HS – Nuclear Development

Manhattan Project

Led by Robert Oppenheimer and Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army Engineering Corps. The project aimed to create the first atomic bomb. Klaus Fuchs Harry Gold, David Greenglass, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg ,George Koval, and Theodore Hall were spies working for the Soviets so as to advance the USSR’s research by decades. 16th July 1945 the first nuclear bomb was tested in Alamogardo, New Mexico. The same prototypes were detonated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6th and 9th of August respectively.

Melita Norwood

Started her espionage career when she joined the NKVD spy-ring in Woolwich Arsenal area. Due to purges in Moscow she was transferred over to the GRU. Her mission was simple: pass on documents from British Atomic Weapons Research project on Tube Alloys (which meant Nuclear Weapons in code). As a secretary to the project director, all sensitive documents were passed on to her first where she’ll make copies of it to pass on to the GRU. Through her work alone the Soviets were able to make an exact copy of the British Atomic Bomb within 1 year.

Stalin’s feeling towards US nuclear monopoly

Stalin was not very happy that the US had a nuclear monopoly as this would severely limit Soviet options in terms of international diplomatic options. Many Western European nations turned to the United States for protection rather than turning to the USSR as they believed through the nuclear weapon security can be guaranteed. Despite not having the presence of US troops the “nuclear umbrella” would protect them from the USSR and other threats. They have witnessed the nuclear power themselves through the Japanese surrender – 6 days after the last bomb (15th August 1945).

Baruch Plan

Bernard Baruch proposed that the US hand over all nuclear weapons over to the UN on the condition that other countries promise to not produce nuclear weapons and that every single country agrees to an inspection by the UN to detect any violations of the agreement. The USSR rejected this plan as they believed the UN was dominated by the US and her Western Allies. After 1948, both nations rejected this idea in favour of further atomic weapons development.

Causes of the arms race

  • External factors:
      1. The tensions between the two superpowers;
      2. to protect each other’s interests in the East and West;
      3. USSR’s propaganda machine that scared the USA into ‘submission’;
      4. the feeling that nuclear weapons were the only way to guarantee one’s security.
  • Internal factors:
      1. Some groups gained considerable amount of power and influence through the development of this project;
      2. The Red Army was able to exercise influence since defense needs were given considerable amounts of attention.
      3. 30 million US citizens were employed due to the result of the arms race;
      4. The Military-industrial complex exercised great amounts of power on Congress.

RDS-1

First Soviet atomic bomb. It was tested on 29th August 1949 at 7.00 AM, at Semipalatinsk, Kazakh SSR. It started to be developed at Laboratory No 2. at Kurchatov Institute.

Impact

The test surprised the Western powers. American intelligence had estimated that the Soviets would not produce an atomic weapon until 1953, while the British did not expect it until 1954. When the radioactive fission products from the test were detected by the US Air Force, the US began to follow the trail of the nuclear fallout debris. President Harry Truman notified the world of the situation on September 23, 1949: “We have evidence that within recent weeks an atomic explosion occurred in the U.S.S.R.”. (Truman’s statement likely in turn surprised the Soviets, who had hoped to keep the test a secret to avoid encouraging the Americans to increase their atomic programs, and did not know that the United States had built a test-detection system using the WB-29 Superfortress.

Hydrogen Bomb

Operation Greenhouse of 9 May 1951 tested the basic concept for the first time on a very small scale. As the first successful (uncontrolled) release of nuclear fusion energy, which made up a small fraction of the 225 kt total yield, it raised expectations to a near certainty that the concept would work.

On November 1, 1952, the Teller–Ulam configuration was tested at full scale in the “Ivy Mike” shot at an island in the Enewetak Atoll, with a yield of 10.4 megatons (over 450 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Nagasaki during World War II). The device, dubbed the Sausage, used an extra-large fission bomb as a “trigger” and liquid deuterium—kept in its liquid state by 20 short tons (18 metric tons) of cryogenic equipment—as its fusion fuel, and weighed around 80 short tons (70 metric tons) altogether.

The liquid deuterium fuel of Ivy Mike was impractical for a deployable weapon, and the next advance was to use a solid lithium deuteride fusion fuel instead. In 1954 this was tested in the “Castle Bravo” shot (the device was code-named the Shrimp), which had a yield of 15 megatons (2.5 times expected) and is the largest U.S. bomb ever tested.

Glossary

IBMs- Inter-continental Ballistic Missile

ABMs – Anti-ballistics missile

MIRV – Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle

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