the test was over, Yakov Borisovich showed me around the "installation" (that is what the secret city of Arzamas-16 had been called earlier). The training I received as a student in the institute's acclaimed seminars and during my preparations for the qualifying examination with Academician L.D. Landau in the Vorobyev Hills was of great help to me in the test. Later, when I was working on the theory of pulse fission reactions, I read the marvelous works by Dau, as Lev Davidovich was known affectionately by everyone, in this field. They were the classic works on the physics of the microprocesses of fission chain reaction during the progression to the macroscopic effects of an atomic explosion.
I came to the restricted city for the first time in 1957 to write a thesis on the compression of super-small active nuclear matter. It was a sheltered and peaceful town in the center of Russia. I was impressed by its cleanliness and by the calm and smooth pace of life there, with no hint at all of the barbed-wire fence nearby and the strict requirements of residence in the city. The Sarov Monastery in the center of town was erected by the history of Rus itself, and the Sarovka River flowing past the monastery was a remarkably compatible addition to this marvelous landscape. The town was surrounded on all sides by the Russian heartland, with its uneventful daily routine and bold and carefree holiday spirit. This seemed to be the place where the past and future of Mother Russia came together.
The Diveyevskiy Cathedral and Convent were a few kilometers from the installation. The pathetic appearance of the convent, ravaged by the historic events of the October Revolution, summoned recollections of the past grandeur of Christianity in Rus. Today this memorial to the sanctity of faith and religion is being restored, and the remains of St. Serafim Sarovskiy, the holy miracle-worker, were laid to rest here in 1991. There is a stone prayer bench dedicated to the memory of Father Serafim in the remote wilderness where he spent many years in seclusion, not far from the city of Sarov (Arzamas-16). Everything happens according to the will of God.
At that time a few dozen theorists were working in the two theoretical divisions of Arzamas-16, which were headed by A.D. Sakharov and Ya.B. Zeldovich. The team was young and boisterous, with strong emotional reactions to all of the events occurring outside the barbed-wire barrier surrounding Arzamas-16. The main thing, however, was that the work went well and that there was an atmosphere of intellectual competition. All of us young specialists were fascinated with the amazing possibility of comprehending the micro-universe, and this, combined with a nice private room in a communal dwelling and a family income that was enough for a completely adequate living, seemed like paradise after the deprivations of student life. It seems inconceivable now, but that was my dream come true.
I remember how I was called to the office of the secretary of the Nikel party gorkom just before graduation from secondary school and was offered a chance to attend a military academy, because enrollments were down in the military academic institutions. I replied that I wanted to study nuclear physics. "Don't be ridiculous! Few people are entrusted with that kind of responsibility," the secretary told me. Later, teachers from my school stood up for me, and I did not have to go into the military.
That is how I became a theoretical physicist in a nuclear center and worked on the development of nuclear weapons. It seemed that fate had led me to that city! We lived there in harmony and were completely absorbed in our work. The physicist-theorist was the head of the project, and the team of mathematicians, experimental physicists, and designers seemed to come together naturally at each stage of the work on the project. The administrators and scientific supervisors of the "installation" listened to the opinions of the young theorists, and I have to admit that we were not intimidated by the prestige of Yakov Borisovich and Andrey Dmitriyevich, although we did have great admiration for them. This gave the theorist a big responsibility. Mistakes were rarely excused there; for that matter, there was not much praise for our successes either. Awards and bonuses were granted according to the same rigid hierarchy as in the rest of the country. The usual life cycle of any idea went something like this: from "That is impossible" to "That was already suggested earlier," and if it was a success--"What did you have to do with it?!" Combined with the strict requirements of work with secret documents, all of this gradually fostered a strong sense of responsibility for each step of the work.
When I was working on a theory regarding the small quantities of energy released by fission reactions, I came across a discrepancy between the theory and a lengthy set of experimental results. I checked and rechecked the rough theory dozens of times and made hundreds of calculations on a computer, but the result was always the same. Late at night at home, after my wife and son had gone to sleep, I would rack my brain in the kitchen, checking each approximation in the theory of the degradation of active nuclear matter in a neutron current. My labor was rewarded. It turned out that a minor inaccuracy in the theory would cause a major error in the final result of the atomic explosion. I searched the classified definitive works of L.D. Landau and found the same inaccuracy there. There is no question that success in any area requires tremendous effort as well as knowledge. Incidentally, the refinement of the theory later produced better designs for fission reaction boosters. This was my first personal minor victory. I took great pride in it and was simply ecstatic. That is all it takes to make a theorist happy--the agreement of the theory and the experiment! Late in the evenings after work, the young specialists usually played chess or volleyball far into the night, and on our days off we liked to pick mushrooms in the beautiful birch forests nearby.
Our trips to the old city of Temnikov, on the bank of the Moksha River in the heart of Russian Mordovia, were always a pleasure. A friend of mine had a Pobeda automobile, and my wife and I sometimes drove to the Temnikov bazaar on Sundays in the summer. We drove along a dusty road past ramshackle rural communities for about two hours to get to the bazaar.
Fair-haired children with "bowl" haircuts ran out into the road to greet motorists from the secret city and asked them for candy. They looked like the children in Nekrasov's paintings. The bazaar was always striking because of the contrast between the colossal variety of colors and patterns in the embroidered clothing of the Mordovians and the extremely meager variety of merchandise for sale.
The sharp contrast between the "restricted" city and the Mordovian countryside always made me feel sad about Russia's current situation. Once we stopped at a village well for a drink of spring water. An old man sat hunched on a bench in front of a peasant hut, and we started a conversation. He was well over 90. "You must have seen so much in your lifetime," I remarked. But it turned out that he had spent his whole life in his own village and even been kept out of the army by bad health. The differences in people's lives are amazing--not in how long they live, but in how they spend their lives. In short, that is Russia.
The Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test SiteSoon I also gained some experience in production, because each theorist had to be present when his "products" were assembled for full-scale experiments. This was at the time of atmospheric nuclear tests.
Each of us also had to accompany his product to the nuclear test site. That is how I made my first trip to the test site 130 kilometers from Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan in 1959. The Kazakhstan steppe, the Dagilen Range, and the Uzun-Bulak Valley with its gently flowing stream and the tall reeds on its banks--all of this produced an unforgettable sense of the grandeur and beauty of nature. Even today I still have dreams about the flowering artemisia on the boundless steppe of Kazakhstan. Many of us fell in love with that region. After all, it is where we spent the rigorous years of our youth.
An atmospheric nuclear explosion!
The first time I saw one, I was standing 10 kilometers away from the blast site in the steppe. It was a clear and sunny day. There was a brilliant pinkish-white flash, followed by the appearance of a light-blue nimbus and the glow of the shock wave in the air--a symmetrical sphere with a distinct outline. When the bottom of the nimbus reached the ground, it raised pillars of dust, but they did not reach as high as the fireball, because the test was conducted at a high enough altitude to reduce the amount of radioactive fallout left on the test sites after the dust subsided. The fiery cloud rose upward, carrying the lethal danger far away from the ground and then dispersing fallout throughout a vast area. Then the heat hit us in the face: When the front of the wave reached us, it was as if the door of a wood-burning furnace had been opened momentarily. And that was not even a high-yield explosion! That was my "baptism by fire" on the nuclear test site.
Not many people witnessed the impressive sight of an atmospheric nuclear explosion, but it would have been better if these tests had never been conducted at all! The Moscow treaty of 1963 banned nuclear tests in space, in the atmosphere, and under water. The global radioactive fallout on our land was slowly reduced. Then our country made the move to underground nuclear tests. We had only heard of these from American sources, and we were still taking just the first timid steps to master these testing techniques.
I have a particularly vivid memory of an underground test to check the functioning of our "products" after exposure to the devastating effects of a nuclear explosion. Standing at the command post three kilometers from the entrance to the adit where the nuclear weapons had been installed, we conducted careful visual observations of the mountain. After the first minor subterranean jolt, I counted off the seconds in my head and stood there stock-still. Then I felt the second shock. That meant that everything had gone according to plan. I was covered with perspiration from the tension. Those few seconds felt like an eternity. I lifted the receiver of the red telephone and made my report to Moscow, thinking to myself that this would be my last trip to the test site, because this was beyond human endurance. After making the call, I walked out of the command post, lay down on the grass, and looked into the distant blue heavens for a long time. The sun was just rising above the horizon, and its rays caressed the steppe lovingly and cleared my mind. I let my imagination carry me to the brink of eternity. Each test took just a tiny fraction of the testers' life, a single instant in which all of the responsibility for the work of the thousands of people in this sector was concentrated, as if by magic.
The test site in Kazakhstan was suitable for underground nuclear tests year-round, but winter was the most difficult season for the tests. The Kazakhstan steppe was no place for a casual stroll in winter. Howling gusty winds, blizzards, and temperatures of 30 degrees below zero could make their appearance instantaneously and trap you, as if you were caught in the realm of an evil demon. It happened to us once when we decided early one Sunday morning to drive a GAZik [vehicle] from the test adit in the Dagilen Range to Kurchatov, the city where our main base was located, on the Irtysh river bank. In fact, that is what we called our headquarters--"the bank." The city was built on the steep banks of the swift and mighty Irtysh River, which flows into the great Siberian Ob, in the 1940's after the war as part of the atomic project. It was always intended to serve the nuclear test site. In summer, when it was immersed in the greenery of the poplars that were planted and lovingly tended by the inhabitants of the city, it was a vivid reminder of the fraternity of Russia and Kazakhstan. The kindergartens and nurseries, the schools and the officers' club, the snow-white buildings--all of these made this corner of Kazakhstan a wonderful oasis in the Kazakhstan steppe.
When we left the settlement of Gornyy, known simply as "G" and located at the foot of the Dagilen Range, on that fateful morning, there was nothing to warn us of the trouble ahead. We had to go about 150 kilometers, mostly along a dirt road in the steppe, and in two or three hours we should have arrived at a comfortable and warm hotel, which even had hot showers and baths. The "G" settlement had none of these conveniences, and even cold rusty water was a luxury there. We usually slept in our clothes to stay warm, and we could not be bothered much by hygienic considerations under those conditions. Then we suddenly got a day off! I will remember it for the rest of my life.
