Nuclear tests: databases and other material--Johnston's Archive

RDS-37 nuclear test, 1955

compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 29 January 2009

Date: 22 November 1955

Location: Semipalatinsk test site, Kazakhstan, USSR

Type of event: accidental radioactive release from underground nuclear test


On 22 November 1955 the USSR conducted its first test of a multi-stage thermonuclear device. The device, the RDS-37, was designed as a nuclear gravity bomb with a full yield of about 3 megatons. The test version was modified to reduce the yield to an expected 1.45 megatons, to reduce the risk to the local population. It was airdropped from a Tupolev-95 bomber over Technical Area Sh ("Ground Zero") at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan. It detonated with a yield of 1.6 megatons at altitude of 1,550 meters. Civilians in nearby villages had been warned as a precaution, but one child who ran back into a house immediately after the detonation was killed when the blast wave arrived and caused the roof to collapse. Another 42 were injured by glass fragments. A trench collapsed onto soldiers observing the detonation at 36 km from ground zero, killing one from suffocation and causing contusions to five others.

Consequences: 2 fatalities, 47 injuries.


© 2006, 2009 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 29 January 2009.
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