All-Russian Scientific Research Institute for Experimental Physics (VNIIEF)

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Last Updated: April 22, 2014
Other Name: Российский федеральный ядерный центр—Всероссийский научно-исследовательский институт экспериментальной физики, Всероссийский НИИ экспериментальной физики, РФЯЦ-ВНИИЭФ, Russian Federation Nuclear Center—All-Russian Scientific Research Institute for Experim
Location: Sarov, Nizhniy Novgorod Oblast
Subordinate To: Rosatom, Division of Nuclear Munitions Development & Testing and Defense Power Facilities
Size: Approximately 21,000 employees
Facility Status: Operational

Founded in 1946 at Arzamas-16 (currently Sarov), VNIIEF was the Soviet Union's primary nuclear weapons research and development center. Originally called KB No. 11, the Institute developed the first Soviet atomic bomb (RDS-1) in 1949. [1] Its weapons designs also include the RDS-6S hydrogen bomb, the RDS-37 two-stage hydrogen bomb, and the AN602 Tsar Bomba. In the 1950s, VNIIEF's work expanded to include research on warheads for ballistic missiles, torpedoes, and strategic cruise missiles. Among many of its contributions to the Soviet nuclear program, the Institute developed the warhead for the R-36M [SS-18 "Satan"] ballistic missile, which formed the mainstay of the Soviet Union's nuclear deterrent. [2] VNIIEF also led the Soviet Union's extensive "peaceful nuclear explosions" program. [3]

The Institute's weapons-related activities were carried out within its divisions dealing with theory, computations, design, and experiments. [4] VNIIEF maintained production capabilities at its two plants – VNIIEF, and Avangard in Sarov. The latter facility was the first in the USSR to mass produce nuclear armaments, and served as a warhead assembly site until 2000. [5] All nuclear warhead assembly and disassembly work at VNIIEF ceased in 2003. [6]

Today, VNIIEF conducts nuclear warhead design and provides stockpile support to the Russian nuclear arsenal. VNIIEF also engages in projects related to advanced conventional weapons, nuclear safety, intellectual property protection, and other civilian applications. [7] Its facilities are home to Russia's most advanced supercomputers, and included among its research tools are the ISKRA laser-based inertial confinement fusion device and the BIGR pulsed reactor. [8] The Institute also has a critical assembly and 5 operational research reactors; all of these are pulsed reactors used in weapons research that are powered by highly-enriched uranium (HEU). [9] For an overview of Russia's HEU policy and the full list of Russia's facilities using HEU, see the Russia Civilian HEU profile.

The Institute has a history of cooperation with foreign partners. Beginning in 1995, VNIIEF participated in the U.S. Department of Energy's MPC&A program, and served as the demonstration facility for DOE's Lab-to-Lab program. [10] It also took part in International Science & Technology Center Programs and the Nuclear Cities Initiative. Today, it conducts research projects in cooperation with laboratories in the United States (Los Alamos, Livermore, Sandia, and Oak Ridge); France (CEA/DAM); and Germany (Dresden and Karlsruhe). The Institute's personnel are actively involved in the International Atomic Energy Agency's International Network of Nuclear Reaction Data Centers, in the European Organization for Nuclear Research, and in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. [11]

[1] "История" [History], ВНИИЭФ [VNIIEF],
[2] "Дальнейшие разработки атомного оружия" [Further nuclear weapons developments], ВНИИЭФ [VNIIEF],
[3] "Деятельность" [Activities], ВНИИЭФ [VNIIEF],
[4] "Деятельность" [Activities], ВНИИЭФ [VNIIEF],
[5] O. Bukharin, H. Feiveson, F. Von Hippel, S. Weaver, M. Bunn, W. Hoehn, K. Luongo, "Helping Russia Downsize its Nuclear Complex: A Focus on the Closed Nuclear Cities," Report of an International Conference held at Princeton University, 14-15 March 2000, p.14.
[6] "Date Set for Closure of Russian Nuclear Weapons Plant: U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration is Helping Make it Happen," National Nuclear Security Administration News Release, 27 September 2001.
[7] "Деятельность" [Activities], ВНИИЭФ [VNIIEF],
[8] "Основные достижения" [Main accomplishments], ВНИИЭФ [VNIIEF],
[9] "Research reactors: Russia," International Panel on Fissile Materials,
[10] Mark Mullen, "Status Report on U.S./Russian Laboratory-to-Laboratory Cooperation in Nuclear Material Protection, Control, and Accounting," Los Alamos National Laboratory paper presented at the 37th annual INMM conference, August 1996, pp.2-4; "Program for Upgrading Nuclear Materials Protection, Control, and Accounting at All Facilities within the All-Russian Institute of Experimental Physics (VNIIEF)," U.S. Department of Energy paper, 1998,
[11] "Международное сотрудничество" [International cooperation], ВНИИЭФ [VNIIEF],

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