Few commentators ~|><>ii«-<1 it, bul thc
sensational shake'up in the Kremlin
lasl February bared for a brilliant instant out' of the Soviet I nion s best
kepi secrets, namely: the real status of
its atomic weapons program. Official
Western estimates, such as those made
by the Atomic Energy Commission,
naturally lend to err on the side ol
caution, depicting a Soviet atomic colossus possessing practically all the latest
nuclear accouterments. liui there is another side of thf medal, llieit eif a complex iinlii3iri.il operation almost tied in
knots lev ei series eef critical bottlenecks
nf the type lhal have chronically be-
deviled Soviet industry. This was all but
s|icllcil out in Marshal Nikolai Bul-
ganin's inaugural address" in which thc
1. enliiiittia! "iiieeeiv serious shortcomings
in many branches of our iiatieeieeil
2. blasted "our scientific anil research institutions (fori ...lagging behind in
devising machines and production
methods corresponding te> the presenl
le'\el nl world technical eeehie'i ements"
3. took to leisk "industrial undertakings
which are slow in the practical ei[>|ili-
eaitinns of modern methods"
1. e'ellli'el feer tlle- Stock-piling nl the
stale's material reserves ("reserves
mean our mi_:ht anel strengthening of
the country's ele-feaese' capacity").
Ml of this confirms whal Bulganin
didn't spell out. Shortages of electric
power, uranium and industrial calculating eunl control equipment arc seriously
hampering Soviel atomic production.
Representatives of some ci*rhly countries from lmlli sides 'if the Iron Curtain
will meet in Geneva in -\ugiisl in the
first international conference on peaceful use- of .ii.,mir energy. The' I .S.S.I!,
was understandably reluctant tn agree to
participate. It resists any dissemination
of its knowledge -all participating nations ein- invited to donate both know-
how ami fissionable material for President Eisenhower's suggested "atoms for
peace" program eiml especially on this
subject. What they fear primarily is that
tie.' free- world may find mil lhat Soviet
atomic strength has been less spectacular
than is w ielelv |ielii'\ eel.
There is g I reeisiin to believe thai
tin- firsl Soviet atomic explosion, announced on September 2.'!. 1919. was not
of a bomb luit merely the stationary
discharge of ;i I -2 '>5 chain reaction.
Allied intelligence gives credence lo ;i
report of a German engineer POW who
got onl of the Soviel I nion late- in 1951
after talking wilh German laborers anil
technicians of tin- Soviet.atomic project.
The moele-st explosion in lln- Kara Kiini
Desert in the Turkmen Soviet Socialist
lit-|ui!ilie e lees., io [ran registered on
Western detection 11<\ ices.
In spite' of theoretical advances,
Soviel mastery of practical application
"<„■ FACTS FORI M \7:ir>. .,,„;/ J955)
p. 33, [t.
had then evidently not gone far enough
to enable them to manufacture a portable homh. Yel lhe lest was mine than a
scientific success, for il set the West to
guessing, and probably lo overestimating Soviet alomie strength. Thus was
overcome a Soviet diplomatic handicap
lhal had begun in 19 15 with the establishment of thc American A-bomb
monopoly. Thc next Soviet atomic explosions were recorded in October 1951.
These indicated that a bomb had been
produced but that the problem of meiss
production for stock-piling was unsolved.
The Russians have always been strong
on atomic theory. Dr. Peter Kapitza,
lured hack from his 13-year self-imposed
exile iti Great Britain, heis been working
mi atomic fissiun since 19o5. Ion" before
the Manhattan Project pot underway in
lhe I ,S. He wets seconded by such noted
Soviet nuclear physicists as Messrs. Ivei-
nenko. Frenkel, Leipinsky ami Zeldo-
vich. But Soviet achievements have been
line in considerable pari to sonic two
hundred German nuclear scientists and
technicians rounded up ami transported
tn the l.S.S.I!, in 1915. Among these
weii' pupils eiml assistants of Professor
Olio Halm who split the atom in 1938,
something thai the Russians did not
duplicate until well after World War II.
Substantial Soviel knowledge also came
from the United Slates and Greal
Britain through espionage.
I>ut the translation of theoretical
knowledge to production operations has
been difficult. Plant capacity is not like,
that of the I .S.. which could draw on
her metallurgical, chemical, machine
tool, electronics ami transportation industries at will. Even wilh ils assembled
know-how. Bussia heul lo do a fantastic
amount of pulling and hauling to arrange the. veist integrated effort thai
atomic weapons production requires.
\\ hen a branch of Soviet industry
elee ieli's that it needs to break a specific
production log jam. it can bring terrific
pressure, ingenuity and material to-
ge then', hut ihis inevitably puis a sharp
crimp into some other sector of the
economv. Production of atomic weapons.
the most complex "f eill industrial operations, practically precludes, however.
starving emy area to feed another. All
areas are essential. The required integration of national industrial resources for
a full scale eitomie. weapons program was
em acid lesi of Soviel planners, and they
did not emerge unscarred. Todav three
formidable bottlenecks still plague Soviet alomie industry. The shortages arc
(1) of fissionable material, i2i of electric power ami (.5) of industrial calculating and control equipment. Let's
hike- a closer look ai them.
RUSSIAN URANIUM SCARCE
Mmost eighty known minerals contain
uranium, hut less than a dozen are
The mushroom cloud has become a symbol e J& Sty e Pow
have never been published, probably because s«cC ' nave i
motive is anxiety over Soviet prestige.
abundant in the earth. For a uranium-
bearing mineral lo he worth mining il
must at leasl run .2 per cent of I (I..
But uranium sources in Soviel Bussia
are lean and their geographical location
unfavorable. The largest deposits are in
the black shales einel slates of thc elcserl
between Lake Balkhash and Afghanistan
when- uranium-bearing tyuyamuyunite"
lies close lo the surface. Bul ils richest
form assays at best .15 per cent I I) .
The second important uranium-bearing
*Frntn Tyiiyii Minim, in Turkistan. Often
elided t,< tyuyamunite.
FACTS FORUM NEWS, June, 1955