1974 NUCLEAR TEST: ‘Keeping preparations under wraps was a feat’

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  1. JAISWAL

    JAISWAL Senior Member Senior Member

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    1974 NUCLEAR TEST: ‘Keeping preparations under wraps was a feat’ | idrw.org
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    part 1
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    Successfully concealing preparations for the 1974
    nuclear test was a significant achievement of
    India’s scientific establishment. So said Dr Robert
    Anderson, visiting Fellow at Cambridge and
    Professor of the School of Communication at
    Simon Fraser University in Canada.He is the
    author of several works about India’s nuclear
    research, including ‘Building scientific institutions:
    Meghnad Saha and Homi Bhabha’, the more
    recently published ‘Nucleus and Nation’ and the
    soon-to-be completed ‘Negotiating Nuclear
    Power’.
    Asked what is new and surprising about a
    subject that he has researched for so many
    years, he said, “That a significant number of
    physicists, technicians and engineers with respect
    to the bomb could over three or four years work
    together very quietly without producing paper,
    without leaking this knowledge very widely.
    “So outside the Prime Minister’s office…very few
    persons knew there was going to be a test and
    when it would occur. They did create the
    conditions and they tested it successfully without
    anyone’s realisation.
    “In India, this is always described as impossible.
    It is not me who is saying it, but an Indian self-
    definition that they are not a nation very good at
    keeping secrets.”
    Based on his research at the International Atomic
    Energy Agency (IAEA) archives in Vienna,
    Anderson added, “I think we now know a great
    deal about the planning and the pressures on the
    people who eventually built the tunnels and
    designed the devices and the triggers and so on
    and who tested the weapon.
    “But I’m also working…on how the so-called
    peaceful nuclear explosion was defined as early as
    1968 – although some definitions had been
    around much earlier than ’68. This was a
    definition into which Indian voices could step into.
    “Ramanna was there at the meetings around the
    peaceful nuclear explosion from 1970. So well
    before the test in ’74, Indians were present and
    engaged in conversations about peaceful nuclear
    explosions.”
     
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  3. JAISWAL

    JAISWAL Senior Member Senior Member

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    The MAN behind it:-
    As an anthropologist, Anderson’s unique
    contribution to a bette understanding of India’s nuclear programme are the insights he brings to
    assessing the work and personalities of key scientists.
    Homi Bhabha is the scientist who most often
    comes to mind when discussing India’s nuclear
    research, but Anderson points out that there
    were many others who were just as important.
    They include giants of their time like Meghnad
    Saha, who predicted way back in 1939 that it would be possible one day to use a nuclear
    bomb to blow up a battleship, KS Krishnan and Sir Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar, Secretary of the
    Atomic Energy Committee back in 1946 and the
    first head of the Council for Scientific and
    Industrial Research, who died in 1955.
    Saha, Krishnan and Nazir Ahmed, later the first chair of the Pakistani Atomic Energ Commission,
    were members of the Indian delegation of
    scientists that toured Western research facilities in Britain, Canada and the US in 1944-45 –part of the Manhattan Project – where preparations were under way for the world’s first nuclear test in New Mexico in 1945.
    They were in many ways the intellectual precursors of men like Bhabha, who was killed in an air crash in 1966, as well as Raja Ramanna and PK Iyengar who each played a key role in preparations for the 1974 test, described at the time as a peaceful nuclear explosion or PNE.
    Peaceful blast?:-
    Addressing the issue of whether 1974 was a
    weapons test or a genuine bid to explore PNEs,
    Anderson said, “The Russians were committed to it. They did underground testing. We have a paper now on Russian underground tests of
    1955. They blew up mountains, whole mountains. They were testing very large weapons, but they were always interested in
    seismic effects. I don’t know in the beginning to
    what end, but by the 60s, they had engineers
    who said they could create large cavities for oil, shale oil in particular.
    “So these caverns or cavities were interesting to
    them. Then, they and the Americans started talking in the 60s about removing geological
    obstacles – it is called explosive engineering and
    that’s quite an old business.“In 1958, the largest
    non-nuclear explosion in history occurred in April 1958 near my village in British Columbia. It was
    the destruction of the famous navigation obstacle
    called Ripple Rock, using 1,300 tons of Nitramex
    2H to blow up 370,000 tonnes of rock underneath 300,000 tons of water, all at 100m below the surface.
    “This is precisely what the blast engineering
    community was doing. I think there is a transfer
    of the blasting idea to the nuclear testing
    community, obsessed as it then was with
    seismic detection and eventually to ‘advanced
    warning’ of testing between Russians and
    Americans.”
     
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  4. Indianboy

    Indianboy Regular Member

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