CIA’s 1950 Nuclear Security Assessments After the Soviet’s First Nuclear Test

The first Soviet test of a nuclear device occurred on 29 August 1949 at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in what today is Kazakhstan. In the Soviet Union, this first device was known as RDS-1, Izdeliye 501 (device 501) and First Lightning. In the U.S., it was named Joe-1. This was an implosion type device with a yield of about 22 kilotons that, thanks to highly effective Soviet nuclear espionage during World War II, may have been very similar to the U.S. Fat Man bomb that was dropped on the Japanese city Nagasaki.

Casing_for_the_first_Soviet_atomic_bomb,_RDS-1Joe-1 casing. Source: Wikipedia / Minatom Archives

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was tasked with assessing the impact of the Soviet Union having a demonstrated nuclear capability. In mid-1950, the CIA issued two Top Secret reports providing their assessment. These reports have been declassified and now are in the public domain. I think you’ll find that they make interesting reading, even 66 years later.

The first report, ORE 91-49, is entitled, “Estimate of the Effects of the Soviet Possession of the Atomic Bomb upon the Security of the United States and upon the Probabilities of Direct Soviet Military Action,” dated 6 April 1950.

ORE 91-49 cover page

You can download this report as a pdf file at the following link:

The second, shorter summary report, ORE 32-50, is entitled, “The Effect of the Soviet Possession of Atomic Bombs on the Security of the United States,” dated 9 June 1950.

ORE_32-50 cover page

You can download this report as a pdf file at the following link:

The next Soviet nuclear tests didn’t occur until 1951. The RDS-2 (Joe-2) and RDS-3 (Joe-3) tests were conducted on 24 September 1951 and 18 October 1951, respectively.