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L'américanisation en Europe au xxe siècle : économie, culture, politique. Volume 1

 | 
Isabelle Lescent-Giles
, 
Dominique Barjot
, 
Marc de Ferrière

Quatrième partie. Un enjeu : l'Europe orientale

Americanisation in the USSR nuclear field

Maria Vasilieva

Résumé

Les relations sovieto-américaines dans le domaine nucléaire sont un cas sans précédent. Durant toute l’histoire du nucléaire soviétique, la présence de ce grand rival admiré et envié à la fois que sont les États-Unis pour l’URSS se fait sentir très fortement. La majorité des décisions prises dans le domaine nucléaire en Union Soviétique tient compte directement ou indirectement de la position des États-Unis. Dans la première partie de cet article, sont explicités les aspects techniques, les domaines concrets de l’industrie et de la recherche, pour lesquels l’influence du nucléaire américain et les transferts de technologie jouent un rôle important dans le développement des technologies nucléaires soviétiques et réciproquement. La seconde partie aborde l’aspect politique des transferts de technologie. En étudiant le nucléaire, il n’est pas possible de limiter le sujet aux aspects techniques ou économiques car c’est l’aspect fondamentalement politique de tout ce qui à trait à l’atome qui domine toujours. Les décisions dans ce domaine ont toujours été prises au plus haut niveau politique et non seulement en fonction de critères économiques ou scientifiques, mais également politiques. En conclusion, nous définissons trois périodes durant lesquelles les transferts de technologies nucléaires entre les États-Unis et l’Union Soviétique se déroulent selon trois modes privilégiés.

Texte intégral

INTRODUCTION

  • 1 We used archival records from the PCUS’S Central Comity, the President of the Russian Federation, (...)
  • 2 B. Goldschmidt, Le complexe atomique, Histoire politique de l'énergie atomique, Paris, 1980, p. 252 (...)

1The story of the nuclear industry is one of great rivalry between the two superpowers, the USA and the USSR. During the whole of the USSR’s nuclear history, you feel the presence of a great rival, admired and envied. The Soviet authorities took all major decisions, particularly in the beginning, according to a “reverse” logic to the one that prevailed in the West. But American/Soviet rivalry soon became an East-West rivalry, and the United States’ indirect influence was often stronger than direct influence. This study is based on public and private archival records, published books, and interviews.1 The paper starts by looking at how America influenced Soviet research, processes, and organisation. The focus will not be on military aspects, already well researched, but on three civilian nuclear branches with military links: combustible enrichment, naval and space propulsion, and nuclear reactors. In a fourth part, the paper concentrates on the political aspects of technological transfers. Decisions were taken at the highest political level and political factors always primed over technical and economic aspects.2 Overall, three distinct periods can be identified for technological transfers from America.

THE INFLUENCE OF AMERICA IN TECHNOLOGICAL CHOICES FOR URANIUM ENRICHMENT

  • 3 N.M. Sineuv, Enriched uranium for nuclear weapon and electricity. For the history of the creation o (...)

2Before World War II, America’s nuclear research was almost non existent. No American atomic scientist could match its European and Soviet counterparts. This paper therefore looks at the story of the three civilian nuclear fields from 1945 onwards. After the war, two industrial processes for uranium enrichment coexisted: gaseous diffusion, still used by France today, and centrifugation, used by the United States and the USSR. All countries started from gaseous diffusion, but then some of them switched to centrifugation. By the fifties, the USSR had developed an elaborate centrifugation method.3 But it was abandoned in favour of the gaseous diffusion process. This choice was based on the fact that America had already proven the feasibility of the gaseous process and the USSR had acquired data through spying. The Soviet priority was to get the bomb as quickly and as surely as possible and economic considerations came second. Once the USSR had mastered this process, it could always go back to the other, cheaper, process. The USSR had no qualms in backing the first technology, unlike some of its Western counterparts, who agonised over the choice.

  • 4 V.A. Sidorenko (ed), For the history of the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy in USSR. 1944-19 (...)