After driving for about an hour, we literally ran into a blizzard. A short time later we were hit by what seemed like a solid wall of snow. It kept getting colder. Our vehicle was already barely crawling along by that time, and soon it came to a halt after losing all of its bearings and running into a thick snow bank formed by the strong wind. It was still relatively early in the morning. We tried to get the GAZik out of the snow, working quickly with shovels--there were three of us with the driver. Soon we were completely exhausted, however, and had accomplished almost nothing at all. The temperature kept dropping. After getting back into the vehicle, we started the motor and turned on the heat. We had nothing to eat or drink. Soon we saw a truck approaching us, roaming the steppe in search of the road. That was at around 11:00 in the morning. We asked the driver and the freight attendant to report that we were stuck and needed help as soon as they got to the settlement, but they managed to drive only to the next village and could not get through to the city. Oh, those field communication systems on the test sites! We thought we still had the whole day ahead of us and calmly climbed back into the GAZik to wait for help. The sinister storm grew more intense, darkness started to fall, and we later learned that the temperature had dropped to 35 degrees. Help did not arrive. At midnight we ran out of gas, because no one had expected the trip to take so long. The night, the wind, the snow, and the cold kept getting more brutal. Our driver offered to go for help on foot, but I stopped him: It would have been certain death because of the blizzard, the lack of visibility, and the darkness of the night. We got back into the vehicle, hoping to hold out till the morning, and began telling each other about ourselves. The air inside the GAZik kept getting colder, and our breathing formed a thick layer of frost on the inside of the tarpaulin stretched across the vehicle frame.
The driver kept repeating in a grim voice: "They have written us off!" He was from Altay and knew the value of human life in this kind of situation. His remarks made us feel terrible, especially after he told us how his brother had frozen to death just two kilometers from his village in the same kind of storm. As soon as the sun's rays hit the steppe, the blizzard subsided as quickly as it had started. I tried to open the door with my numb fingers, but it was not easy. We were blocked in by snow on all sides. This may have been what kept us from freezing to death. I finally managed to get out of the vehicle and saw the rising sun and an absolutely clear sky. Not far away, a fox was looking at me with amazement. It could not understand where I had come from. A human being, all covered with frost, had emerged from a mountain of snow! All around me I saw a sea of snow, deposited there in thick drifts by the terrible dance of the wind and frost--a dance of life and death. I saw a high-voltage power line in the distance and figured out where we were. I decided to lead my group to the substation. It would be warm inside, and there would be an electrician on duty and a telephone. After walking across the banks and drifts for almost two hours, we were finally out of the cold. I looked in the mirror and did not recognize myself--my face was reddish-black. The driver was sobbing with joy. We learned that the blizzard had trapped many people and was one of the most severe storms of the last 10 years. I thanked fate, the Almighty, and nature.
There were several such incidents during my years on the test sites. Each person has his own destiny. Sometimes I feel that I have become part of nature, and that our ideas are our only a link to the world. No, this was not the process of natural selection at work; it was a matter of natural harmony. Mother Nature smiled upon me, and this love was mutual.
That is how we and the Kazakhstan test site worked together to create a nuclear shield for our Motherland for the sake of peace on our earth.
Pepole gradually joined the family of nuclear arms testers. They were outstanding young men. They lived and worked far from their friends and relatives for several months each year under the severe conditions of field experiments, frequently risking their lives. Their sense of responsibility for each operation before and during the tests reinforced their courage and strengthened their camaraderie. Incompetent workers and specialists did not stay around for long--reality itself drove them out of these work teams. Somehow I became part of the group without even trying, and I formed a lifelong bond with these young men. Later, when the intensive underground nuclear tests started, we took on the whole burden and the whole responsibility of our lengthy stay on the test sites together. The underground tests took much longer to plan and conduct than the atmospheric ones. This was a school for the training of genuine specialists.
When I was working on diagnostic methods and systems to record high-speed processes at the Impulse Engineering Institute in the 1970's, we designed a whole set of technical equipment and formed a wonderful team for test site operations.
The Nuclear Test Site on Novaya ZemlyaI have particularly strong feelings about the nuclear test site on the islands of Novaya Zemlya, where I first landed in 1966. The Arctic is wary of newcomers at first, but then it lures them back forever. No, this is not a nocturnal kingdom of death, as it was portrayed in paintings by the Russian artist Borisov on Matochkin Shar, but the majesty of nature itself, where you get a sense of the unity of space and time.
Each year millions of birds fly to Novaya Zemlya to produce a new generation, which will automatically return to this land to repeat the whole process from the beginning. In the same way, this land gave many of us our wings and taught us to fly confidently into the bright future.
I made several night crossings from the settlement of Beluzhye to the strait of Matochkin Shar. Sailors are a special breed. Sailors in the north still live by the traditions that were established by Peter the Great. I was always excited by the sight of the steep precipices and flocks of birds on the island shores. And then there was the Barents Sea! I crossed it for the first time in December 1945, when we sailed from Murmansk to the port of Petsamo during our move to Nikel. A storm, measuring eight on the scale of intensity, was raging. The sheets of water rising high above the deck looked like a gigantic demon against the night sky, illuminated by the Northern Lights. In calm weather, the smooth dark-blue surface of the Barents Sea was easy on the eye, but suggested that only the strong could make this crossing. At those times I always thought about our forebears, the men from Arkhangelsk who fished for a living here in homemade boats.
Now when I sit in my office in Moscow, I have the most nostalgic memories of people I probably will never see again, and especially the people I certainly will never see again. They were wonderful comrades. I flew with them many times from the Astafyevo airport near Moscow to Novaya Zemlya in a cramped rest area for the crew on a naval AN-12 plane. There was usually a stopover in Lakhta. We took pleasant walks around the lakes and woods of this charming corner of our northern zone near Arkhangelsk. In general, we had many contacts with Arkhangelsk--it was the last stop before the crossing to the island where the real Arctic began and where nature always greeted us with harsh surprises. The first time I really smelled the flora of the "mainland" was when my plane made its first stop in Lakhta on the way to Moscow after I had spent three months on the Arctic islands. Moscow in fall always seemed to be a bit of heaven of earth every time I returned from Novaya Zemlya and saw the woods around the city entwined with gold after looking at the "bare" archipelago for so long.
Sometimes our life was graced by the "Tatariya" and "Bukovina" ships of the Arkhangelsk Steamship Line, which were chartered by the Navy as housing for the test personnel. The crews of the ships and boats shared all of the hardships of our Arctic life with the testers and stayed in the strait of Matochkin Shar until late fall, when fields of ice began to furrow the strait. When this happened, the boats had to return to Arkhangelsk. We would move back sadly into the dilapidated barracks on shore and watch for a long time as the ships sailed away to the "mainland," each of us pining for his own. Even today I remember them with love in my heart, and I am certain that I will until the day I die.
The days we spent waiting for a cyclone were particularly tedious and difficult. Not everyone could endure this kind of stress for a month. The state commission in charge of the planning and organization of the tests kept a close watch on weather conditions along with the Hydrometeorology Center in Moscow.
The gigantic vortices of an atmospheric cyclone were supposed to pick up the improbable but possible emissions of radioactive gases after the nuclear explosion, trap them, and carry them at full speed in the direction of the Kara Sea, dispersing the radioactivity throughout the vast expanses of the north. This was the last stage of the multileveled system of defense against the environmental effects of radioactive gases after an underground nuclear explosion. When we were waiting for these conditions, we were in contact with Moscow by telegraph through a satellite link-up almost every day. We had to wait for a cyclone. Its arrival was always accompanied by howling winds and low, fast-moving clouds. Sometimes when we went to the adit before a nuclear test to complete the final operations involved in the installation of diagnostic systems and the equipment for the detonation of the nuclear devices, we had to ride there in total darkness and gale-force winds--the cold bora winds of Novaya Zemlya.
Let me tell you about the adit on Novaya Zemlya! The entrance to it always reminded me of the realm of the ice king--the layer of dazzling-white crystals of water and snow on the surface of the earth looked like the entrance to an enchanted kingdom. I must have walked hundreds of kilometers along the cross ties of the horizontal tunnels in the mountains along the shore of Matochkin Shar. The nuclear devices were installed at the end, and there were diagnostic instruments set up throughout the adit. Have you ever been in absolute darkness? I experienced this when the lights suddenly went out far inside the adit. All I could do was sit on the rails, and all I could see was the glow of my own cigarette.
This is where I had the pleasure of meeting the strong and friendly miners from the city of Zheltyye Vody in Ukraine. The labor of the men who worked in the tunnels, especially when they had to be filled in and blocked after all of the nuclear and diagnostic devices were in place, to localize the products of the nuclear blast in the depths of the mountain, was something for which I will always tip my hat and bow to these people. Furthermore, they did this work under the formidable conditions of the Arctic! I always wore a hat when I went into the adit. It became a tradition for me, and I also just wanted to show that conventions on the nuclear test site were the same as in normal human life anywhere else. It was, however, a flagrant violation of mining safety regulations.
The most crucial operations, of course, were those involved in the installation of the devices to be tested and the diagnostic sensors.
I have to say something about the work of stemming the tunnels. This, just as earlier stages of the work, was a strenuous operation, conducted around the clock, and it was particularly difficult at night. October and November were the worst months for this kind of work. Operations in the concrete plant, which was on Matochkin Shar around 10 kilometers from the adit, had to be continuous, like clockwork. Otherwise, the cold and the winter roads would have stopped the work, and this would have been inadmissible in a tunnel filled with explosive devices and diagnostic systems. Suitable weather conditions--the necessary cyclone, to put it more precisely--were extremely rare on the Arctic islands during that season. That warped wooden structure, which hardly deserved the name "plant" because it looked more like one of the slum dwellings in old St. Petersburg, deserves a monument.
When I was checking on the progress of the stemming work on one of those cold winter nights, I saw three dump trucks with liquid concrete standing on the crossing over a portion of the mountain where one of the underground explosions had caused a slide of several million cubic meters of frozen soil. It was extremely difficult to make up for interruptions in the work schedule, and this was no time to let suitable weather go by. We quickly rode up to the dump trucks. All six of the military drivers--there were supposed to be two in each truck--had crowded into one of the vehicles and told us they could not drive any farther: A red-haired girl had landed on the hood of the lead vehicle and was dancing by the light of the stars. All of them "saw" her. The dirty-faced, hungry young men were trembling with fear and confusion. With some difficulty, we managed to drive around their trucks on the icy road, and then they followed our vehicle to the adit. The quick pace of the work had exhausted the young drivers, and they needed rest. Returning to the settlement, I woke up their commanding officer and asked him to relieve them and give them something to eat. The stemming work was hard on everyone, and it usually took the last of everyone's strength. It was such a colossal responsibility, and there would be such a colossal price to pay for any mistake.
There was another incident I will never forget. We made the usual preparations for the underground test. It was 1981. Radiation conditions were normal after the explosion, and we recorded all of the diagnostic results of the registration of processes during the unfolding of the explosion. After we had conducted our analysis, we learned that around half of the information was missing. What a surprise! It was an extraordinary occurrence, because these losses were usually negligible. When we looked into the situation, another theorist, my colleague and friend, asked whether someone with an axe might have cut through the cables of the information system leading from the adit to the monitoring devices located in a trailer 100 meters from the entrance to the tunnel. I replied that I had made the last inspection myself and had walked along the metallic ducts which usually housed the cables leading from the adit to the trailers. After that, I was the last to leave the trailer pad. There had been no sign of trouble.
