THE DECRYPTION OF A PICTURE

Created: 6/1/1967

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STUDIES IN

INTELLIGENCE

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Puzzling out the power supply to Urals atom plants.

THE DECRYPTIONICTURE Henry S. Lowenhaupt

One day in8 Charles V. Beeves showedicture of the Sverdlovsk Central Despatching Office of the.Urals Electric Power System which bo had found in tbe July issue of Ogonc'fc, the Soviet equivalent of Look magazine. He remarked that at the Boston Edison Company lie had controlled electric power generation and Bow in the Boston metropolitan area from justespatching station.

Charlie had been recommended to us in CIA's Nuclear Energy Division by the President of tbe New England Electric Power(and Chairman of the DCI's Panel on Nuclear Energy) because of his professional experience and linguistic ability. His task was to assemble data on generating stations and transmission lines in the neighborhood of known or suspected Soviet atomic energy sitesasis for determining the electric power consumption at those sites. (Hie output of fissionable materialslant is directlyto the amount of power ithis work was lothat being done by the Electric Power Branch of the ClA economic research organization, which was attempting to estimate power generation and ordinary consumption In atomic industry areas in order, infer alio, to arrive at the consumption of the atomic facilities by subtraction. Symbolically Charlie worked in megawatts Or power flow; the economic analysts worked in kilowatt hours or energyand consumed, the method appropriate to the varying loads of most normal industry. There was considerable doubt at thelevel whether either method, or both combined, would ever yield rcbable estimates on the power consumption of atomic industry.

Tbe Urals of courseost Important atomic energy region. Kyshtym. between Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk, was tbe site of the Soviets' major plutonium-producing complex. North ofat Verkh Neyvinsk,aseous diffusion plant. Still farther north, near Nizhnyaya Tura, was an imideaitiCed atomic complexirmly closed area. The nub of Charlie's problemo pin down the power flow lo these three facilities.

The Soviets considered electric power generation, transmission, and usage in thelassified subject. All published articles were censored, and the censor knew his business. Travel in the area except to and through Perm (thenverdlovsk, and Chelyabinsk was severely restricted. The only available serious discussions of the Urals power networkhole were two intelligence reports producedt for the German general staff.

A Riddle to Read

The board on the wall in Ogonefcs picture lookedchematic diagram of major power plants, with their trarismission^c^ users'the information necessary for "pushbutton and telephonic control of the whole Urals electric system. Charlie teasingly suggested that the very thing wc were looking for, the deposition of electric power feeds to the atomic sites, was actually laid before us in this photograph.ose to the bait and proposed that "we" read it out. Charb'c smiled gently and pointed to the taped-over names and meters, showing the usual careful censorship. Charlie is very tolerant of the foibles of the young; one would never guess that he had worked his way through MITeavyweight boxer.

ouldn't put it down. In vain Charlie pointed out that the photograph did not cover the whole board; it had been dipped. The censorship had probably been even more thorough than it appeared. He had neverussian despatching starioo. He did not know the meaning of the indistinct symbols on the board, nor did he know of anyone else in America or Britain who did,

I continued to badgeruggesteduggested that. The discussion went on intermittently for days. Neverost so many argumentsood cause.

The problem gradually shook downumber of distinctWas this just the Sverdlovsk area, or did it represent aportion of the total Urals network? If the latter, did it include electric power producers in Perm, Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk, Kurgin. and Chkalov (Orenburg) oblasts, along with Bashkir and Udmurt ASSRs, or* only the Uralcncrgo-operatcd stations in Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk oblasts? Charlie had orations to prove that the Russian terminology was ambiguous on this point.