3Data obtained through spying had played a key role during the Second World War in the Soviet choice of one process to separate uranium isotopes. Before getting hold of the Western data, the USSR had backed centrifugation, on the grounds that the diffusion process was almost impossible with heavy Chemical elements. But data brought back from the United States by Soviet spies showed that the diffusion process was feasible. On 7th March 1943, Kourtchatov, the scientific and technical director of the Soviet nuclear project, wrote a note to Pervoukhine, the Chemical industry minister, in which he compared the four processes of thermo diffusion, centrifugation, electromagnetics and vaporisation.4

4There was no doubt that gaseous diffusion was more expensive, economically less interesting and used more raw materials than the other processes. As early as the forties, Soviet research into centrifugation indicated that this latter method was infinitely preferable both in economic and technological terms: centrifugation factories were safer and did not require elaborate filters. But the race to get the atomic bomb in the 1940s pushed economic factors into the background. Priority was not given to getting the bomb as cheaply as possible, but to getting it as soon as possible, as the Soviet authorities thought it was essential to the USSR’s survival. Feasibility was the key to technological choices. No one had ever managed to enrich uranium on an industrial basis. Scientific and technical experts concluded that the diffusion process was the most viable.

5Nevertheless, Soviet leaders had some doubts on this choice of technology. Other ways of enriching uranium were pursued. The Lange laboratory at the Kharkov “Ukrainian Physics and Technical Institute” (UphTI) continued to study of centrifugation. Lange was a German Physicist who had emigrated to the Soviet Union when Hitler had come to power. He had worked on the centrifugation process in Germany and continued to do so in Ukraine, at the UPhTI. Russians and Germans specialists in centrifugation processes would later meet in Leningrad to finalise investigations. The Artzimovitch laboratory, for its part, continued work on electromagnetic isotope separation.

  • 5 Sidorknko 1994.

6The USSR’s own research into the gaseous process was well advanced. Just one month after the official creation of the nuclear sector, in September 1945, the Scientific and Technical Council of the nuclear department examined the State of current scientific research. On 5th September, the physicists I.V. Kourtchatov, G.N. Flerov and A.I. Alikhanov presented a report entitled About producing plutonium in the uranium-graphite 'boiler'. On 6th September, two other physicists, I.K. Kikoïne and PL. Kapitza, produced another report on current research on gaseous diffusion for uranium enrichment. Finally, on 10th September, L.A. Artzimovitch and A.F. Yoffe reported on the findings on their studies on uranium enrichment with the electromagnetic process.5 All became famous names in the history of science.

  • 6 V.R. RE GEL, in Friend, Master, Scientist (collection of memoirs), is. n. 3, Moscow, Edition of the (...)

7The government was pressed for time but could not decide on which process to back. It finally asked for research to be pursued in different directions. Beginning in 1946, the Scientific and Technical Council of the nuclear department reported on the question of the separation process and endorsed gaseous diffusion. Smith's book Nuclear energy for military applications, Official report, devoted to elaborating the atomic bomb under the United-States government control, was published in Russian in 1946. Only after the publication of this book did work on thermo diffusion, led by Alexandrov, stopped. This suggests that leaders of the atomic project did not fully trust data obtained by Russian spies.6

8Once the bomb was made, the USSR returned to its centrifugation studies. In 1957, the first experimental centrifugation factory was opened in the Ural, with 3500 centrifuge machines. Its new head was Kikoïne, who also acted as scientific supervisor for the factories who worked with the diffusion process. Two years later, in 1959, the Scientific and Technical Council of the Atomic agency approved the industrial process of isotope separation through centrifugation. As early as the late 1959, the USSR opened their first industrial factory to produce enriched uranium. Its other purpose was to test technical and technological solutions.

9This was followed by the construction of Russia’s first industrial centrifugation factory, in three stages between 1962 and 1964. There were several reasons for switching processes. Soviet experiments with gaseous diffusion were in all likelihood disappointing, although sources on this subject are hard to come by. The centrifugation process had confirmed its economic superiority over the gaseous process. It was also more flexible: you could easily go from a 3% to a 90% enrichment level and back again, just by changing the position of the gate. But one can not exclude that subjective factors played the biggest part. Russians were proud to develop a “national” method for enrichment, and strived to make it the best.

AMERICAN INFLUENCES ON RESEARCH, TECHNOLOGIES AND ORGANISATION IN NAVAL AND SPACE PROPULSION

10On 24th March 1947, Pozdniakov, one of the leaders of the soviet nuclear sector, presented a report to a meeting of the Scientific and Technical Council. It looked at information coming from the USA:

  • 7 Report of Pozdniakov at the PGU meeting “On nuclear energy devices”, in Sidorenko 1994: p. 21-24.