What a keen mind that theorist had! After a careful examination of all of the groups of measurements, we were inclined to agree with his theory. It turned out that the "underground sailors," which is what we jokingly called the naval personnel of the test site who always worked with us, decided to install hundreds of naval smokepots between the two airtight concrete walls in the adit, so that the smoke would serve as counterpressure to the flow of radioactive products from the explosion, in an experiment to find methods of localizing the products of a blast. By mistake, however, the smokepots were lit by remote control too early, and the hot gaseous smoke from the candles began to melt our cables before the explosion. Later we checked this in a micro-experiment with just one smokepot, and our suspicions were confirmed.
All of us had walked hundreds of times past the locked wooden doors in the adit where hundreds of these smokepots were used in auxiliary development projects. I never paid any attention to the doors because this is how the miners usually enclosed their equipment storage closets and lavatories. Everything in an adit has to be treated with care and caution. There is nothing of minor importance there.
Every time I took a short break, I would close my eyes and go over all of the stages and diagnostic steps in my head, including the group of stemming operations and the data of geological analyses, wondering whether everything had been done correctly and everything had been checked. It was only after all of this that I could finally take a nap in peace.
Sometimes we had extra days off, especially when we were waiting for the right weather conditions. We used to take trips up the strait of Matochkin Shar to the Kara Sea. The light-blue glaciers swept down to the surface of the water like a bridal veil. There were sharp bends and powerful whirlpools created by abrupt differences in the depth of the water. Only an experienced captain could negotiate the strait. Halfway through our journey, we could see the vestiges of an abandoned rock crystal mine at an altitude of several hundred meters. Old-timers told us that the mine had been worked by convicts, and that more than one had tried to escape. There was nowhere to run, however, and these attempts meant certain death. Then we would see the inquisitive seals. From the deck we frequently saw their big, beautiful, dark-brown eyes, full of wonder and curiosity. Cape Vykhodnoy, at the outlet to the Kara Sea, was a particularly impressive sight. It looked like a passageway to the Infinite and Eternal--the blue-black sea, blanketed with fog at the horizon. That was what eternity must look like!
Once we tried to get close to a polar bear swimming far from shore. He gave us a menacing look, showed us his jaws, and let us know that he was the boss. We decided not to interrupt his hunting.
The tundra of Novaya Zemlya was a Persian rug of delicate grasses and flowers in July and August. The mountains were just several hundred meters higher, and beyond that there were the moonscape and the glaciers, which looked like the turquoise tears of the mountains after an underground blast.
If you were standing in the command post a few kilometers from the mountain at the time of an underground nuclear explosion, you would first see the mountain take a deep breath, and then suddenly it would be as if you had jumped into a boat from the shore, and you were standing on something firm but were being rocked back and forth. As an experienced test-theorist, and this is not something that comes to one right away, I took this as sufficient evidence that the human mind had fathomed another of nature's mysteries. There were also some failures, when Mother Nature did not want to share her secrets and did not forgive human error.
In general, physics is an experimental science. It is a bridge between two experiments. It was not always possible to build a perfect bridge, which could be used with complete confidence to cross from one experiment to another, and further into the depths of nature's inexhaustible supply of mysteries. On some occasions--they were rare, but they did occur--the mountain would take a breath and then exhale a sinister cloud of lethal radiation out the adit. In this event, the correct choice of weather conditions was supposed to guarantee the safety of the personnel in the command post and the inhabitants of the islands, separated from the blast site by hundreds of kilometers. In any case, the brigade in charge of recording the diagnostic information about the processes of the nuclear explosion was supposed to return to the diagnostic lab trailers on the site. Sometimes this had to be done a day after the blast, but it was usually done within a few hours, and radiation conditions in the trailer yard were always normal by that time.
After one such test I stayed in the command post too long and watched the progress of the flow of radiation along the terrain with the heads of the radiation monitoring service. The movement usually occurred in the top layer of earth in gullies and along rivers and valleys. The radiation moved slowly toward the command post. The monitoring devices in the tundra recorded its advance. There was a strong smell of hydrogen sulfide in the command post, because the explosions would break up pyrite crystals, and they were abundant in the rock in that region. When the three of us came out of the trailer, we saw that the command post was deserted--the hundreds of people who had been there were gone. In the distance we saw the field bus, which was already racing down the road to the pier, where a patrol ship was waiting for us.
Regrettably, the commanding officers of the test site did not rise to the occasion. Forgetting all about us, and abandoning everything, including their personal possessions on the helicopter pad, they panicked and ran, some to the helicopters and others to the pier where the naval patrol ship was waiting, although the level of radiation in the command post was still quite low for professional personnel. We went to our jeep (a GAZ-69) and took off for the pier. Then I saw that we were being chased by a family of dogs that lived under a shed in the command post. The mother dog was in the lead, and her lovable shaggy puppies were following her. The dogs in the north are wonderful. They love humans unconditionally and move from place to place with them. Dogs can sense unusual situations. In general, I could write many wonderful things about the dogs of Novaya Zemlya, particularly the ones from the nuclear test site, the loyal companions of our nomadic life. We stopped the jeep, and the whole shaggy family immediately settled at my feet. They looked at me with devotion and love. That was true love! I have to say something about my favorite--Belka, a mix of Siberian husky and mongrel. She had the face of a little fox and was brown and white. We became good friends and took walks together in the tundra. She liked to show off her skill at catching lemmings--polar field mice similar to our hamsters.
These creatures of the tundra are intrepid and whimsical animals with a luxurious coat. In bad weather they used to get into our rooms, and sometimes they would spend the whole night in the corner of a room, standing on their hind legs with their eyes closed. What a wondrously idyllic nighttime rendezvous! In the tundra, Belka would deftly dig up the lemming's auxiliary tunnels and then tear into the main tunnel with her dazzling white teeth. Then she would come to me, proud and happy, with a lemming in her teeth and look at me with love and dignity, her sparkling eyes saying--"See how clever I am!" One day we climbed to a high altitude together, to a place where the earth was in upheaval from one of the underground blasts of 1969. The crater was about 40 meters in diameter and 100 meters deep. Belka stopped about 10 meters from the edge of the crater, sat on her hindquarters, and howled like a hungry wolf. It frightened me. I drew closer to the edge of the crater, which was like a pipe, emitting a terrible wailing sound as it drew in air from a damaged section of the adit. Yes, animals have a much more highly developed instinct for self-preservation than we do. The next year she did not greet me on the pier--she had disappeared without a trace in the polar tundra. The life of a homeless dog was as short there as anywhere else.
On that memorable day of the panic, we did not return to the command post for a whole day. We had trouble mooring the patrol boat. A strong wind occasionally shrieked and blasted us with a wall of snow. The snowfall was so thick that even the light from an illumination rocket flare could not penetrate it. A sailor jumped nimbly from the high deck of the patrol boat to the icy pier and caught the end of the mooring cable. In the midst of the blizzard, he looked like one of the legendary heroes of the old Russian epic poems. We had no trouble after that. We returned to the command post and to the adit to record the diagnostic data. All of the information had been preserved by our special long-term data storage systems.
The Joint ExperimentJust imagine how I felt about going to Switzerland after I had been living and working on the test sites! What a contrast! It was the end of 1988. There was beautiful fall weather when the bilateral talks with the Americans on the results of the Joint Verification Experiment (JVE) were held in Geneva. The results of two underground nuclear tests--one in August on the Nevada Test Site, and the other in September on the Semipalatinsk site--were the subject of heated debates by technical experts from the two countries at the bilateral talks for the drafting of a new protocol to the threshold treaty of 1974 on the limitation of the yield of underground nuclear blasts. It might seem that technical results are absolutely clear and unambiguous, but any technical result is only one of the infinite possibilities in an experiment. It was not until the beginning of our century that mankind took its first timid look into the depths of the structure of the universe and the atom and encountered a situation which did not fit into the customary confines of human life; and not just ordinary human life--even the foresight of famous philosophers and science fiction writers could not encompass all of the complexity and interconnections of the micro- and macro-universe. It was the same case with a nuclear explosion. No matter how exact the theory--or, to put it more precisely, the mathematical model--was, the reality always differed from it, and there was always some uncertainty about the theoretical model at any stage of the experiment. In short, the bilateral debates sometimes lasted far into the night. On Saturday and Sunday, however, we could enjoy the magnificent alpine meadows and Lake Geneva as much as we wanted. Yes, this was something I could not have imagined even in my wildest dreams on the nuclear test site just recently.
The world had changed irrevocably, and we had wanted this for such a long time! Many difficulties still lay ahead, but the main thing was to take the first step toward each other. Incidentally, it was not until 1987 that I went abroad for the first time. That time I went to the GDR. Of course, I dreamed of seeing how people lived and worked in other countries, especially my colleagues on the Nevada Test Site. My dream came true in 1988 at the time of the joint experiment in the verification of underground nuclear tests, when I lived on the Nevada Test Site in the United States for almost two months. I remember one conversation I had with the head of an enterprise security monitoring service. When I told him about my dream of seeing how the American test engineers did their work, he replied: "You belong in Kolyma, not abroad. You know too much." I said: "I am a Russian, and I will serve time in Kolyma if I have to, but I certainly will return and I will not forgive anything!"
The Joint Verification Experiment was conducted to develop more precise methods of monitoring the yield of underground nuclear explosions in the United States and the USSR. It was a unique event in the postwar history of the two countries. We spent several months with American scientists before and during the two tests on the Nevada and Semipalatinsk test sites. The seismic signals from them circled our planet, like the harbinger of a new era in mankind's journey to a nuclear-free world. It was a signal of hope!
This was the tangible and common contribution of the scientists from the two countries to the greatest cause of the 20th century, the cause of lowering the level of nuclear confrontation. Direct contacts between the specialists were so important in this process. When we walked around Washington, New York, and Las Vegas, I could not imagine, even in a flight of scientific and technical fancy, these wondrous cities as "military targets." In moments of fear, these thoughts made me shudder. Yes, it is communication and more communication that will bring the people of our planet together. In the presence of so many nuclear weapons, peace is as fragile as an ice-floe in spring--one careless move and it will shatter. We all applaud the two great powers' steps to reduce their nuclear arsenals. There are still many political whirlpools and submerged rocks on the way to this. I am certain that the main result of the Joint Verification Experiment was not the development of procedures and degrees of nuclear test monitoring or the joint development of technical means of verification, but the chance for interpersonal communication with the American nuclear physicists. All of us are children of the earth, children of the one Creator of the beautiful and eternal world in which our life is only an instant in eternity.
