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Citizen Kurchatov: Stalin's Bomb Maker


Stick to Your Science!

Possibly feeling his mortality and fearing to leave only a legacy of nuclear weapons, Kurchatov continued his work on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. He encouraged Sakharov to continue work on fusion reactors and also to publish his writings calling for an end to nuclear weapons tests.

Kurchatov recoveringEarly in 1957, Kurchatov suffered a second stroke. Later in the same year a waste storage tank exploded at the Chelyabinsk plutonium production plant. Tens of thousands of people were exposed to high levels of radiation. The plant had been dumping wastes into the nearby rivers for years, and now the explosion made the entire area uninhabitable.

Kurchatov had to take the blame for the disaster at Chelyabinsk. But he continued to lobby against nuclear testing even after Krushchev told him to "stick to your science. We'll deal with politics."

At 20th Party CongressIn 1959 Kurchatov had surgery to remove a growth near his collar bone. His health was failing, but at his last public address in January of 1960 he said:

"I'm glad that I have dedicated my life to Soviet nuclear science. I believe that our people and government will use that science only for the good of mankind."


Chelyabinsk was the site of Kurchatov's first production reactor.

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