The domestic nuclear industry owes much of its birth to Laboratory No. 2. There, on the north-western outskirts of Moscow (then it was still an outskirts), in just 16 months, an experiment was prepared to launch the first uranium-graphite nuclear reactor F-1 in Eurasia … Its launch took place on December 25, 1946. In honor of the 75th anniversary of this event, we recall how the history of the birth of atomic energy was created.
In February 1943, a young forty-year-old professor was appointed head of Laboratory No. 2, organized for the creation of nuclear weapons, and the scientific leader of the atomic project. > Igor Kurchatov . On August 20, 1945, the atomic Special Committee under the USSR Council of People's Commissars was created, headed by Lavrenty Beria.
The Committee initially included two physicists. Igor Kurchatov was appointed scientific supervisor of all works, and Kapitsa , who was not an expert in nuclear physics, was supposed to oversee certain areas (low-temperature technology for separating uranium isotopes).
It is believed that at first they wanted to give the leadership of work on the creation of an atomic reactor directly to Peter Kapitsa, a very famous scientist at that time. Kurchatov, on the other hand, was quite young and famous, as they say, in narrow circles. However, Kapitsa was dissatisfied with the methods of Beria's leadership, he spoke very impartially and sharply about the General Commissioner of State Security & nbsp; & mdash; both personally and professionally.
Kapitsa wrote to Stalin a letter asking to be relieved of his duties on the Committee, but there was no response. A little later, Kapitsa wrote a second, more detailed one, after which Stalin agreed to his resignation. & Nbsp; In the second letter, Kapitsa described how it was necessary, in his opinion, to carry out the atomic project, defining in detail an action plan for two years. The problem is that the plan proposed by Kapitsa, although it was fast enough in execution, was not fast enough for the current political situation around the development of the first Soviet atomic bomb.
So, Laboratory No. 2 was allocated a plot of land with an area of 120 hectares in the Pokrovsky-Streshnevo area. On this territory, there was a building of the Institute of Experimental Medicine, almost completed before the war, where laboratories and rooms for employees could be quickly located.
For the construction of the reactor, which was called the “ boiler '', uranium, high-purity graphite, and a number of new materials were needed. In the shortest possible time, it was necessary to provide geological exploration work & mdash; & nbsp; for uranium mining. It was required to create a new metallurgy from scratch, to establish the production of the purest graphite. Recall that the slightest impurities in this material absorb neutrons, so the nuclear decay reaction would stop.
Everything was done for the first time. No one had the experience of creating such complex installations as a nuclear reactor. At first, scientists conducted experiments, studied the characteristics of uranium blocks, and chose the optimal sizes. The work was carried out in an open field, in a large army tent.
They used 450 tons of graphite and almost 50 tons of uranium, which were transferred to the tent literally on hand. It was necessary to fold, study and disassemble four models of the installation, and only the fifth became a working reactor. It consisted of a structure of uranium-graphite lattice, cadmium control rods, remotely operated, experimental channels and wells, & nbsp; to protect from radiation placed below ground level.
By the end of 1946, construction was completed the world's first special building with a reactor shaft, providing reliable protection from radiation and provided with radiation monitoring devices.
All work was carried out in strict secrecy. In the documents, the object was called the “ Assembly Workshop '' or 'Building K' & mdash; & nbsp; Kurchatov building. According to the recollections of the employees of Laboratory No. 2, a special encryption system was used for the records. For example, the boiler was called an electrolyzer, instead of the word “ uranium '' wrote silicon.
The youngest specialist of the team was only 15 years old. All were forced to sign a non-disclosure receipt of the nature of the work carried out before the launch.
On the evening of December 25, 1946, the last, 62nd layer of the core was laid. Igor Kurchatov sat down at the boiler control panel and began to remove the cadmium rods from the core. When the thermal power released in the boiler reached several tens of watts, Kurchatov stabilized the process: using an emergency protection rod, he muffled the reaction. Boiler worked for about four hours.
The next day, Lavrenty Beria, chairman of the atomic special committee, arrived at Laboratory No. 2. Kurchatov demonstrated to him a controlled chain reaction of uranium fission. This ambitious project took only 16 months to complete. Three days later, the country's leadership was reported, “ With the help of the built uranium-graphite boiler, we are & nbsp; now able to solve the most important issues & hellip; & nbsp; & nbsp; Nuclear weapons and energy have turned from a dream into a reality. This is how the USSR began the atomic era, which continues to this day.