Once again fate had given me a gift--my meeting with the American scientists and testers. We were separated only by the language barrier. In contrast to our test site on Novaya Zemlya, the Nevada Test Site has a marvelous swimming pool and a restaurant. Frankly, it would be difficult to even compare our living conditions. In every other respect, a test site is a test site, and the atmosphere there is one of order, precision, and responsibility. We adapted quickly to the harsh climate of Nevada, and our American colleagues enlivened our stay with weekend trips to Las Vegas. The city makes an indelible impression in the daytime and at night. I think of it as the pearl of the State of Nevada. The temperature sometimes rose as high as 50°C in the shade, and the blue sky was absolutely cloudless. I have the greatest admiration for the pioneers who tamed the "Wild West" 200 years ago. That took real courage! It rained only once during the two summer months, but what a storm it was--continuous torrential rain, with powerful and brilliant flashes of lightning almost every minute. It was as if hell had come to earth. Then the sun shone brightly again, and in the distance we could see the glow of a fire. The lightning had started a fire in the beautiful pine forest in the mountains. As I looked at the glow of that fire, I remembered the year of 1941, when my mother, my younger and older sisters, and I had left the city of Kalinin and were walking north along a dusty road in the stream of refugees from the occupied territory. We went about 100 kilometers, sometimes on foot and sometimes riding in a cart, and the glow from the fires in the city was still visible at night. The sight of it frightened us, because it looked as if our whole native land was burning. The peasants were not that eager to let the refugees spend the night in their homes, so we usually tried to make ourselves comfortable in an abandoned shed for the night and lived on the remains of vegetable gardens. Sometimes we found a potato or a cabbage root, and sometimes we even got a piece of bread or the discarded entrails of slaughtered livestock from the peasants. For some reason, I remember one face from this human stream of refugees--an old man who was walking near us the whole time. He had a small knapsack on his back and a hunting knife hanging from his belt. I can still see his face and his eyes--the stern visage of an old soldier, conveying the knowledge that the war would be brutal and heartless. Of course, I still did not know that the war would leave such a terrible scar on the life of our generation.
We finally got to the station in Malyshevo, where my mother's sister lived. This small station on the railroad from Bologiy to Yaroslavl was a safe and pleasant corner of Russia. This was the birthplace of my parents and their ancestors--the Karelians who lived here in the rural community of Gorodok.
I did not go back to Kalinin until the summer of 1942, when I saw the wreckage of the city. Our house had burned down, and we had to live in one small room. I will remember the stern and terrible face of war until the day I die, and God forbid that my grandchildren should have to see it. The oldest is already 14. Yes, I did everything I could to prevent a repetition of the tragedy of war in our land, to keep the temptation to repeat the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on our planet from entering anyone's mind, even the most reckless.
Waiting for our flight to the Nevada Test Site, I felt that I was a lucky man whose dream was about to come true. I had spent so many nights on our nuclear test sites wondering how my American colleagues lived and worked. I was as excited as I had been in my youth when I was about to see a young lady. My dream had come true.
I was interviewed for the first time before the joint experiment. Today the interview seems to be too full of technical details, but it is an accurate portrayal of the mood of our whole group when we left for America.
Abridged reprint from KRASNAYA ZVEZDA, 18 June 1988
KRASNAYA ZVEZDA: What is the Joint Verification Experiment and why is it being conducted?
Mikhaylov: The Joint Verification Experiment, or what we refer to as the JVE, is an integral part of the comprehensive Soviet-American talks on nuclear tests. The agreement to conduct the experiment was concluded last September. As the first step in this process, the USSR and the United States are supposed to agree on better means of verifying compliance with the so-called "threshold" agreements on the limitation of underground nuclear tests of 1974 and on the limitation of underground nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes of 1976. The negotiations will also include agreement on further intermediate restrictions on nuclear tests on the way to the final goal--their complete cessation.
I want to remind you that the agreements which set the permissible limit of 150 kilotons on the yield of nuclear blasts never did go into force, because the American administration felt that the verification measures were inadequate. The purpose of the JVE, in brief, is to see which of the improved verification methods should be used to monitor compliance with the 1974 agreement. We feel that the teleseismic method, which does not require the presence of personnel on the test site to take the measurements, is completely effective and adequate. The United States, on the other hand, is insisting on the so-called hydrodynamic method, which requires that measurements be taken directly on the site. The JVE will take the discussion of this problem from the level of theory to the level of actual practice, demonstrate the effectiveness, applicability, and convenience of the proposed methods, and thereby serve as the basis for decisionmaking.
KRASNAYA ZVEZDA: Can you tell us more about the teleseismic and hydrodynamic methods of measuring the yield?
Mikhaylov: The teleseismic measurement of the yield of underground nuclear explosions is based on records of the range of vibrations in the ground at a distance of 3,000-10,000 kilometers from the site of the explosion. It provides a sufficiently reliable record of blasts with a yield of several kilotons in virtually any spot on the globe. We feel that this method provides for completely effective verification of compliance with the 1974 treaty. The JVE and the related projects will allow for the use of the teleseismic method with even greater accuracy in the future. One important advantage of this method--in contrast to the hydrodynamic one--is the possibility of monitoring blasts with an extremely low yield. This was corroborated when an experiment was conducted recently by scientists from the USSR and the United States on the grounds of the Semipalatinsk and Nevada sites with conventional explosives.
Seismic equipment has undergone speedy development and improvement in recent years. Today we are considering the creation of an international network for the exchange of seismic data and the establishment of international seismic data centers in several countries (in Moscow in the USSR, Washington in the United States, Stockholm in Sweden, and Canberra in Australia). The broad-scale exchange of seismic data in combination with international monitoring will create the necessary objective conditions for progress in the curtailment of underground tests of nuclear weapons.
As far as the hydrodynamic method of measuring the yield of an underground nuclear blast is concerned, it is based on the registration of the location of the front of the strong shock wave, which travels through the ground at supersonic speeds, at distances of 10-50 meters from the nuclear device. As a result of a blast of 100-150 kilotons, the hard soil within the area of the strong shock wave, including the rock, acts like liquid, and that is why the method is called "hydrodynamic."
With the hydrodynamic method, one can take measurement of the yield of an explosion within the main [osnovnoy] (emplacement [boyevoy]) borehole. If the canister with the nuclear charge is of small dimensions and was built without the use of any special measures to distort the yield, the measurements can be sufficiently accurate, but in this case there is a high probability of the discovery of extremely sensitive information about the nuclear weapon. If the canister is of large dimensions, the measurements can be seriously distorted. In general, American tests are conducted with the use of these large canisters.
Another option is to conduct the measurement procedure in a specially drilled satellite [vspomogatelnyy] (measurement [izmeritelnyy]) hole of small diameter, which should be located within 10-15 meters of the main hole. In this case the dimensions of the canister are less likely to affect the accuracy of the results (although the range of error will still be considerable if special means of camouflage are employed). This reduces, but does not completely exclude, the possibility of the discovery of information with no direct relationship to the yield of the blast. Furthermore, the procedure is much more expensive and requires a lengthy period of preparations--three or four months--before each monitored explosion. At best, the accuracy of the measurements is the same as in the seismic procedure.
KRASNAYA ZVEZDA: How will the experiment be conducted?
Mikhaylov: The procedures of the joint experiment were defined in the statement of the USSR minister of foreign affairs and the U.S. secretary of state of 9 December 1987 and the USSR-U.S. agreement on the joint experiment, which was signed on 31 May this year at the fourth Soviet-American summit meeting. This agreement covers a broad range of questions connected with the drilling of the boreholes, their dimensions, the selection of soil samples, the location of the equipment, the exchange of data, the transfer of equipment and personnel to the test sites in the two countries, the conditions of work on the test sites, and so forth.
Two tests will be conducted within the confines of the experiment: one on the Semipalatinsk site and the other in Nevada. They should have a yield of close to 150 kilotons, and at least 100 kilotons. Both sides will have a chance, on the basis of complete mutuality, to measure the yield, using the teleseismic and hydrodynamic methods.
Each side will conduct teleseismic measurements of the two blasts in the joint experiment with the aid of its own national network of seismic stations. This will start with the preliminary exchange of the necessary data on the last five tests on the site of each side, and on their registration by five specific seismic stations, as well as information about these stations and conditions on the test sites.
The hydrodynamic measurements on each test site will be conducted in emplacement holes and in satellite holes. The sides have agreed that the control figure in the experiment will be the measurement taken by the hydrodynamic method in the emplacement hole. The experiment should be conducted in such a way as to guarantee the maximum accuracy of the control measurements. In general, however, the conditions of the experiment in Nevada will differ considerably from the standard conditions of American tests.
So-called anti-intrusive measures to prevent the discovery of unrelated information will also be tested and analyzed during the experiment.
KRASNAYA ZVEZDA: In your discussion of the purpose of the experiment, you referred only to the 1974 treaty, but the statement of 9 December 1987, which you mentioned, refers to two threshold agreements. Can you explain this?
Mikhaylov: The explanation is that the talks which started last November were conducted to make the preparations for the joint experiment and to draft specific agreements on the content of future means of verifying compliance with both treaties. The two sides decided there was no need to wait for the results of the joint experiment to agree on improved methods of monitoring compliance with the 1976 treaty, because the present wording of that treaty already stipulates the use of the hydrodynamic method to determine the yield of explosions for peaceful purposes, and there is an understanding on the possibility of its more extensive use. This gave the leaders of the two countries an opportunity to report substantial progress in the preparation of a new protocol to the treaty on underground nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes at the Moscow summit meeting and to ask the delegations to complete their work on the protocol as quickly as possible. The 1974 treaty on the limitation of underground nuclear tests is a different matter. The existing protocol to that treaty does not specify the use of the hydrodynamic method for the purposes of verification. The American side, as I already said, is insisting on the use of this method on test sites. We, however, feel that the complexity and the intrusive potential of hydrodynamics could be more of a problem on the test sites. We can only hope that the joint experiment will help us answer all of the many questions that come up.
KRASNAYA ZVEZDA: What is the present status of the preparations for the joint experiment on the Semipalatinsk and Nevada test sites?
Mikhaylov: The main (emplacement) and satellite (measurement) holes have already been drilled on both sites. Soviet specialists observed the drilling and measurement of the satellite hole on the Nevada Test Site. In the interest of accuracy, we agreed that the Americans could also drill the satellite hole on the Semipalatinsk Test Site. The Soviet equipment for the hydrodynamic measurements, which will be located within the blast zone, has already arrived in the United States. At the end of June the sides will exchange complete data on the 10 last tests (five for each side), to secure the seismic method of measurements. The American hydrodynamic equipment will be shipped to the Semipalatinsk Test Site in July. The tests have been scheduled for the middle of August in Nevada and the middle of September here. After this the sides will process the results of the measurements, conduct an analysis and exchange of the seismic data, and begin developing measures to verify compliance with the 1974 treaty. We hope to do this quickly, so that the process of agreement on further intermediate limits on nuclear tests can begin.
The Soviet specialists are flying to Nevada in an objective frame of mind, and with a sense of confidence, to carry out their duties and achieve the purposes of the JVE as the first step on the long and arduous journey to a total and universal nuclear test ban.
Now it is almost 1994. All of the nuclear test sites on our planet have been silent for more than a year. The Russian test site has been silent for more than four years. Many events have taken place since the last nuclear explosion on 24 October 1990 on the northern site. On that memorable day my article "Why Should the Country's Nuclear Test Sites Remain Silent?" was printed in PRAVDA. The timing was a coincidence; I had offered the article to several newspapers more than two months before that date. It still seems relevant even today, however, on the road to the establishment of the new Russia. We should take another look at it.
