Nuclear weapons tests in Australia
Several books have been written about nuclear weapons testing in Australia. These include Britain, Australia and the Bomb, Maralinga: Australia's Nuclear Waste Cover-up and My Australian Story: Atomic Testing: The Diary of Anthony Brown, Woomera, 1953. In 2006 Wakefield Press published Beyond belief: the British bomb tests: Australia's veterans speak out by Roger Cross and veteran and whistleblower, Avon Hudson.
The British conducted testing in the Pacific Ocean at Malden Island and Kiritimati known at the time as Christmas Island (not to be confused with Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean) between 1957 and 1958. These were airbursts mostly occurring over water or suspended a few hundred metres above the ground by balloon.
In Australia there were three sites. Testing was carried out between 1952 and 1957 and was mostly done at the surface. A few hundred smaller scale tests were conducted at both Emu Field and Maralinga between 1953 and 1963.
Monte Bello Islands
|Hurricane||3 October 1952 11:15||25 kt||in the Hull of HMS Plym|
|Mosaic One||16 May 1956 11:15||15 kt||Tower|
|Mosaic Two||19 June 1956 10:14||60 kt||Tower|
The atomic tests at Emu Field in 1953 were known as Operation Totem
|Totem One||15 Oct 1953 07:00||10 kt||Tower|
|Totem Two||27 Oct 1953 07:00||8 kt||Tower|
The atomic tests at Maralinga in 1957 were known as Operation Antler
A testing site at Maralinga was established in 1955, close to a siding along the Trans-Australian Railway. Because supplies could be brought to the site via rail, it was preferred over Emu Field. A total of seven major tests were conducted at Maralinga. Both the Federal government and Australian newspapers at the time were very supportive of the tests. In 1952, the Liberal Government passed legislation, the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952, which allowed the British Government access to remote parts of Australia to undertake atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. The general public were largely unaware of the risks from the testing program, stemming from official secrecy about the testing program and the remote locations of the test sites.
Before the tests could begin the Maralinga Tjarutja, the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, were forcibly removed.
|One tree||27 Sep 1956 17:00||12.9 kt||Tower|
|Marcoo||04 Oct 1956 16:30||1.4 kt||Ground-level|
|Kite||11 Oct 1956 14:27||2.9 kt||Airdrop|
|Breakaway||22 Oct 1956 00:05||10.8 kt||Tower|
|Tadje||14 Sep 1957 14:35||0.93 kt||Tower|
|Biak||25 Sep 1957 10:00||5.67 kt||Tower|
|Taranaki||09 Oct 1957 16:15||26.6 kt||Balloon|
According to Liz Tynan from James Cook University, the Maralinga tests were a striking example of extreme secrecy, but by the late 1970s there was a marked change in how the Australian media covered the British nuclear tests. Avon Hudson, an atomic veteran who participated as an Australian serviceman during the later stage Minor Trials became a prominent whistleblower. Some resourceful investigative journalists emerged and political scrutiny became more intense. In June 1993, New Scientist journalist Ian Anderson wrote an article entitled "Britain's dirty deeds at Maralinga" and several related articles.
Over a decade, 1953 to 1963, a series of "Minor Trials" occurred testing components of the Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs using in some instances highly radioactive materials, such as Plutonium, Beryllium, and Uranium. Most of the minor trials involved conventional explosions to map out the radioactive dispersion and contamination of military assets, building structures and early crash test dummies. The Minor Trial of Vixen A dispersing Plutonium over a wide area by conventional explosive was considered to have had the longest half-life of any test or trial conducted in Australia.
|1959||Wewak VK33||Vixen A||Plutonium||0.008|
|1959||Wewak VK29||Vixen A||Beryllium||0.14|
|1959||Wewak VK28||Vixen A||Beryllium||0.25|
|1959||Wewak VK27||Vixen A||Beryllium||0.27|
|1959||Wewak VK30||Vixen A||Beryllium||0.1|
|1961||Wewak VK60A||Vixen A||Plutonium||0.294|
|1961||Wewak VK60C||Vixen A||Plutonium||0.277|
|1961||Wewak 60A||Vixen A||Beryllium||1.72|
|1961||Wewak 60B||Vixen A||Beryllium||1.72|
Opposition to the tests grew throughout the 1950s. A poll in 1957 found that almost half the population were against them.
- Kevin Buzzacott
- List of books about nuclear issues
- McClelland Royal Commission
- Silent Storm (film)
- Michael Carter et al. (2006). Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests in Australia, Vol 1: Dosimetry, Commonwealth of Australia, p. 3.
- United Nations Scientific Committee On The Effects Of Atomic Radiation (2000). Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation: UNSCEAR 2000 Report to the General Assembly, with Scientific Annex. United Nations Publications. p. 176. ISBN 9211422388. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
- Kalmykov, Stepan N. (2010). Actinide Nanoparticle Research. Springer. p. 342. ISBN 3642114326. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
- "Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests in Australia 2006 - Dosimetry" (PDF). Australian Department of Veterans' Affairs. p. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-02-25. Retrieved 2008-12-02.
- Lines, William J. (1991). Taming the Great South Land: A History of the Conquest of Nature in Australia. University of California Press. p. 214. ISBN 0520078306. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
- McAuley, Gay (2006). Unstable Ground: Performance and the Politics of Place. Peter Lang. p. 210. ISBN 9052010366. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
- Liz Tynan (November 2013). "Dig for secrets: the lesson of Maralinga's Vixen B". Chain Reaction #119.
- Philip Jones (5 April 2000). "Ian Anderson obituary". The Guardian.
- Australian Government. A toxic legacy: British nuclear weapons testing in Australia.
- Australian government database of nuclear explosions and tests
- Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) report at Nuclear Files (as of 2017[update] ARPANSA have no longer hosted a copy of their own report since 2013)
- Australia's program of testing for Strontium 90, between 1957 and 1978, samples of children's bones taken at autopsy
- Ionising Radiation and Health