The US Air Force ministry made it known (November 1946) that it signed a contract for building an engine propelled by nuclear energy. A scientific direction was created for the Navy in August. The US government gave $45 millions in 1947 for research into possible use of nuclear engines for submarines and aircraft carriers”.7

11Pozdniakov stated that other possible uses for nuclear reactors included locomotives and tanks. For naval nuclear engines, he proposed the use of enriched uranium. He advocated an aeroplane engine of 5000 hp; a navy engine of 30000 hp; a locomotive engine of 7000 hp; an electricity power plant of 150000 hp. These propositions were clearly purely theoretical. Nuclear research had not yet reached the stage where civil applications could be developed and, besides, all resources still went to military applications.

A case study of naval propulsion

  • 8 B.P. Papkovsky (Minatome), “The important scientifical and technical capital of Russia (for the 300 (...)

12The decision to build a Soviet nuclear submarine was taken in response to the U.S. project. America started building its first nuclear-propelled submarine, the Nautilus, on 14th June 1952. That same year, Korchatov, Dollejal and Alexandrov, three experts in the nuclear field, wrote a letter to the government about the necessity to create a nuclear submarine. They had the support of Malychev, then Vice-president of the nuclear directorate and a former Naval Building minister himself. Stalin signed the decree that authorised the creation of two experimental nuclear submarines on 9th September 1952. The first submarine took the name of K-3. It was later changed to Leninski Komsomol. It was assigned to the regiment 60060. Following Papkovski,8 the Soviet Union learnt in 1953 of the existence of the first US nuclear submarine.

  • 9 L. Giltzov, N. Mormoul, L. Ossipenko, La dramatique histoire des sous-marins nucléaires soviétiques (...)

13At first, the leaders of the Soviet navy were opposed to the introduction of nuclear energy in their field. They faced severe repression. The United States had received information on Soviet acoustic torpedoes, which had been a well-kept secret until then. They were originally German torpedoes, so the US may well have received this information through other channels. But the Soviet authorities were convinced it had come from Soviet seamen and carried out extensive purges. The Admirais Galler, Stepanov and Alafouzov went to jail. Galler died there. The Navy Minister for War, Kouznetsov, a Marshall, was sent on the Eastern front. Stalin concluded that the military could not keep secrets.9

  • 10 Papkovsky 1996.
  • 11 V.A. Roudakov, in The work for the Navy is a matter near to my heart, Moscow, Edition of the Kurcha (...)

14This explains why the nuclear directorate, and not the Navy Minister, was put in charge of building Russia’s first nuclear submarine. Navy leaders were excluded from all decision making.10 Peregoudov’s research team, responsible for project K-3, did not include a single seaman! At the beginning, oppositions were so strong that executives got into violent discussions in front of subordinates. During a visit to the Obninsk power plant, where the future crew of the Russia’s first nuclear submarine was training, Malychev got into a violent argument with Admiral Gorchkov, even though Malychev himself was not a complete stranger to the Navy, as a minister for Industry and Naval Building.11 As time went on, the Soviet Admirals slowly came round and all subsequent nuclear submarines were built at the Navy’s own request. But conflict between the War Navy and the Atomic Ministry never completely abated. The history of the USSR’s first nuclear submarines illustrates how actions from the US government indirectly influenced Soviet naval decisions. The choice of nuclear propulsion, which will have lasting effects on the Navy, was a direct response to the development of American nuclear submarines.

  • 12 Giltzov 1992.

15Data from spies operating in the US was instrumental in the creation of Russia’s nuclear submarine. But American influence was limited to decisionmaking. There were no technological transfers through spying. The USSR technology was developed in-house and the Soviet K-3 submarine of 1958, created by Peregoudov, does not bear any resemblance to America’s 1955 Nautilus. The latter’s shape was designed for surface navigation, the K-3 was best suited to undersea navigation. Initial plans gave the K-3 a torpedo, but no anchor and no defences. An anchor was subsequently added and the idea of a torpedo abandoned.12

  • 13 Ibid.