[There follows a reprint of Mikhaylov's article "Why Should the Country's Nuclear Test Sites Remain Silent?" as published in Moscow PRAVDA in Russian on 24 October 1990.]
The MinistryIn November 1988, when I was in Geneva and was getting ready to return to Moscow with the team of experts, I received the news that I had been appointed deputy minister in charge of the nuclear-arms complex of the union Ministry of Atomic Power Engineering and Industry. After I had been released from my duties at the Scientific Research Institute of Impulse Engineering, I finally sat down gingerly in the chair of the deputy minister in the gray building on Bolshaya Ordynka in early January. That is how I first became a member of the administrative team in the headquarters of the sector. Most of the members of our ministry staff were specialists who came to us from enterprises with considerable experience in specific fields of activity within the sector. All of them knew and respected many of the ministry's personnel before they come here. Nevertheless, the newcomers were shocked by the exclusivity of the group at first, and they felt uncomfortable, as if they were caught somewhere in between the familiar world of production and science and the world of the public official, and when a person came here with the rank of deputy minister, the problems of adapting to the new environment were compounded. Even today I have trouble getting used to a new job. I am guided by a specific set of principles in my work: The man makes the job, and not vice versa. A superior earns respect with his knowledge and experience, and not with a loud voice. In turn, the relationship between a subordinate and a superior should be based, in my opinion, on dignity without any arrogance and on acquiescence without any obsequiousness.
The difficulty of my first steps in this new office were compounded by the unstable and tense atmosphere: It was the time of the start of restructuring in industry and in the union ministries. It was a time of staff reorganization in the public administration network. After all, we actually began working on the conversion of the defense industry in 1989. By that time the nuclear-arms complex was hopelessly outdated, and we began drawing up a program for its modernization, with consideration for the conversion of our plants and combines and the restoration of the polluted territory surrounding them. It was not until I was doing this work that I realized how huge the complex was and how many problems we had to solve in the protection of the health of our personnel and the environment. In short, there was so much work to do, but I did not have a team of single-minded and kindred spirits. I gradually began putting one together, choosing each member with care and precision. This took time, and I found that it was passing too quickly, in contrast to the passage of time in childhood, when it seems so painfully slow because we want to grow up as quickly as possible. It is only with age that you begin to realize the value of time and understand that time is life itself. Sometimes there was not enough time for friendly conversation. I did not often have an opportunity to spend time with my comrades after work.
I remember how I wanted to celebrate my 50th birthday by spending some time with my colleagues and friends and discussing our life up to that point, our successes and failures, and the people who were no longer with us. I had so much trouble persuading my family to celebrate my birthday in a restaurant, and then everything fell through.... It was just bad luck! The date of 12 February 1984 was declared an official day of mourning because of the death of General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Yu.V. Andropov. We had to change our reservation because the restaurants were closed that day. When I came home with my closest friends, the whole room was full of flowers--a sign of affection from my comrades and colleagues. We sat down at the table quietly and had a modest birthday celebration.
Before I had time to form a team of kindred spirits, our country reached a turning point in its history--in August 1991. At that time I was on an assignment in Geneva, where we were discussing technical means of monitoring underground nuclear tests with the Americans. I was worried about the future of Russia's nuclear-arms complex. When I returned to Moscow, I had trouble recognizing my colleagues and comrades. I encountered an atmosphere of confusion, attempts to stay out of current events, and the inevitable question in such situations: "Which side are you on?" It was necessary, however, to make a vigorous effort to preserve the unique scientific and production complex of the atomic industry. I began fighting for the preservation of the Russian ministry. No, I did not use the wrong word. This was a fight, in which I encountered intrigue, forgery, and intimidation. I also had to endure humiliating anonymous letters and insults from superiors. Some of my closest friends could not cope with these difficulties.
Before I moved into the minister's chair, I had to go through this serious struggle, and sometimes it feels as if I have spent my whole life in the trenches. I do not regret this, however, because they were character-building experiences. My tempering on the test sites frequently helped me in other areas of my life. It also helped me when the existence of the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy was being debated. In fact, all of the arguments were settled unequivocally by Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin at a conference with the scientists and administrators of the sector in the Kremlin in January 1992. This was the first time in all of the years of perestroyka that the leader of the country had conferred with the principals of the atomic industry. The preceding five years of cost-accounting perestroyka according to various models of directive-bureaucratic conversion had hurt the sector considerably. This meeting assured us that the country's atomic industry would live.
I feel that Gorbachev has to take the blame for the attempt to demolish the military-industrial complex. He almost ordered that the directors of our plants be squashed, treating talented scientists and organizers like bedbugs.
It was not the military-industrial complex that had governed the country and led it into a blind alley. It had been "governed" itself, but not that resolutely, thank God. It is a stroke of luck for the country that the functionaries who had grown out of their Komsomol-activist diapers, with their degrees from agricultural or pedagogical correspondence schools, were afraid to thrust their hairy hands into big science because they lacked the necessary skill and knowledge.
I remember how the secretary of the local party raykom visited our institute when I was already working in Moscow. Our party officials used to tell everyone how to live and what to do, but when this one saw our diagnostic system, all she could say was this: "Oh, you have so many different wires! How do you keep them straight?!"
In general, we theoretical physicists had no respect for party officials. Fear kept the party elite from trying to get into our sector and put down roots--fear of its own incompetence and fear of the very word "atom."
I am certain that if the state and society finally take an interest in the needs of the military-industrial complex and make intelligent use of its unique scientific and technical potential, the rebirth of industry and, consequently, the economic revitalization of Russia will begin in the military-industrial complex, because it is the country's only complex working on the level of the best world standards in machine building and instrument building. Our enterprises design and produce various sensors of ionizing radiation, dosimetric monitoring systems, systems for the registration of high-speed processes, radioelectronic instruments, semiconductor laser beams, and equipment for scientific research. Our basic and applied science in high-energy physics, thermonuclear synthesis, super-strong magnetic fields, and superconductivity are the property and the pride of our whole population.
Sectorial scientific research institutes in basic fields have several unique research complexes, including the world's largest accelerator, which is being built in Protvino in Moscow Oblast at the High-Energy Physics Institute. This 3,000 Gev complex will be located in a circular underground tunnel 21 kilometers long and 3.5 meters in diameter (the first section will be completed in 1995).
The Ministry of Atomic Energy mines the purest gold in the world. We have the least expensive zirconium production process, and the most effective isotope-separation technology, requiring only one-twentieth as much energy as the U.S. technology. Our highly effective resource processing technology has aroused the interest of foreign countries in cooperation with us in this sphere.
We produce pure molybdenum, tungsten, and vanadium oxides by reprocessing the lean ores and waste of military enterprises. The Ministry of Atomic Energy has several plants for the production of sulfuric, nitric, and hydrofluoric acid and elementary fluorine. Our enterprises produce tantalum, niobium, zirconium, hafnium, lithium, and beryllium, alkaline-earth metals, and items made of them. The phosphate fertilizers the Ministry of Atomic Energy produces meet world standards, and some of them exceed these standards in terms of total nutritive substances.
And what a construction and installation industry we have! We produce one out of every fifteen bricks in Russia, but ours cost half as much. We built such cities as Navoi, Shevchenko, Ognensk, Dubna, Protvino, and Podolsk. And we have such marvelous finishing materials! And what about our plots of land in the Urals and in Siberia, with a yield that is usually twice the average! And the cycle race track in Krylatskiy is ours! The Ministry of Atomic Energy can take the credit for all of this. No, our scientists, designers, and workers did not eat the people's bread for free!
Around 30 percent of the scientific-production facilities in the nuclear complex are already working for the needs of the country's economy, including those directly engaged in the production of consumer goods. We plan to double this indicator by 1995 and to produce more high-technology and scarce commodities, such as digital video and audio tape recorders, laser discs and players, microwave ovens, television sets, and electronic security systems. We plan to build plants for the agricultural processing complex.
In 1991 one out of every three people in the sector was working on conversion projects. By 2000 we plan to redirect up to 60 percent of the facilities of the nuclear military complex for the satisfaction of the economy's needs. They will work on the development of the fuel and energy base, the design of fiber optics equipment for television broadcasting and communications, the development of isotope and nuclear medicine, the production of highly durable instruments and high-speed lathes for the machining of complex structures, the production of new composition materials and mobile laboratories for environmental analyses, and the derivation of super-pure materials.
We also have much to do for the successful development of nuclear power engineering. Our opponents are insisting on the development of energy-saving technology and the conservation of energy. I agree with them, but this is an extremely lengthy process, and Russia needs energy today. Many of its regions are on a starvation diet. No matter how much mankind longs for the clean environment of the past, it cannot get along without technical progress, including atomic energy. The development of safe atomic reactors is one of the sector's main tasks. Gradually (after a storm of negative emotional outbursts), the Russians are agreeing with this. We received a request from the Ural region, for example, for technical and economic feasibility studies for the construction of a nuclear power plant. We also have requests from the Far East. We are installing new power units at the Balakovo nuclear plant. There are designs for small-scale nuclear plants for remote mining regions and the Arctic zone.
The successful development of atomic power engineering, the modernization of existing nuclear power plants, and the construction of new ones will require large capital investments. I feel that the resolution of our financial problems will necessitate concerted effort by the leading countries of the world. What kind of cooperation should this entail? This is a sensitive issue, and our opinions differ. Several options have been suggested.
The first (supported by some people in the Ministry of Atomic Energy and in the Russian leadership) is to borrow tens of billions of dollars abroad, close all of our nuclear power plants, and build Western ones. We will have to pay a high price for this, however, in the literal and figurative sense. First of all, we will have to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars each year in interest on the loans. Second, we will have to have a funeral service for the Russian atomic industry. This would be inadmissible. Without scientific and technical progress, Russia has no future.
Another option is to borrow 700-800 million dollars from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the remodeling of our nuclear power plants. I feel that this option is feasible, although the best solution would be the attraction of the private investments of firms willing to work with the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy and to invest funds in the remodeling of our nuclear power plants on a compensatory basis.
Incidentally, we can also propose joint projects. One example is the Lovisa nuclear power plant in Finland, where the reactor (the heart of the plant) is ours, and the auxiliary electrical equipment and diagnostic systems are Finnish.
We could compensate the Western firms for their expenditures in various ways, including technology transfers, because we are five or 10 years ahead of the West in this area. We are already working with firms in the United States, Italy, Japan, France, and the FRG on personnel training programs, the development of training equipment for the operators of nuclear power plants, and so forth.
The Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy is now wide open to the international market. We supply it with natural and enriched uranium, equipment and fuel for nuclear power plants, and rare-earth elements--i.e., products for which the demand within the country is satisfied completely, and which have high added value on the basis of the best technology.
I cannot say, however, that the West is greeting us with open arms in the world market. In fact, after assuring us of its unselfish wish to help us establish a market economy, it has been waging a fierce trade war with Russia, particularly in the uranium market.