Did the board depict only theilovoltiiovoltlines, or did it include perhapsV.V, and even lower-voltage lines? The main Urals transmission network runs generally

not ill anti south were north and south left aod right in Ihej or wu it really as scrambled as it looted?

| What was represented by the indurinct symbols on the individual rectangular boards? Did these indicate just the switches, which might be expected to be under cenfralired control, or did they include trans-forrrters and generators as well? Since each generator puts out three

j alternating currents of differing phase, each transmission line contains three separate conductors and each switch is really three twitches: werehown separately?

liursection showed at least two kinds of boards, one containing many different types of symbols, the oilier fewer"types. Could the one represent the complicated generating stations and tho other thesimpler main subsutions? If the simpler boards were substations, did the dots on them mean switches, or transformers? If the Utter, one could estimate within narrow limits the amount of power flowing through the large main substations. If they were switches, one could not use the substation boards fur estimating power how but would have to calculate it on the basis of network rncory from the number of transmission lines and Ihe output of the generating plants connected to them.

If the more complicated boards represented generating stations, the dots on them on the side opposite the transmission linea might represent turbogenerators. The number of such dotsoard might then identify itlant known to have that number of generators. Here Charlieew straws in the vast sea of ignorance. Inritish power delegation had vuited the Mid-Urals Cosower plant) north of Sverdlovsk and the South Urab Cm* outside Chelyabinsk. These definitelyurbogenerators re. spoelively. Beyond that t't was mostly conjecture. Hoingle press reference to the eleventh and twelfth boilers in the power plant at Niehnyaya Tura near the northern mystery com pies, but no way to relate the number of boilers to the number of turbogenerators. He had found brief referencesurbines at Verkhniy Tagd Cms near Kirovgrad. aturbines at Serov in the far north. He knew that Argayash TETS (steam-heat-and powerresumablyKyshlyra, had reached "full capacity"ut had no idea of the number of turbines or their sires. He knew of the existencelarge" generating station cast southeast of Sverdlovsk, at Kamensk Uralsk, mainly supplying the aluminum plant there, and of two power

Ufo's Power

plants supplying the town ami local industry at Nizhniy Tagd, back to the north, lie had references to dozens of smaller plants.

Thus "we" were facederves of multiple choices which had to be clearly ursderstood before any solution was possible Thef these preliminary (though lengthy) discussions betweennd me was so to structure the problem that the choices becamend impiobable solutions were discarded. Once this was thoroughly accomplished, the type of evidence needed to select between alteraa-I tfves could Ik rationally discussed and ferreted out.

; From* of Beffttmc* .

One day light dawned. Charlie recognized the big board inower left corner of the picture as Kama Hydroelectric Station near Perm. The station was unusual, lavingmall hydroelectricators.bjected that the meter in front of the boardhe number of generators on it, Charlie only shrugged. Theas so long that it had toot of generators on it; but whatad recognized,iagramoviet trade journal, was the hookup of its transmission lincsl

From there he went on: The Soviets had published thehatV lines had been built from KamaStation to South Substation serving Sverdlovsk. There theyV line coming in from the east, horn Kamcnsk, butat the South Urals Crux and running north by way of Shagol Substation in Chelyabinsk. This made the Sverdlovsk Souththe large vertical board in the middle of the picture, Kamensk the small one above its right edge (the transmission line apparently passed try there withouthe South Urals Cross the large horizontal one at the far right, and the Shagol Substation the one to the le(tits top edge.

If he was reading the symbols for turbogenerators correctly, the South Urals Cars boardf them, in agreement with7 observations of tlie British power delegationchematic i diagram of turbines and boilers at (his station appearing on the back cover of the7 issue of Ttplotntrgetika. As for thems north of Sverdlovsk, the horizontal rectangle second to the left from South Substation seemed to have symbols indicating 5as noted by the British power delegation.

Identifying these stations,reliminary fashion at least, he could also conclude that by and largeVV

transmission lines were depicted and that the board probably covered all of the Urals and adjacent oblasts. oriented roughly with south to the right, east toward the top. and north to the left TheV line running the length of the Urals in thecorresponded to the more Or less horizontal lino structure running all the way across the board about half way up. Thus, as one does Inuzzle, he had found some pieces to start framing In the picture and an interesting grouping in Ute middle.

