Database of radiological incidents and related events--Johnston's Archive

Totsk nuclear test, 1954

compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 5 May 2005

Date: 14 September 1954

Location: Totsk range, Orenberg region, Russia

Type of event: fallout from atmospheric nuclear test


On 14 September 1954 the U.S.S.R. conducted a military exercise incorporating a nuclear test detonation. The exercise involved 44,000 Soviet troops at the Totsk range in the Orenberg region. Troops were positioned in trenches as close as 5 km to the designated ground zero, with one group of troops in a forward post about 2.5 km from the designated ground zero. A Tu-4 "Bull" bomber was used to deliver an RDS-3 nuclear gravity bomb, an implosion device using a composite uranium-plutonium core. The weapon detonated at 9:33 AM Moscow time (6:33 GMT) with a yield of 40 kt at a altitude of 350 m. The detonation occurred about 280 m off target, placing it closer to the small group of forward positioned troops. At least 40 minutes after the detonation, troops engaged in maneuvers taking them within 0.5-2 km of ground zero.

Reports differ regarding the degree of instruction to troops and decontamination procedures followed. According to some reports, some soldiers were suffering radiation sickness upon return to their base later that day. The soldiers were sworn to secrecy regarding the exercise, however. Reports of long-term radiation injury are poorly documented; reportedly the archives of the local hospital from 1954 to 1980 were destroyed. In 1990 a committee was established to provide treatment to surviving participants.

Consequences: Unknown number of injuries.


© 2005 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 5 May 2005.
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