We will keep our place in the uranium market. It will be difficult, but persistence is our strong suit. We began the process in 1993 by signing a long-term agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on the use of the highly enriched uranium recovered from nuclear weapons. We hope to turn around one-third of our supply of weapons-grade uranium into fuel for nuclear power plants and sell this fuel to the Americans.
This is a realistic way to create a nuclear-free world. Businessmen in the West know that they cannot ignore the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy. We have reason to view the future with optimism. I am certain that the rebirth of Russian industry is not that distant, and the high-technology enterprises of the defense complex are the pillars supporting the Russian economy today.
Chronological Survey of the History of the Ministry of Medium Machine Building[Abridged reprint of article from ATOM-PRESSA (ATOMNAYA ENERGETIKA), 1993, No 23]20 August 1945 -- The Special Committee was established in the USSR as part of the State Committee for Defense for the quickest possible elimination of the U.S. nuclear monopoly on nuclear weapons. The members of the Special Committee included L.P. Beriya (chairman), B.L. Vannikov, I.N. Voznesenskiy, P.L. Kapitsa, I.V. Kurchatov, G.M. Malenkov, M.G. Pervukhin, and others. 27 August 1945 -- The first meeting of the Special Committee's Technical Council was held. The council members included B.L. Vannikov (chairman), A.I. Alikhanov, I.N. Voznesenskiy, A.P. Zavenyagin, A.F. Ioffe, P.L. Kapitsa, I.K. Kikoin, I.V. Kurchatov, V.A. Makhnev, Yu.B. Khariton, and V.G. Khlopin. 30 August 1945 -- The First Main Administration (PGU) of the Council of People's Commissars was established for the implementation of measures connected with the use of atomic energy. B.L. Vannikov was appointed chief of the (PGU), and A.P. Zavenyagin and P.Ya. Antropov were appointed his deputies. 30 August 1945 -- The first enterprise was transferred to the jurisdiction of the PGU of the USSR Council of People's Commissars--Plant No 12 (now the "Machine-Building Plant" production association in Elektrostal). 8 February 1948 -- A decision was made to build an administrative building for the PGU inside Moscow's Sadovoy Ring (the building was completed on 17 January 1958. Now it is occupied by the Russian Federation Ministry of Atomic Energy, 24/26 Bolshaya Ordynka). November 1949 -- I.V. Kurchatov was appointed chairman of the PGU Scientific and Technical Council. 26 June 1953 -- The USSR Ministry of Medium Machine Building was established, and V.A. Malyshev was appointed minister of medium machine building. 13 July 1953 -- B.L. Vannikov and M.V. Khrunichev were appointed first deputy ministers, and P.Ya. Antropov, A.P. Zavenyagin, and V.M. Ryabikov were appointed deputy ministers. 25 February 1955 -- A.P. Zavenyagin was appointed USSR minister of medium machine building. 22 March 1956 -- The Main Administration for the Use of Atomic Energy of the USSR Council of Ministers was established as part of the USSR Ministry of Medium Machine Building, and Ye.P. Slavskiy was appointed chief of the administration, V.A. Levsha was appointed first deputy chief, and D.V. Yefremov was appointed deputy chief. 30 April 1957 -- M.G. Pervukhin was appointed USSR minister of medium machine building. 24 July 1957 -- Ye.P. Slavskiy was appointed minister of medium machine building. 26 August 1957 -- V.S. Yemelyanov was appointed chief of the Main Administration for the Use of Atomic Energy of the USSR Council of Ministers. 18 May 1960 -- The Main Administration for the Use of Atomic Energy of the USSR Council of Ministers was reestablished as the State Committee of the USSR Council of Ministers on the Use of Atomic Energy. 14 February 1962 -- A.M. Petrosyants was appointed chairman of the State Committee. 29 November 1986 -- L.D. Ryabev was appointed minister of medium machine building. 27 June 1989 -- The USSR Ministry of Atomic Power Engineering and Industry was established. 17 July 1989 -- V.F. Konovalov was appointed USSR minister of atomic power engineering and industry. 11 September 1989 -- The USSR Ministry of Medium Machine Building and USSR Ministry of Atomic Power became part of the new ministry. 29 January 1992 -- The USSR Ministry of Atomic Power Engineering and Industry was reestablished as the Russian Federation Ministry of Atomic Energy. 2 March 1992 -- V.N. Mikhaylov was appointed minister.
Selections from Published WorksThe defense of their Motherland's borders is one of the sacred traditions of our people, passed down from one generation to the next with a mother's milk, its heroes celebrated in epic and legend
The Keys to the Nuclear Arsenal[Abridged reprint from Moscow PRAVITELSTVENNYY VESTNIK in Russian No 1, 1992 of interview with V.N. Mikhaylov by Yu. Popov and L. Chernenko: "The Keys to the Nuclear Arsenal"] The 27,000 nuclear weapons deployed in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan aroused the anxiety of the world public under the unpredictable conditions of the collapse of the Union. Apprehensions were expressed in the West, and also in our country, with regard to the possibility that atomic weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists. Now the chaotic process of the country's disintegration has been stopped by the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The Alma-Ata declaration stresses the need to retain unified control of nuclear weapons. The so-called "nuclear button" was turned over to a new master, President B.N. Yeltsin of Russia. The decision to use it will be made after consultations with the heads of the four states where the atomic weapons are located. These four states reaffirmed their commitment to no-first-use of nuclear weapons. They also reaffirmed their determination not to transfer nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices and technologies to anyone else. Nevertheless, the problem of the Soviet nuclear arsenal is still a matter of major concern to Western politicians and military leaders, who know much more about it than our own citizens, through whose efforts the nuclear shield was established. We will reveal this mystery to them. Our interview today is with Professor V.N. Mikhaylov, deputy minister of atomic power engineering and industry, former "top-secret" scientist, and one of the creators of our country's nuclear weapons.
PRAVITELSTVENNYY VESTNIK: Viktor Nikitovich! We once wrote about the so-called "red telephone," the direct line from the Kremlin to the White House. Now we have learned that the "red phone" is just a figure of speech and that the presidents actually communicate by modem or fax. Much has been said recently about the "nuclear briefcase" and the "nuclear button." Does this "button" really exist?
Mikhaylov: I have to start by telling you that our nuclear missile launching system is extremely complex and does not respond to commands from a single source. As far as I know, the "briefcase" and "button" are figures of speech, symbolic terms rather than technical ones. No one can simply push a button, except to make a phone call or summon a secretary. Our system, just as all of the others in the world, is multiply redundant. We have a complex hierarchy of access to launch systems.
PRAVITELSTVENNYY VESTNIK: Now that we frequently hear reports from "hot spots" about the seizure of combat equipment, is there any possibility that a small nuclear weapon, for instance, might fall into the hands of terrorists or simply incompetent individuals?
Mikhaylov: From the very start of our atomic program, the need to preclude unauthorized access to nuclear weapons was a matter of special concern to the chief scientists and engineers. Today everything has been done to solve the problem at our present level of knowledge, which is equal to that of any other nuclear power. Furthermore, this solution is adjusted constantly, in line with new requirements and achievements of science and technology. More and more new elements are being incorporated to enhance security. I feel there is no need for the public to worry about the possible seizure of weapons: No one is capable of seizing nuclear weapons, not to mention putting them to use. We have reliable neutralization systems and safety devices for this purpose.
PRAVITELSTVENNYY VESTNIK: We have heard that thousands of nuclear weapons do not stay in the same place all the time. Could anything untoward occur during their transport? Mikhaylov: No, this would be impossible. The weapons are in a highly secure state during transport. All of the main components are removed. The possibility of their use is virtually excluded. Nevertheless, they are transported only under strict control and under guard. We have developed special equipment for their transport by motor vehicle or rail. We have thousands of weapons, we have transported them more than once, and we have never had any problems.
The physical features of all of today's nuclear devices absolutely exclude the possibility of spontaneous explosion. Furthermore, the pollution of the environment with radioactive materials is precluded by transporting the weapons in special containers, capable of withstanding the most unforeseeable accidents. We are working on something called a safe explosive for these weapons. Some of the nuclear weapon systems in the United States are already using this. The safe explosive does not react to bullets, shrapnel, or fire. It can be hit with a hammer, cracked, or thrown. Only a special device can activate it.
We have also been doing some work in that direction, but the work has slowed down in the last five years because we could not conduct any nuclear tests for this purpose. As you know, the suspension of these tests in October has been announced.
PRAVITELSTVENNYY VESTNIK: Nuclear weapons were born in the minds of scientists, people distinguished by vast knowledge and by a particular sense of responsibility to society and to the world. Do scientists have any control over nuclear weapons today, or are all of them under the control of only politicians and the military?
Mikhaylov: I think there should be closer cooperation by scientists, specialists, and the military today. There should also be closer cooperation by the Ministry of Atomic Power Engineering and Industry and the Ministry of Defense, as there is in the United States, where these two agencies are accountable for anything connected with the nuclear-arms complex and report to the president. People in our country, however, have expressed the opinion, especially in recent years, that the military can make many of these decisions itself. This is a mistake. Soldiers cannot assemble or disassemble the weapons themselves. This can only be done by people who have been doing this for years in special plants. The dismantling technology is equally complex. Several of the operations are even more dangerous and require more effort than the assembly of weapons. Obviously, only the people who built the devices are qualified to do this.
Anyone who knows this is wary of the reports that Ukraine plans to invite our colleagues from the United States to participate in the dismantling of nuclear devices. As a specialist, I can assure you that an expert is unlikely to agree to dismantle a "strange" nuclear device: This would be too much of a risk. Even for an experienced field engineer, the disposal of mines or munitions left on a battlefield is a major ordeal. In comparison with a nuclear weapon, however, the conventional weapon is like a single-celled creature--a protozoan in comparison with the human organism....
PRAVITELSTVENNYY VESTNIK: A sizable arsenal of nuclear weapons was created over decades in our country. Now part of it is supposed to be destroyed in line with the Soviet-American agreements. How will this be done? What are the methods of destroying nuclear weapons?
Mikhaylov: In general, it will entail the following. After the nuclear warheads are removed from the carriers, they will be put in a state of heightened security. This means that combat systems can be transported with relative ease to the site of their destruction under reliable guard. It is possible that the uniform use of the facilities of plants for dismantling operations will require intermediate storage premises. In the plant, all of the nuclear components--plutonium and highly enriched uranium--will be removed from the weapons and put in storage or used in the national economy. Other components will be fed into a compactor. Conventional explosives will be used for the derivation of artificial diamonds, and those which are not suitable for this purpose will simply be burned in combustion chambers.
Highly skilled specialists are working on the development of the appropriate dismantling procedures. The longer the weapons are stored, the less practicable their dismantling becomes. In some cases it will be necessary to resort to demolition by segmentation. The appropriate research is being conducted for the evaluation of all options.