Fiiurig In

It took Charlie another three months before he was sure of his ^understanding of all the detail in the picture, and two more months after that before he had worked out all the implications. He said later that he hadeferences from Soviet newpapers and technicaleports of delegation visits,OW returnee reports, and perhapsocal photographs. While this estimate may be low in the sense that lie probably recalled only (he more important items of information, it does illustrate the tremendous amount of detail he had to assemble in order to accomplish his purpose.

He was aided by several strokes of good fortune. First, he had found in Elehricheski'je Sfanrsiihort reporthrcc-day conference in Moscow which laidajor plan for power expansion in the Urals. He followed this religiously asublished blueprint of intended expansion mostly for atomic energy purposes, and he turned out to be right. Secondly, the Sovietsinook celebratingh anniversary of electric power in the Urals. Energcriftfl Utala xaet. which contained much useful infonnation, not the least of it an authoritative diagram ol die Urals power networkSeehirdly, twoballoons were recovered belatedly with photographs that showed power line traces south and west of Sverdlovsk and in the Nizhniy Tagil area. Finally, heopy of the8 Ogooek picture that had been croppedit higher up. This enabled him to infer the existenceV substation at Verkh Neyvinsk,foraseous diffusion plant, that had not been indicated in the original copy.

Even after Charlie had firmly established what the visible portion of board in the picture generally comprised (for tlve completed layout see the overlay ine had several major problems. It was easy to suggest the positions of the three atomic energyKvshtym at right middle, Verkh Neyvinsk at left center top and

Urals Powe'

Nizhnyaya Tura probably al left(hey were represented bv large substations not needederve cities. Then, assurnlng that the large power station In the far north at Serov was not included on the visible part of the board, he could infer that the big rectangle at upper left was Nizhnyaya Tura Gres; but until8 he could not be sure because none of the seven references he had to tbe plant indicated the total number of generators. Tbe fortieth anniversary volume finally confirmed his deductions by mentioning turbogenerator No.hich agreed with the nine dots in the photo.

Trouble began yriththe fad that the hnes between KamaStationcropper! by 'the left

edge of the picture, so that it was impossible to decrypt this section of the network by counting known substations. Charlie would have to start in Sverdlovsk or Chelyabinsk (with their complex generation and usage patterns) and work outwards. But even hisof the Sverdlovsk area was impeded, oddly, by the fact that the transmission lines out of the Nizhnyaya Tura Cms, more than Id miles to tlie north, were cropped from Ihe top of picture: the technical press had recorded the construction ofV transmission lines from tlicre to Sverdlovsk, but the picture showed only one line leading to the Sverdlovsk South Substation from tlie north.

Charlie went at the problem logically, step by step. First heevery POW report and ground photograph of transtrusr.on lines in the general Sverdlovsk area. (Most of these had come inesult of general requirements he had circulated two yearse plotted each referencearge-scale map, comparing results with what he expected. That he did not know withiniles the location of South Substationonsiderable disadvantage; it was the one Sverdlovsk substation he had surely identified oo the board. In tlie absence of any attache or POW reporting thatV line' passing through Sverdlovsk, he had to consider the possibility that South Substation wasover name for the one serving the gaseous diffusion plant at Verkh Ncyvinsk to the north.

His plotting of all the collateral information did enable him toV loop from Sverdlovsk east through Kamensk, north via Krasnogorsk, Sinarsk, and Asbest, then back to Sverdlovsk. He also had bits and pieces of what lookedoop from the Mid-l'rals Cms north of Sverdlovsk westward to Pervouralsk, then south to Revda and Dcgtyarka, and then perhaps east either to Sverdlovsk again

or more southerly lo Polevskoy. Most of this loop bad been hidden by foreground in the Ogonek picture.