16By 1959, three more nuclear submarines, the K-3, K-8 and K-14, were ready. But in july of the following year, the reactor of the K-19 broke down. There were six casualties. As a result, the planned trip of the K-3 to the North Pole was delayed until 17th July 1962. It must be remembered that America’s Nautilus had reached the Pole on 3rd July 1958. Khrushchev came to Zapadnaya Litza, near Mourmansk, to decorate the Captain, L.M. Jiltzov. In December 1963, he ordered his son-in-law, Ajubey, editor-in-chief of the central newspaper Izvestia, to write a story on the national nuclear submarine. Until then, nuclear submarines had received just one mention in the Soviet press. The article was signed by V. Goltzov, who had sailed on the K-3 for four days. But his story had been specially concocted for American eyes, as part of a misinformation campaign. It claimed that the K-3 could communicate with land even when beneath the surface, something that no submarine could do at the time, be they Russian or American. Goltzov also wrote that the back of the submarine had a fish’s flexibility and elasticity.13

  • 14 A.A. Abaguian, interviews.

17Naval nuclear propulsion was shrouded in secrecy and there were no international technological transfers. Competition was rife: according to one source, the Soviet Pb-Vi submarine was a great success and “the Americans were horrified to discover that our submarine was faster than theirs. They used this fact to demand more money from their government to increase research in this field. They have told me recently that the American Navy should thank us for the help we gave to them”.14

  • 15 B.G. Pologuikh, N.S. Khlopkine, The creation of the first nuclear type for ice-breaker, Moscow, 197 (...)

18Unlike submarine technologies, civil nuclear propulsion was openly discussed. A report on the Soviet icebreaker Lenin was presented at the 1958 Geneva conference. It came complete with photos to prove that it did indeed exist.15 A man was present on each photo to give an idea of scale. A model of the icebreaker was exposed. Interestingly, from the start, the Soviet Merchant Navy was more favourable to nuclear propulsion than the Military establishment. The Marine Ministry ordered its first nuclear icebreaker as early as 1953.

19In 1959, Admiral Rickover, who had masterminded the development of America’s nuclear navy, visited the Admiralteysky Works, where the Lenin was being built. He was keen to make his own mind about the State of Soviet naval propulsion. Although he was not shown everything, he was allowed in for a twohour visit; his guide was A.N. Stefanovich. Admiral Rickover was particularly interested in the possible use of nuclear reactors for surface ships. Rickover praised Soviet work but predicted turbo-alternators would prove to be a problem. He was right. Back in the US, he claimed in a speech made in front of the Senate that America was far ahead in naval propulsion, and should speed up work on surface ships, in order to gain leadership there too. The American ship Savannah went to sea on 21st July 1959. Rickover wanted it out and about before the Lenin became operational, which was the case. The members of the US Commission for nuclear energy later visited the USSR to see the icebreaker at sea.

Lessons learned from Space propulsion

  • 16 B. Bikowicz, The decay of the Atomic Powered Aircraft Program in www.csd.uwo.cq.

20In the field of aeroplane propulsion, America and the USSR followed similar paths. Research on nuclear aircraft began in the US in 1942, under the influence of Enrico Fermi. In 1948, its potential was investigated within the framework of the Air Force’s Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion program. Its cost was put at 10 million dollars. Unfortunately, the program was badly organised. Much time, effort and money were wasted. Still, the ANP program led to attempts by General Electric to build a turbojet with direct circuits, modelled on rockets, at Evendale, Cincinnati. It went as far as testing engines, but the aircraft was never built. On the other hand, this experience was used in the development of space propulsion.16

  • 17 N.N. Ponomarev-Stepnoy, in Friend, master; scientist (collection of memoirs), is. n. 3, Moscow, Edi (...)

21In the USSR, research into nuclear aircraft started when Soviet leaders received information that a US aeroplane had broken down with a reactor on board. Although the spy stated that the reactor was not part of the motor, but only there for experimental purpose, the USSR lost no time in launching their own development program. Just two week after receiving the information, Kurchatov and Alexandrov had agreed with Tupolev, father of the Tu aircrafts, which made up the bulk of the Soviet fleet, the creation of a flying nuclear laboratory similar to the US one, on board a TU-95 aircraft. The works were put under the authority of the MSM and the Aircraft Industry ministry (minister P.V. Dementiev).17 The “flying” laboratory, named “Swallow” (Lastochka) was duly built. Testing began in Kazakhstan, near Semipalatinsk, in 1960. But they were eventually stopped as key issues of safety and protection against radiation could not be solved.

  • 18 Threshoi.D, An engineering journal of power technology, Rockwell International Corporation, nol, 19 (...)

