Nuclear Candy-A Cold War Truth of Sorts

The Nevada Test Site is beautiful.  Others have officially re-named it The Nevada National

Test Structure

Test Structure

Security Site, but I shall never call it by that name because it wasn’t.  It was a test site or a proving ground not a politically correct plot of land.  Weighing in with over 1350 square miles in the high Nevada desert, the Test Site is geographically packed with dry lakes, hidden valleys, eroded shield volcanoes and mesas hidden from prying eyes by rugged mountains and bombing ranges.  For over 40 years between 1952 and 1995 the Test Site was the private playground of physicists, chemists, and other ‘ist’s who were into nukes.  The only requirements were brilliance, curiosity and the ability to pass a security clearance process.  The Test site possessed a natural dignity, a proud history, drama, and a tortured soul revealed in the familiar pockmarked landscape and skeletal remains of test platforms.  It was also the home of the new flavors of nuclear candy made ready for the military and political bureaucracies.  Grab your favorite beverage-mine is coffee-sit down and relax, I have a tale to spin about the Nevada Test Site, battling nuclear fathers, a president, and mankind’s baby step in a positive ethical direction.

T-Tunnel: Typical tunnel layout for the Minute Gun series of horizontal line of sight experiments. A Historical Evaluation of the U12t Tunnel, Nevada Test Site, Nye County, Nevada, Volume 1, DOE/NV/26383–109

T-Tunnel: Typical tunnel layout for the Minute Gun series of horizontal line of sight experiments. A Historical Evaluation of the U12t Tunnel, Nevada Test Site, Nye County, Nevada, Volume 1, DOE/NV/26383–109

It was a bright spring Saturday morning in the late 1980s in P-tunnel at Rainier Mesa in Area 12 and I had several hours of free time before the alcove I was as-building was to be grouted.   I threw my safety gear in the truck alongside my lunch and took off for the top of a mesa.  Pahute Mesa remained largely unexplored in my wanderings but I wasn’t sure what Livermore was doing over there and, anyway, I loved the old structures on top of Rainier Mesa so, Rainier it was.  I found an old shed decorated with dusty pinups from the 1950s and loaded with abandoned, musty smelling logs of an event long past.  This crumbling piece of history, probably a watchman’s shed over T-tunnel was from a time when the instrumentation cables ran from ground zero straight through the top of Rainier Mesa’s cap rock.  What could those broken cap rocks tell me?  I grabbed my sandwich and drink and headed for a comfortable looking tree to lean against.  I could see Sedan crater in the distance and hear the haunting cry of the many raptors riding the mesa’s thermal currents.  Perfect!

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First Lightning – The Soviet Nuclear Surprise

Startsi are the elder statesmen, the teachers, in the Russian Orthodox Church.  Of all the

St. Seraphim

St. Seraphim

Startsi, the most famous Staret in all of Russia is St. Seraphim of Sarov born in Kursk in 1759.  “It was said he could supply answers before visitors had time to ask their questions. He counseled tough cases of conscience and reportedly worked miracles, healing the sick” according to Dan Graves in his article St. Seraphim of Sarov, Renowned Staret.  It is ironic that Sarov would be transformed from a center of traditional learning and healing to a center of the new physics and philosophy of ‘uncertainty’; the birthplace of the Soviet’s first nuclear device.

Where

Sarov’s story is as old as government.  At the very beginning of the Cold War, Sarov, the St. Seraphim monastery grounds, and the surrounding area were closed and rebranded as

Location Map for Arzamas-16

Location Map for Arzamas-16

Arzamas-16, the seat of nuclear physics for the old Soviet Union.  The town of Sarov occupies only eleven square miles of the 90 square mile hexagonally shaped Arzamas-16 area, which also houses research and production facilities.  “…Arzamas-16 is surrounded by an outer defensive ring 25 miles out that is carefully monitored. The city inside that ring is surrounded by a double, barbed-wire fence that is patrolled by the Russian army. Uniformed troops from the Russian Ministry of the Interior patrol the inner city. Areas that house nuclear materials are surrounded by multiple fences and walls, and the spaces between the fences are plowed and patrolled. Sensors are in place to detect unauthorized intruders….”[1]

The Soviet move on Sarov was similar to the action taken by the U.S. government to build its nuclear infrastructure in Tennessee, Nevada, Alabama, Washington state, and elsewhere; the people who lived there were moved out and the military, scientific community and their workers moved in.  Maps were sanitized and the veil of secrecy dropped.   Arzamas-16 was the intellectual and industrial birthplace of the first Soviet nuclear test device and the brainchild of Igor Kurchatov, the Soviet’s first nuclear program director.  In the final analysis, Arzamas-16  represented a network of “secret cities” and research labs But wait, there’s more!

Now I am become death….

Author:  Cold War Britain The History of Britains Cold War

Julius Robert Oppenheimer was a Theoretical Physicist and “Coordinator of Rapid Rupture”

Corbis Oppenheimer with Albert Einstein, circa the 1940s

Corbis Oppenheimer with Albert Einstein, circa the 1940s

at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  His main role was to calculate the propagation of a fast neutron chain for an Atomic weapon. For that reason he is often referred to as the “Father” of the Atomic Bomb.

Born in New York in 1904, Oppenheimer studied at Harvard and later Christ’s College, Cambridge with a particular interest in Quantum Mechanics, theory of Electrons and Positrons and developed the Oppenheimer–Phillips process of Nuclear Fusion. In 1941 he was recruited to work on a top-secret crash program to create an Atomic Bomb, The Manhattan Project. Brigadier General Leslie Groves was chosen as Director of the project and he chose Oppenheimer to lead the secret weapons Laboratory.  In seeking a location Oppenheimer was drawn to New Mexico, where he had a Ranch, and Groves and Oppenheimer settled on a location near Santa Fe which was the site of a private boys school called the Los Alamos Ranch School. In 1942 the US Army purchased the school and the surrounding land and work began to build Los Alamos National Laboratory. Continue reading