We already have some experience in this field. The nuclear weapon is a complex device consisting of electronic elements, generators, active nuclear materials--uranium, plutonium, and tritium--and conventional explosives. It also has a limited service life--10 or 15 years, for example--after which it is disassembled. For this reason, we have always conducted dismantling operations. The volume of work connected with the recycling of nuclear weapons and their destruction is increasing in connection with the INF and START treaties and the tactical nuclear arms initiatives. In fact, our plants are occupied more with the elimination of old weapons than the production of new ones even at this time.
PRAVITELSTVENNYY VESTNIK: Is cooperation with the Americans in the elimination of nuclear weapons possible? Mikhaylov: Cooperation in this area is a delicate matter. Our specialists believe that destruction processes should not be subject to verification, but the exchange of information about these processes is obviously necessary. The destruction itself, however, should be conducted by each side separately.
Of course, there is one area in which we would accept American assistance. We discussed this with several senators in Washington recently, including Robert Kasten, Ted Stevens, and Edward Kennedy. We discussed measures to speed up the elimination of our tactical nuclear weapons, artillery shells and mines, which could take as long as 10 years.
The problem is that the lack of adequate storage space for nuclear materials--weapons-grade plutonium and uranium--is a bottleneck in the elimination of our tactical nuclear weapons, nuclear artillery shells and mines. Because of our financial difficulties, the construction of new storage facilities could take up to five years, and this is certain to delay the implementation of the initiatives for up to 10 years.
In view of the unique possibility of the substantial reduction of nuclear arsenals, we asked the Americans to consider the joint construction of these facilities and the allocation of 500 million dollars to us for this purpose. The American side could order appraisals of the design of the facilities, observe the progress of the construction projects, and participate in the joint control of the storage of weapons-grade nuclear materials in the facilities. None of this would be connected with any national secrets. If we get help in building the storage facilities, we can expect to shorten the amount of time needed for the elimination of tactical nuclear weapons. We have also calculated that up to 30 percent of the allocated funds should be used for the improvement of ecological conditions and the resolution of socioconsumer problems in the regions of the joint construction projects and in the locations of the elimination of nuclear warheads.
A bilateral commission could be set up to carry out this program. The members on our side should include representatives of Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Atomic Power Engineering and Industry and the Ministry of Defense. We have to take advantage of this unique opportunity and reduce our nuclear arsenals. I feel that we have accumulated enough nuclear weapons, and I know that the reduction of this supply has always been the cherished dream of scientists and specialists. We have to leave only the quantity of nuclear warheads needed for defense, and no more.
PRAVITELSTVENNYY VESTNIK: Recently we have been hearing about more and more of the previously "restricted" cities that worked for the nuclear complex. We have heard that a whole secret archipelago existed under the auspices of the former Ministry of Medium Machine Building.... Now that the restricted cities have lost their privileged status, now that the processes of arms reduction and conversion are under way, what kind of future will they have?
Mikhaylov: These cities, which are not on the map, are surrounded by a barbed-wire barrier, security checkpoints, and the appropriate warning devices. Most of the woods adjacent to the cities are surrounded by the same kind of barrier. Work areas, also protected by a special barrier, are situated in the woods. Experiments are conducted in some of these work areas, accompanied by the detonation of highly precise charges of conventional explosives in combination with various devices. In essence, these are models of nuclear devices for pure scientific research.
I have to stress that these cities became restricted areas not because they had to be hidden from the public or kept secret, but because of the need to observe safety regulations during the performance of certain operations. There are zones or areas where hazardous operations are conducted in this kind of city, for example, and outsiders naturally have strictly limited access to those areas. Obviously, the models of weapons that are designed and built for subsequent delivery to nuclear test sites are a source of danger. That is why it is extremely important to limit access to the restricted cities for people who have no connection with this work. In view of today's rising crime rate, if these cities were unrestricted, we could not insure ourselves against attacks by vandals or by extremists, who might create serious hazards. Therefore, we should not be in a rush to open all of the "closed" cities, although the standards of secrecy certainly have to change.
The think tank of our domestic nuclear-arms complex--the large scientific research centers in Arzamas-16 and Chelyabinsk-70--are our counterparts to Los Alamos and the Livermore National Laboratory.
The Experimental Physics Institute is located in Arzamas-16, a restricted city with a population of 100,000 in Nizhniy Novgorod Oblast. The city is in a place which was known as Sarov before the revolution and was of great religious significance. There was a monastery there, where the famous anchorite Serafim, who was later canonized, lived in the last century. Tsar Nicholas II went there with his wife and his retinue to pray for an heir at the beginning of this century. In fact, the tsar's successor did make his appearance a year later, and this added even more to the appeal of this location, which was destined to become the birthplace of our atomic bomb.
Our other national laboratory for the development of nuclear weapons was established on the shore of Lake Sinara in Chelyabinsk Oblast. The city of Chelyabinsk-70 and the institute--the Scientific Research Institute of Technical Physics (VNIITF)--were established at the same time. In essence, these are huge scientific-production centers, where science, design, and production represent a single continuous cycle, and where a unique experimental, computer, and production base has been established. The activity of these institutes played the decisive role in securing the balance of USSR and U.S. nuclear arms. The potential of these scientific teams will permit the resolution of major problems in the scientific and technical support of nuclear disarmament processes as well. Within a relatively short time, these institutes grew into the country's largest scientific centers, and today they are also important on the international level. They are particularly well-known for their research in such fields of science as theoretical nuclear physics, mathematical physics, super-strong magnetic fields, powerful x-rays, and powerful pulse lasers.
The proportional amount of scientific research and development projects in fields with no military applications in these institutes is around 25 percent and is growing. Some are already being used widely in medicine, in artificial diamond production, in fiber optic systems for the transmission of all types of information, in environmental monitoring, and in computer engineering.
PRAVITELSTVENNYY VESTNIK: There has been some apprehension recently in the West in connection with the possibility that Soviet nuclear scientists with a knowledge of "sensitive" technologies might move to countries with a strong craving for nuclear weapons of their own....
Mikhaylov: The non-proliferation of "sensitive" technologies is one of our main concerns. I have to say that we have not seen any indication of a "brain drain" from enterprises and research centers of the nuclear-arms complex to foreign countries. Of course, some people have left the country, but they had no connection with the main aspects of the technologies and had not worked at our enterprises for around five years. You must know that science and technology do not stand still. They are constantly advancing, and a person who cuts himself off from these advances no longer has the necessary potential. The backbone of our staff of personnel with knowledge of the "sensitive" technologies is still in place.
We cannot secure the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons technology without keeping our national professionals in this field and establishing the appropriate working and living conditions for them.
We were able to compensate for our considerably inferior financial base, namely the annual expenditures on our national laboratories--500 million rubles in comparison with the 1.4 billion dollars allocated for the Los Alamos, Livermore, and Sandia national laboratories in the United States, and for the underdevelopment of our laboratory and computer base, only with the ingenuity of our scientists and designers and, what is most important, with nuclear tests in approximately the same numbers as the American tests. These tests are the main means of checking and perfecting the technical features of nuclear weapons and the only method of obtaining experimental information about the physical processes occurring under the extreme conditions of a nuclear explosion.
PRAVITELSTVENNYY VESTNIK: How do you see the future of your ministry?
Mikhaylov: Its exact status has to be defined. After all, it is working in two fields of major importance--nuclear arms and nuclear power engineering installations, including power units for nuclear power plants, submarines, surface ships, and so forth. In view of the importance of these fields and the nuclear hazards connected with the design and development of these systems, and in view of the need for designer oversight and a unified technical and scientific-technical policy, it is clear that the sector cannot be left hanging for long, and that its problems must be solved. By a decision of earlier agencies, our ministry was granted inter-state status. Now the situation has changed, and the position of the sector in the Commonwealth of Independent States is still not clear. We do know that 80 percent of our enterprises are located in Russia, and I therefore feel that it would be advisable to make it a Russian ministry. It should be under the president's jurisdiction. Why? The work of the ministry is extremely important and decisive. The world already has an example of this. The comparable American department is subordinate to the president of the United States and prepares documents, in conjunction with the Department of Defense, for the president on the most important issues connected with the development of new types of nuclear weapons and their series production, storage, reliability, and effectiveness. The president considers, approves, and makes decisions on the congressional funding of specific programs. Incidentally, the American department and its regional administrations have a personnel staff of around 15,000. The Nevada Test Site is part of this department. In our country, as you know, test sites are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense. Of course, the maintenance of industry and science within the confines of the ministry will require large expenditures--around 10 billion rubles a year--and all of the members of the Commonwealth should contribute a share of this. After all, we have a common strategic defense and strategic space and common interests in power engineering, including nuclear power engineering. It would be impossible for Russia to carry the whole heavy burden by itself.
PRAVITELSTVENNYY VESTNIK: What are the prospects for the nuclear-arms complex?
Mikhaylov: I think that nuclear weapons, despite the present attitude of people toward these weapons, will guarantee the security of those people for many years to come. The question of how many weapons we need is a different matter. Recent events have fostered the reduction of the number, and this is welcomed by everyone. The preservation of our scientific potential is the main concern. The important thing, after all, is not the number of weapons we produce, but the knowledge which gives us the ability to respond to any nuances in this area. That is why I feel that a minimal number of nuclear tests must be conducted. Physics is an experimental science, and nothing can be accomplished by sitting at a desk in an office. The simulation of a nuclear explosion without tests is impossible. They are also needed to keep physical science on the proper level. If all countries stop the tests, we will be on an equal level, but when one country has a chance to experiment and another does not, the latter is certain to lag behind the former sooner or later. We all want a world without weapons and wars. This is the dream of mankind, but I think we will still be living with this dream for a very long time.
Nuclear WeaponsMikhaylov's article "Nuclear Weapons," as published in Moscow ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA in Russian on 7 and 8 May 1992.
Such Agreements Can Only Be WelcomedYevgeniy Panov's interview with Mikhaylov "Mikhaylov: Such Agreements Can Only Be Welcomed," as published in Moscow ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA in Russian on 11 December 1992
I View the Future of the Sector with Optimism[Reprint of article from Moscow NOVYYE PROMYSHLENNYYE TEKHNOLOGII [New Industrial Technologies] 1993, Special Edition 1 (255), PROBLEMY KONVERSII [Problems of Conversion] (Russian Federation Ministry of Atomic Energy)] Much has been said about the conversion of the enterprises of Russia's defense complex. The time for debates and discussions of a general nature is over, and the need for economically sound conversion grows stronger each day. The main thing is that we finally have realized that the success of economic reform in Russia under present conditions will depend largely on the effectiveness of the conversion of its military-industrial complex. It is precisely from this standpoint and with a view to the unique features of the scientific-production complex of the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy that we should discuss the distinctive features of conversion processes in the atomic industry.