22Space propulsion developed at the same time as aircraft propulsion. The logic was clear: the USSR had built a nuclear bomb, but needed a carrier. There were two possible answers: aeroplanes and rockets. The United States went for aircrafts. The USSR chose rockets, for the following reasons: before the war, the USSR had been a close second to Germany in rocket studies; German scientists taken as prisoners of war lifted Soviet research up to German levels; aircraft use was ruled out by the fact that the USSR had no air base within reach of American soil, while America had several bases near the Soviet union; last and foremost, the aircraft option had little support within the Soviet government, no one who could have put his weight and energy behind the project. Space propulsion, on the other hand, had a champion in the person of Korolev. He had a strong argument in the high reputation enjoyed by Soviet rocket weaponry, the famous “katucha”. The success of soviet rockets pleased Khrushchev so much that he almost scrapped military aircrafts and warships. Artillery cruisers and torpedo-boat destroyers programs were stopped and some ships, including some brand new ones, were destroyed. In the fifties, under Korolev and Keldych’s guidance, the space program progressed smoothly. It was helped by stability at the Defence Ministry, headed by Ustinov until 1966. It was natural that the idea of marrying the two fields of nuclear and space research would come up. Exactly who was responsible is difficult to determine, due to lack of sources and the fact that the idea received wide support. What is certain is that in 1956, Kurchatov was responsible for initiating the first soviet intercontinental balistic rocket. In the United States, work on space propulsion had begun in 1955. Two laboratories, the Los Alamos and the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, worked in parallel on high temperature gas propulsion, with, respectively, the KIWI and the Tory program. At the same time, Rocketdyne was conducting research on airspace propulsion for the US Air force. In 1957, the U.S. Nuclear Energy Commission chose to concentrate efforts on the Los Alamos Laboratory. The first reactors developed by the KIWI program had a power of 100 MW and used graphite moderator. They were tested in Nevada in July 1959 and between July and October 1960. A whole series of reactors were subsequently built and tested.18

PARALLEL PATHS IN NUCLEAR ELECTRICITY

23The first Soviet documents devoted to potential civil uses for nuclear energy concentrated on two fields: naval propulsion and electricity production. On 23rd May 1946, the Scientific and Technical Council of the future Atomic Ministry examined proposals from the President of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Vavilov, to “increase research for the use of nuclear energy in the national economy (electricity production, transport)”.

  • 19 Decree of the Council of ministers of USSR no1965-939, On the construction of the experimental devi (...)

24The production of electricity by nuclear reactors was first developed for use on warships. In the United States, 100 kW fast neutron nuclear reactors produced their first electricity on 20th December 1951. The prototype of the Nautilus reactor was built in ARCO (S1W) in 1953. It could produce both mechanical energy and electricity. Tests were completed by June 1953. The main problem was how to “plug” the reactor into the electric network. In the USSR, the first propulsion reactor was installed in an experimental plant and had to be improved before being moved into a power plant.19

25The first exchanges in the nuclear field between the USSR and capitalist countries happened in 1955 through the “Atom for space” program launched by Eisenhower. At that time, the USSR was more interested in developing relations with the United States and Great-Britain than with Prance. In 1956, Britain built the Calder hall power station, considered at this time to be the first nuclear power station in the world to be operational. It then launched a program to build new power stations totalling 8 GW. At about the same time, France decided on a less ambitious program of power stations with a total power of 3 to 5 GW.

26From the sixties onward, the USA and the USSR followed equivalent programs of orders and actual realisations. Both countries went in with high ambitions and plenty of enthusiasm, only to fall into the trap of a changing public opinion. But the logic behind the development of nuclear power were completely different. The Soviet experimental programs had an obligation of results. Their aim was not to test the feasibility of the program, but to give indications on the investment needed and potential yields. Many programs of industrial development based on nuclear energy were launched before the experimental programs were completed. This goes a long way to explain why they programs were never fully realised. Hopes were too high and exceeded national capabilities. On the contrary, the West allowed for the possibility of experimental programs producing negative results, leading to the abandonment of implementation programs.

27But differences in implementation cannot hide some common objectives. The USSR was not only motivated by the will to catch up with the West, a will embodied in the slogan of the Khrushchev era: “catch up and overtake the West”. Like the West, the main motivation lay in defending the country’s international prestige and gaining independence from the oil industry. It was helped in all these countries by the respect in which national elites held physicists and by a lack of understanding of ecological risks.

