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Citizen Kurchatov: Stalin's Bomb Maker


Atomic Powers

While the scientists worked under extreme pressure, they also had many benefits the average Soviet citizen lived without. Salaries were raised, they had comfortable housing, and while the rest of the country suffered postwar shortages, the scientists were provided adequate food.

Kurchatov's HomeKurchatov, the leading scientist, was presented with his own home. After long hours of work, he'd retire to his home and listen to Beethoven, Mozart, and Borodin. During most of the day, he would labor only a few hundred yards away, constructing his prototype atomic reactor.

Several problems stalled the project, especially in uranium mining, isotope separation, and plutonium production and purification. However, by December 1946, Kurchatov demonstrated a working prototype reactor to Beria. It produced only a few watts when demonstrated and Beria was unimpressed. But Kurchatov and his team were ecstatic and Kurchatov proclaimed:

"Our first hundred watts from a nuclear reaction. Atomic energy is servant to Soviet man."

As Kurchatov celebrated his first milestone in Soviet nuclear energy, his country celebrated ten full years of Stalin's sham constitution.

Now Kurchatov had to build a bigger reactor to produce the plutonium needed to build the bomb.


The "F-1" reactor is still functioning, and can theoretically produce power for thousands of years.

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