The end of the "cold war" and the speed of nuclear disarmament had their first substantial impact on the enterprises of the Ministry of Atomic Energy's nuclear-arms complex. After almost 50 years of research and development in the sphere of nuclear and thermonuclear weaponry and the related combat systems, the two largest Russian federal centers--VNIIEF (Arzamas-16) and VNIITF (Chelyabinsk-70)--began to be respecialized for broader involvement in non-military research and development projects and experimental design projects to promote the development of industry and stop the recession in Russia. The simultaneous move to market relations and the broad-scale privatization of enterprises, however, have necessitated a search for links with the civilian sector of industry, including joint long-term research projects. The sufficient accessibility of the federal centers, to inspire the trust of clients, will be the main objective in this process. The lengthy period of isolation--in line with security requirements--of cities with a population of almost 100,000 each from the country's civilian industry, not to mention the outside world, and the absence of developed civilian industry in those cities, created exceptional difficulties in the plans for conversion, including problems arising from the official percentage deductions* [Footnote: * From research and development projects and experimental design projects--Ed.] for the maintenance of the infrastructure in these cities. There are 10 of them in the nuclear-arms complex, with almost a million inhabitants.
The conversion of military production, particularly its nuclear branch, requires the appropriate legislative basis: Plans for the conversion of each enterprise should be made with a view to all of the provisions of a comprehensive law on conversion.
Back in 1990 we had already drafted plans for the restructuring of research and production up to 2010 with consideration for the conversion of the nuclear-arms complex. According to those plans, by the end of 1995 around 60,000 workers at the enterprises would be released from military programs and transferred to jobs working for the national economy. We hoped to solve such major problems as the enhancement of the safety of personnel, the population, and the environment and the disposal of radioactive waste, the establishment of a base for the storage of nuclear materials, and the dismantling and recycling of nuclear weapons. Today the number of people working for the national economy in this complex is already close to 40,000, but now our plans have to be adjusted with a view to the START II Treaty.
In essence, the sector's enterprises represent links of a single technological chain, "from the idea to the finished article": the extraction of raw amterial, the production of fissionable materials, the fabrication of fuel from them for nuclear power engineering and military use, and the processing of spent fuel with the subsequent localization and disposal of radioactive waste. A break in the chain would cause irreversible damage to the whole atomic industry. That is why the ministry's main objective is the preservation of this sector's potential, which essentially has to undergo dual conversion because of the sharp cuts in nuclear arms production and the relatively slow work on nuclear power engineering programs. Production cuts on military installations have been equivalent to 40-50 percent on the average and 80 percent in some cases. The situation is no better in nuclear power engineering. Between 1987 and 1992, for example, only one power unit with a VVER-1000 reactor was started up at the Balakovo nuclear power plant, although earlier plans had called for the annual start-up of two or three.
The situation is complicated by the fact that many enterprises in the sector are not slated for respecialization, and the temporary suspension of operations there will require huge financial investments. The set of operations to shut down the reactors generating "weapons-grade" plutonium and the decontamination of the enterprises, however, could cost hundreds of billions of rubles.
Who but the state is capable of allocating tens of billions of rubles today for the decontamination of territories, the handling and safe disposal of nuclear waste, and the recycling of nuclear weapons? Without the guarantee of state budget funds for these projects, conversion will be impossible.
Now add the ailments that are common to the country's whole economy--the colossal budget disparities, inflation, the increasingly unsatisfactory status of settlements between enterprises, and the serious exacerbation of socioeconomic problems--and you can imagine just some of the problems the Ministry of Atomic Energy is having in its efforts to carry out the necessary conversion projects.
In accordance with the nuclear arms reduction agreements, the volume of work connected with the dismantling and recycling of nuclear weapons has increased considerably in Russia and the United States. Dismantling operations are extremely dangerous and time-consuming, and the cost is comparable to assembly costs. The nuclear weapons that have been removed from operational status are being dismantled at the same four plants of the Ministry of Atomic Energy where they were once assembled. Electronic units are being recycled or returned to suppliers, chemical explosives are being burned, and metallic structures are being decontaminated and scrapped. The recycling of the chemical explosives is under consideration today. The technology for the production of finely divided diamonds for industrial purposes by detonating them in confined chambers is being developed.
Our nuclear arsenals have been reduced by more than 10,000 weapons since the middle of the 1980's. Today we have the problem of handling the substantial quantities of highly enriched uranium (40-90% 235U) and weapons-grade plutonium that are being removed from the weapons. The most feasible option today is the long-term storage of these materials and their subsequent reprocessing into fuel for nuclear heat and power plants. The safe storage of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, however, would entail substantial expenditures on the construction of long-term storage facilities. The first stage would envisage the future use of highly enriched uranium as fuel for nuclear power plants and transport reactors by diluting it with depleted uranium (0.1-0.4% 235U) of technological origins (the "residue" of gas-diffusion and centrifugal plants). Sales of this fuel on commercial terms to nuclear power plants in other countries would create a big political problem for all peace-loving people, but for Russia it would be an opportunity to have sufficient financial security for the conversion of the nuclear-arms complex, the enhancement of the safety of our existing power plants, and the ecological decontamination of polluted territories.
The unique technology that has been developed in the network of the Ministry of Atomic Energy, the tremendous knowledge and experience of our scientists and designers, and the high standards of production at enterprises of the sector secured the speedy development of many civilian technologies. Comprehensive ministerial programs in different fields, some of which were included in federal conversion programs, were drawn up on the basis of enterprise proposals. By 1990 the choice of conversion options for most of our institutes and enterprises had been virtually completed. Programs were drawn up and approved within the ministerial system for projects in microelectronics, super-pure materials production, fiber-optics communication systems, progressive materials and modern medical equipment production, environmental and territorial restoration, and machine building for milk-processing enterprises in the agricultural-processing complex.
Cuts in funding for conversion projects were not the only reason for the deceleration of the process, however; dramatic price increases also reduced the demand for products. This called for new and non-traditional solutions, including decisions on the restructuring of the sector. The appropriate ministerial program has already been drawn up and will become part of the program for the restructuring of the Russian economy. This program did not emerge from a vacuum; it was drawn up with a view to the work on the sectorial conversion programs of 1990. Those two years did not go by in vain. Experimental models of new equipment were designed, and the industrial production of equipment for conversion projects was organized. In 1992, for example, the output of products for the microelectronic industry, computer engineering, and automation engineering was equivalent to 2 billion rubles and was more than double the projected indicators of physical volume. The total output of goods for the national economy as a result of conversion alone was equivalent to more than 10 billion rubles in 1992 and was expected to increase 1.4-fold in 1993. The total output of the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy in 1992 increased by one percent, and its output of civilian products increased by 2.4 percent. You will agree that this kind of success in industrial conversion is extremely rare today.
The basic technologies were developed for the production of semiconductor silicon, gallium arsenide, organometallic materials, and other materials for microelectronics. Our clean production facilities, technological excimer lasers, and plasma-induction spectrometers meet the highest world standards. The production of electronic consumer goods has been organized: the scarce videocassette recorders, video laser discs, home computers, and electronic timepieces.
The technological base for the domestic production of fiber optics components and systems is virtually complete. Specialists in the sector have designed unique pieces of medical equipment: computerized tomographs and radiation therapy and diagnostic equipment with the necessary sources of ionizing radiation. The production of several models of heart valves and artificial kidneys has been mastered for the first time in Russia. Endoprosthetic devices and instruments for periosteal osteosynthesis for orthopedic, oncological, and stomatological use have been developed and are undergoing clinical tests. Furthermore, they are being used in progressive medical procedures, some of which have no counterparts in the whole world.
One of the ministry's priority fields of conversion is the production of equipment for the milk-processing industry. This sector requires some major technological breakthroughs in Russia. Equipment for the storage and processing of milk, cheese production lines, and butter churns are being produced by 50 of our enterprises, and convection and microwave equipment is being incorporated for these purposes. Mini-plants for the acceptance and processing of milk are being built and delivered to clients, ready for operation, on the ministry's initiative. They can be transported to the site on several trailers and begin making yogurt, sour cream, kefir, and cottage cheese within a few hours. The design and quality of the equipment are equal to those seen in the best commercial advertisements.
To our deep regret, the insolvency of consumers has kept us from developing production in many cases, and has even forced us to make production cuts in some cases. The absence of the necessary financial and material-technical support from the state was and is the main problem in conversion. Inadequate funding for scheduled work and investments in production has precluded the commercialization of the scientific and technical results of our development projects. That is why it is extremely important for participants in conversion to find different sources of financing. We are actively using the new economic structures, including commercial and banking entities, and are perfecting the investment recoupment mechanism, but only a few conversion projects can produce quick profits. Most of them are long-term projects and cannot promise an immediate return on investments. The establishment of the production base for the previously mentioned heart valves, for example, will require investments totaling 10 million U.S. dollars, and the endoprosthetic devices will require 20 million rubles over the next few years. The microelectronic center in Nizhniy Novgorod will require more than 100 million dollars in investments. Today the ministry's enterprises and institutes will need more than 100 billion rubles in the next three years, not counting funds to cover increases in energy costs, for the conversion of research and development projects and experimental design projects and the reorganization of production. Besides this, billions more will be needed for the payment of wages and other forms of remuneration. The output of the products included in the ministry's conversion programs could exceed 120 billion rubles by 1995, but this will only be possible in an atmosphere of political and economic stability, with the preservation of the earlier stable economic ties in the CIS, and with state credit and tax incentives for the producer during the period of transition to the market.
Under these conditions, the Ministry of Atomic Energy could begin intensive work on conversion programs in 1993 with extra-budgetary sources of financing: credits, investments, program funds, and private capital. During this period, the difficulties of the conversion process and the complexities of market relations could be surmounted, and the social tension in the restricted cities, which do not have alternative jobs at this time, could be alleviated. During the same period, the increased use of fixed capital would facilitate the transition to full operating capacity.
A period of production growth and subsequent economic growth in the whole sector can be anticipated in 1995-1996. State financing for the conversion program of the Ministry of Atomic Energy's defense complex should be secured, according to sector specialists, by that time.
The sector's enterprises and institutes have made a tremendous effort to lay a foundation for broad-scale conversion and a breakthrough to a peaceful future. This has been a result, I repeat, of the unique technologies of the enterprises of the Ministry of Atomic Energy and sufficient financial support from the state. These high-technology enterprises of the defense complex now constitute one of the pillars supporting the Russian economy. Without underestimating the importance of small and medium producers, I have to say that the Russian production base does not depend on them today. The defense complex is capable of attaining any kind of technological objectives and thereby creating the basis for a fitting place for the country, and the Commonwealth of Independent States, in the world economy.
AfterwardDear Reader: You have encountered a piece of my life and thoughts, which I wanted to convey to you. Judge for yourself! I have only one thing to say: One must fight for the welfare of the people, for peace, and for our planet! Russia has a great history, and not every generation has the opportunity to enhance it, but I am convinced that every generation should strive to do so in the name of our future. Today Russia is living through what may be the most complex period in the history of our generation. So let us remember that each and every one of us carries a burden of responsibility. Furthermore, we should help those for whom the burden is too heavy. The world is beautiful, and everyone can get to know the joy of living simply and peacefully at home.
[signed] V. Mikhaylov