28Two families of reactor competed in both the US and the USSR: boiling water reactors, and pressurised water reactors. The famous PWR (power water reactor) of Westinghouse belonged to the second family. It dominated the US but was also sold in France. Its Soviet equivalent was the VVER (Vodno-Vodianoy Energuetitchesky Reactor), an electrogen reactor. Both originated in research for naval propulsion engines and were first used by submarines. The American and the Soviet technology came from similar thinking, but were not close enough to allow for technological transfers. In any case, political secrecy, then economic interests forbade it. The second family of reactors was represented by America’s BWR (boiling water reactor) and the USSR’s RBMK reactor. They were built on the same principle, but relied on different technical solutions.

THE POLITICAL MOTIVATIONS BEHIND TECHNOLOGICAL CHOICES

29The USSR got its information on American technology from intelligence sources. All the countries involved in nuclear experiments tried to maintain complete secrecy. Eventually, scientists began exchanging some information. Similarly, lawyers responsible for the implementation of international agreements started to co-operate.

30The first international conference on the use of atomic energy for civil purposes took place in Geneva under the aegis of the United Nations in August 1955. The conference coincided with a pause in the Cold War under Khrushchev “thawing” policy. The presence of a team of Soviet physicists heralded the USSR’s return to the international scene after a long interruption. For the first time, nuclear specialists from East and West met, knowledge was shared, and some results made public. The huge success of the conference led to a second conference, held in 1958.

  • 20 S. Courteix, Recherche scientifique et relations internationales (la pratique française), Paris, R. (...)

It marked the disappearance of political secret in the Uranium 235 enrichment domain whereas the third Conference, organised in 1964, was held when atomic energy was entering the industrial phase and commercial competition. The fourth Conference, held in Geneva from 6th to 16th September 1971, confirmed the industrial and commercial use of atomic energy, with scientific aspects relegated to the back stage”.20

  • 21 Goldschmidt 1980: 252-253.
  • 22 H. Carrure D’encausse, “L’Union Soviétique et l’Europe depuis 1945”, in Opinion publique et politiq (...)
  • 23 G. Geron dans A. Gros, R.P. Dubariie, A. Lallemand et alii (dir.), Conséquences générales des grand (...)

31The international political situation remained tense. “As soon as talks reopened in the Spring of 1961, it became obvious that Soviet Union was raising new issues and didn't seem interested any more in concluding an agreement” (iv). At the end of the fifties, the USSR saw the emergence of the Common Market with a good eye. It saw a European institution from which the United States were absent. It also somehow justified its own integration policy in Eastern Europe.21 Barely out of the Cold War, you came into a “doubtful area of 'pacific coexistence' where each cat was turning grey”, according to Henri Froment-Merice's expression. In August 1958, the COCOM lifted some of the restrictions on exports towards the Sino-Soviet block.22 The Geneva Conferences paved the way for collaboration and exchange on nuclear matters.23 Publications started to appear. For instance, the main Soviet periodical on nuclear matters, Atomic energy (Atomnaya Energuiya) started in 1956, with an English version from 1958 onward. Information found new ways to circulate, some official, some private. Reciprocal visits were initiated.

  • 24 Loviisa Power Plant, Exportprint Ltd, Finland, 1990.
  • 25 M. Winter, IVO Power Engineering Ltd, 20years of safety improvements at Loviisa NPP, seminar “Lovii (...)

32The most visible result of this new co-operation was the construction by the Soviet Union of a nuclear plant in Finland. This was the first and remained the only Soviet nuclear power plant in the Western world. At the end of the 1960s, Finland decided to build two power plants in Loviisa using the experience of its immediate neighbours. Sweden and the Soviet Union competed for the contract.24 The Russian project won for economic reasons: Sweden and the other Western countries wanted to be paid in strong currency, whereas Russia agreed to payments in barter and offered better conditions of payment. The initial project proposed safety Systems that were similar to those in place in Soviet and East European nuclear plants. They did not match Finnish demands and could not receive permission to build the power plant. As a result, the project was altered and Westinghouse’s safety Systems were introduced. The modified project was approved. Loviisa’s two reactors opened in 1977 and 1981 respectively.25

  • 26 N.N. Vasiliev, interview.

