Russia’s state-run “Rosatom” corporation is developing a laser installation to simulate nuclear explosions in the town of Sarov in the Nizhniy Novgorod region. This will be more powerful than a similar complex at the Livermore National Laboratory in the U.S., says head of the ROSATOM Sergei Kirienko.
Sarov was specially chosen as the location for the installation. Some time ago, it was a highly secret city and was not marked even on any geographical map and was known as “Arzamas-16” where the nuclear and hydrogen bombs were developed. Russia’s federal nuclear centre is located there. The security of nuclear weapons is an urgent issue for all nuclear powers. Meanwhile, the reliability and safety of nuclear arsenals, which have several thousands of warheads, worry the international community. Consequently, the state of these warheads has to be strictly controlled without carrying out nuclear tests. Moreover, even the underground nuclear tests cause irreparable damage to the environment and are health hazardous. Long ago, Russia assessed these risks and has been urging other countries to join the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.
The new installation in Sarov will pave the way for completely banning underground nuclear tests. Physical simulation of explosions is one of the methods that establish control over nuclear warheads, says director of the Nuclear Safety Institute, Leonid Bolshov.
No nuclear tests have been carried out in the world for a long time. All the nuclear powers are conducting experiments to maintain their nuclear weapons in a state of ability to act and to upgrade them. For one, the U.S. has persistently implemented a programme of simulating physical processes during a nuclear explosion.
The Livermore National Laboratory has been installing powerful lasers with neodymium glass, which emit extremely powerful light. When laser beams converge and concentrate on a microbead for a few billionths of a second, the pressure and temperature conditions in it will make it possible to re-create conditions under which thermonuclear fusion takes place. Similar experiments were carried out in the Soviet Union. Russia has revived this work, and this is an important task, says the expert.
Russia has started building a similar installation but more powerful than that in the U.S. This will pave the way for the Russian scientists to maintain the country’s defence capacity and discover new laws in physics. The simulation will help to study the physics of explosion in detail. The installation will be commissioned in 2017.