Then, checking the photographic record of all balloon flights inarea, he discovered west of Sverdlovsk the trace offrom Kama Hrdroclcctxtc Station to South Substation at asouth of its expected route This proved that Southwell south of Sverdlovsk and south of any other unknownlikely to srrve Sverdlovsk. TheilesV linebeen repotted built between South Substation and Kamerukthe east (connecting with the southerlyJeg rrom^hagol/Chelyabliudiy measured out accurately oo the map. "

Inspection of another balloon photograph proved that there wasV line between South Substation and Polevskoy. At the same time it located the path ofV lines between these two locations and established from the width of the trace through tbe trees that this section of the Urals power network consisted of probablyV lines. On the dcsp.it'hers' board this made Polevskoy the rectangle just lo the right of South Substation, and the terminus ofV loop via Pervouralsk and Degtyarka as welt.

Solution

Il was the fortieth annisersary volume on Urals power that found theV line from Nizhnyaya Tura "tot stated thatilei of the Erst such line went into service inharlie methodically measurediles from Nizhnyaya Tura along the railroad and found he had reached Verkh Neyvinsk nol Sverdlovsk. He measured off several more transmission line distances and checked these against all the press references in his files lo numbers of miles of transmission line budt each quarter or year All these figures were eiplaioable. Thus, even thoughV lines from Nizhnyaya Tura to Verkh Neyvinsk were cropped off the Ogonek picture, he was able to prove the existence of two such lines and show that only one went on at that lime from Verkh Neyvinsk to South Substation.

hotographic balloon was recovered in Icelandatery resting place. This proved thatV right of wayNizhniy Tagil so that the whole purpose of Nizhnyaya Tura Cms was to supply the unknown atomic industry at Nizhnyaya Tura andlant In Verkh Neyvinsk.

Once this was all worked out, the rest of the north Urals fell into place rapidly. Verkhniy Tagil Cam was identified below the right edge

of Nizhnyaya Tura Cr*es and seen to haveather thanrenerators on stream at the time of the photograph (and the date of the photograph thui established as between7 and. The power supply to the Verkh Neyvinsk complex could be estimated with assurance to be carried overV lines andV lines.

When the location of Polcvskoy on the board was definitely(he south and east Urals transmission network likewise soon became clear. Argayash TETS was identified as the big board above and to the left of Shagol Substttion and could'bescen to have sevenhe clectzie^sower (and steam)'supply to the^atysbtym reactor site proved to be mainly from Argayash TETS, with backup from all nearby stations north, south, and west.

9 Charlie was able, on the basis of network theory, to state confidently that the electric power supply toplant at Verkh Neyvinskegawatti plus or minusercent, about one-half of that consumed by the Oak Ridgein the United States. He judged the power consumption of the plutonium reactor at Kyshtym toegawatts plus or minusercent. Upegawatts was apparently consumed by thecomplex near Nizhnyaya Tura in tbe north. His final diagram of the Urals power network is given in Figureomplete history and carefully devised estimate of electric power supply to atomic sites in the Urab77 lay in theyear's hard, detailed work Mi conjunction with the economic analysts, reference by reference aivd report by report

Charlie was tn get confirmation of his theories and deductions within the year, an event that happens all too seldom in the intelhgencewhen catastrophe strikes. Inboth Nizhnyaya Tura and Verkb Neyvinsk, Kyshtymod-cove red. Charlie was nght on the substation array at the Nizhnyaya Tura complex, which turned out touclear weapons fabrication and stockpile site. Tho Verkh Neyvinsk gaseous diffusion plant had substations much hie Charlie had deduced, though one had been cropped from the Ogonek picture, llis view that the dots nearest the transmission lines represented switches rather thanproved correct, and his decision to estimate power usage from lines and generating stations rather than from substations wasDetailed eaamirvatioo ofhotography showed that his estimate on power usage at Verkh Neyvinsk was only aboutercentmly remarkable achievementensored photograph.

Urals Power

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