33After this incident, the USSR adopted new legislation on nuclear safety to bring safety rules closer to the Western ones. Today, the USA, Russia, Europe (represented by France, Italy and Germany) and Japan are involved in a major international project: an international thermonuclear electric reactor (ITER). But the project remains at the experimental stage.26

  • 27 For exemple, B.I. Saitcevsky and M. Souvorov, interview.

34Apart from these major projects, economic relations never really took off.27 True economic exchanges were impossible because each side had “national” technologies, with different standards. This does not exclude a certain parallelism. American PWR, which were massively implanted in France, bore many resemblances with Soviet VVER. Both had been designed for submarine propulsion before being put to use in energy production. Similarly, American BWR were cousins of the infamous Soviet RBMK, both being the offspring of plutonigen reactors. The Soviet authorities were undoubtedly influenced by the scientific and technical prestige of the US in its choices. For example, American difficulties with surgenerators was cited against further studies in the USSR even though the Soviets had a competitive advantage there. Political factors were paramount in Soviet choices of technology, with economic considerations a poor second.

35It is possible to distinguish three main stages in the US/USSR relations in the nuclear field. The first stage began in the 1940s and lasted until Stalin’s and Beria’s deaths in 1953. American influence came via Soviet espionage and was confined to technical choices between competing technologies. Once choices had been made, the USSR developed its own technical solutions. The nuclear field was in the hands of scientists. In the second stage, that extended from the 1960s well into the 1970s, nuclear technology passed into the hands of the Army and the Navy who shrouded projects in secrecy. There were direct influences of the US in the fields of military nuclear physics. But technology transfers were limited. US decisions directly impacted on the USSR’s choices. At first, political factors continued to be paramount, but slowly retreated in the face of economic considerations. Nuclear research in both countries was influenced by the two countries’ rivalry, but most and foremost by macro-economic factors common to both countries. There was no real competition in the civil nuclear sector, if one excepts the Finnish project. The US and the USSR had their own sphere of influence and only operated within these markets. In this way, Soviet interests did not come into conflict with the commercial interests of the major Western countries. In the third stage, in the 1980s and 1990s, the situation deteriorated for the nuclear sector. The weight of ecologist groups increased considerably in the United States and in Europe, and even in Russia. Their opposition became more vocal and efficient. In good times, namely the 1960s and 1970s, competition increased over cooperation. Conversely, in the difficult years of the 1980s and 1990s, cooperation returned within the constraints of very different technologies. For this reason, technological transfers were of limited use. This explains why cooperation on a big scale never occurred in the electronuclear sector. Common projects were restricted to physics and the combustible cycle.

CONCLUSION

36The United States were the ultimate rival and model for the Soviet Union in the nuclear field. Their choices of technology helped the USSR assess the feasibility of the different processes available. Information was acquired through technical espionage. But the technical solutions that were developed in the USSR, although based on the same principals, were specific to this country, making technical transfers virtually impossible. In this period, the nuclear industry went from being controlled by scientists to military control and ended up in the hands of businessmen. The USSR managed to stay second in the technological race, even leading the field in some areas, such as fast neutrons. The United States remained the potential enemy number one. But in recent years, technological cooperation increased in an industry under siege by both ecologist groups and an increasingly hostile public opinion.

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Pologuikh B.G., Khlopkine N.S. 1976. The creation of the first nuclear type for ice-breaker, Moscow.

Roudakov V.A. 1994. in The work for the navy is a matter near to my heart, Moscow, Edition of the Kurchatov Institute.

Sidorenko, V.A. (Ed) For the history of thepeacefulutilization of nuclear energy in USSR. 1944-1951. (Documents and materials), GNC-FEI, Obninsk, 1994, 600 ex.

Sineuv N.M. 1992. Enriched uranium for nuclear weapon and electricity. For the history of the creation of the industrial technology and the production of enriched uranium in USSR (1945-1952), Moscow, minister of Nuclear Energy of the Federation of Russia, Central Institute of research and of management, economy and information sciences of the ministry of Nuclear Energy of Russia, 450 ex.

Threshold 1992. An engineering journal of power technology, Rockwell International Corporation, nol.

Winter M. 1997. IVO Power Engineering Ltd, 20years of safety improvements at Loviisa NPP, seminar “Loviisa NPP 1977-97-2027, what have we learned?”, Loviisa, 11.02.1997.

Internet sites

Bikowicz B., The decay of the Atomic Powered Aircraft Program in www.csd.uwo.cq.

Interviews

Abaguian A.A. academicien, director of Nuclear Power Plants Safety Institute.

Saïtcevsky I.B., honorary director of EDF.

Souvorov M., ex Vice-Minister of Science and Technologies.

Vasililiev N.N., chef of Russian ITER project

Notes

1 We used archival records from the PCUS’S Central Comity, the President of the Russian Federation, the Physics and Energy Institute at Obninsk, and private archives from participants to the nuclear project. The study of uranium enrichment and the birth of the Soviet nuclear industry comes from published evidence from actors. The analysis of propulsion was based on interviews from specialists who worked in different organisations and the published histories of several Soviet companies. The history of America’s Rockwell International company helped comparisons”.

2 B. Goldschmidt, Le complexe atomique, Histoire politique de l'énergie atomique, Paris, 1980, p. 252-253.

3 N.M. Sineuv, Enriched uranium for nuclear weapon and electricity. For the history of the creation of the industrial technology and the production of enriched uranium in the USSR (1945-1952), the minister of Nuclear Energy of the Federation of Russia, the Central Institute of research and of management, and the Economic and Information division of the Russia’s Ministry for Nuclear Energy, Moscow, 1992.

4 V.A. Sidorenko (ed), For the history of the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy in USSR. 1944-1951. (Documents and materials), GNC-FEI, Obninsk, 1994.

5 Sidorknko 1994.

6 V.R. RE GEL, in Friend, Master, Scientist (collection of memoirs), is. n. 3, Moscow, Edition of the Kurchatov Institute, 1994.

7 Report of Pozdniakov at the PGU meeting “On nuclear energy devices”, in Sidorenko 1994: p. 21-24.

8 B.P. Papkovsky (Minatome), “The important scientifical and technical capital of Russia (for the 300th birthday of Russian Navy)”-letter in Atomic energy, vol 81, is. 4, 10, 1996.

9 L. Giltzov, N. Mormoul, L. Ossipenko, La dramatique histoire des sous-marins nucléaires soviétiques, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1992, p. 17.

10 Papkovsky 1996.

11 V.A. Roudakov, in The work for the Navy is a matter near to my heart, Moscow, Edition of the Kurchatov Institute, 1994.

12 Giltzov 1992.

13 Ibid.

14 A.A. Abaguian, interviews.

15 B.G. Pologuikh, N.S. Khlopkine, The creation of the first nuclear type for ice-breaker, Moscow, 1976, p. 87.

16 B. Bikowicz, The decay of the Atomic Powered Aircraft Program in www.csd.uwo.cq.

17 N.N. Ponomarev-Stepnoy, in Friend, master; scientist (collection of memoirs), is. n. 3, Moscow, Edition of the Kurchatov Institute, 1994, p. 31.

18 Threshoi.D, An engineering journal of power technology, Rockwell International Corporation, nol, 1992.

19 Decree of the Council of ministers of USSR no1965-939, On the construction of the experimental device V-10, with annex, 12.06.1951, in Collection of the decrees of the Council of ministers of USSR, Moscou, 1951, p. 124

20 S. Courteix, Recherche scientifique et relations internationales (la pratique française), Paris, R. Pichon & R. Durand-Auzias, Bibliothèque de droit international, Librairie générale de droit et de jurisprudence, 1972, p. 16.

21 Goldschmidt 1980: 252-253.

22 H. Carrure D’encausse, “L’Union Soviétique et l’Europe depuis 1945”, in Opinion publique et politique extérieure, 1945-1981, Ecole française de Rome, Universita di Milano, 1985, Vol. 3.

23 G. Geron dans A. Gros, R.P. Dubariie, A. Lallemand et alii (dir.), Conséquences générales des grandes techniques nouvelles, Paris, PUF, 1959, p. 13.

24 Loviisa Power Plant, Exportprint Ltd, Finland, 1990.

25 M. Winter, IVO Power Engineering Ltd, 20years of safety improvements at Loviisa NPP, seminar “Loviisa NPP 1977-97-2027, what have we learned?”, Loviisa, 11.02.1997.

26 N.N. Vasiliev, interview.

27 For exemple, B.I. Saitcevsky and M. Souvorov, interview.

Auteur

Université de Paris-Sorbonne

© Publications de l’Institut de recherches historiques du Septentrion, 2002

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