Lingering impact of British nuclear tests in the Australian outback http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-30640338 Jon DonnisonSydney correspondent 1 Jan 2015, “It seems remarkable today but less than 60 years ago, Britain was exploding nuclear bombs in the middle of Australia. In the mid-1950s, seven bombs were tested at Maralinga in the south-west Australian outback. The combined force of the weapons doubled that of the bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in World War Two.
In archive video footage, British and Australian soldiers can be seen looking on, wearing short sleeves and shorts and doing little to protect themselves other than turning their backs and covering their eyes with their hands.
Some reported the flashes of the blasts being so bright that they could see the bones of their fingers, like x-rays as they pressed against their faces.Much has been written about the health problems suffered by the servicemen as a result of radiation poisoning.
Far less well-documented is the plight of the Aboriginal people who were living close to Maralinga at the time.
“Every night I cry for them,” Hilary Williams tells me as she sits around a campfire for an impromptu picnic of kangaroo tails laid on for our visit.
Her mother and grandparents all witnessed at least one of the explosions from just a few kilometres away.
Ms Williams said all three of them died young after suffering lung problems.
“It’s so sad. They’re not here anymore,” she said, adding that she had heart problems she believes were also linked to the bombs.Locals around Maralinga spoke about a black mist of radioactive dust over their communities following the explosions.
“A lot of people got sick and died,” said Mima Smart, an aboriginal community leader.
“It was like a cancer on them. People were having lung disease, liver problems, and kidney problems. A lot of them died,” she said, adding that communities around Maralinga have been paid little by way of compensation……….
Robin Matthews, caretaker of the Maralinga Nuclear Test Site. “They thought they’d pick a supposedly uninhabited spot out in the Australian desert. Only they got it wrong. There were people here.”
During the 1960s and 70s, there were several large clean-up operations to try and decontaminate the site. All the test buildings and equipment were destroyed and buried. Large areas of the surface around the blast sites was also scraped up and buried.
But Mr Matthews said the clean-up, as well as the tests themselves, were done very much behind closed doors with a high level of secrecy. “You’ve got to remember that this was during the height of the Cold War. The British were terrified that Russian spies might try and access the site,” he said.
The indigenous communities say many locals involved in the clean-up operation also got sick..
Maralinga has long been declared safe. There are even plans to open up the site to tourism. But it was only a few months ago that the last of the land was finally handed back to the Aboriginal people. Most, though, say they have no desire to return there.
Mima Smart told me she regards Maralinga as sick land. “I don’t want to go back. Too many bad memories.”
And even almost 60 years on, the land still hasn’t recovered. Huge concrete plinths mark the spots where each of the bombs was detonated.
Around each, the blast area would have stretched for several kilometres.The orangey red soil of the outback sparkles strangely green.If you look closely, you can see the ground is covered with what looks like broken glass, where the soil got so hot it literally melted and turned to silicon.
And even after all this time, the natural vegetation still won’t grow back. “The grass here only ever grows a few inches,” said Mr Matthews. “Even the birds and the kangaroos still stay clear of this area.”
More than half a century on, most people here still regard Maralinga as a dark chapter in British Australian history
Hawke government schemed to stymie Maralinga nuclear test compensation, cabinet documents reveal http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/hawke-government-schemed-to-stymie-maralinga-nuclear-test-compensation-cabinet-documents-reveal/story-fni6uo1m-1227171284110 PETER JEAN POLITICAL REPORTER THE ADVERTISER JAN 1, 2015 THE statute of limitations was invoked by the Hawke Government to prevent hundreds of compensation actions being pursued in court by veterans of British nuclear tests in Australia.
Government documents from 1988 and 1989 released by the National Archives of Australia reveal that cabinet decided to try and invoke time-limit rules to fight court compensation actions launched after 1988. Continue reading
The 16,000 Australian service men involved in the tests were sworn to secrecy by ASIO agents under the threat of jail. The general population was made part a large secret experiment to see whether the human race could survive a nuclear attack.
This book is also a warning for the present. Prime Minister Tony Abbott wants to create a nuclear waste dump in central Australia to bring in millions of dollars. The Australian people must be vigilant and active as our governments and politicians cannot be trusted.
Australia’s two decades as a radioactive laboratory https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/57965, December 8, 2014 By Coral Wynter The British government, with the complicity of the Menzies government, used Australia as a laboratory to test the short and long-term effects of exposure to radioactivity.
Maralinga: The Chilling Expose of Our Secret Nuclear Shame & Betrayal of Our Troops & Country By Frank Walker Hachette, 2014
Frank Walker, who worked as a journalist for Australian and international publications for 38 years, was talking to his daughter’s university friends one day and discovered they had no idea atomic bombs had been exploded in Australia.
In fact, 12 had ― excluding the 300-600 minor trials at Maralinga, Emu Field, both in the South Australian desert, and Monte Bello Islands off the Western Australian coast.
Walker had been interviewing soldiers, navy and air force victims and decided to expose the veil of secrecy on their ghastly experiences.
The atomic tests began in 1952 and continued until 1957. However, minor trials with dirty radioactive clouds, and uranium and plutonium waste, did not stop until 1963.
The British government, with the total complicity of the then-Menzies government, used Australian land and people as a laboratory to test the short and long-term effects of exposure to radioactivity. Continue reading
Australian support for France’s nuclear force, Islands Business, By Nic Maclellan , 27 Nov In his final press conference during his state visit to Australia, French President Francois Hollande praised the contribution of Australian companies to France’s nuclear strike force. However the full translation of these comments went missing from the transcript published by Prime Minister Abbott’s office.
Standing beside Tony Abbott at a joint press conference in Canberra on 19 November, French President Francois Hollande highlighted the important collaboration of French and Australian corporations in the defence sector.
Speaking in French, he stated: “We are allies as well through our defence industries, because we manufacture – our French and Australian companies manufacture – processes, notably for the most essential equipment for the French strategic force, the French nuclear force, a part of this equipment is manufactured here in Australia.”
Hollande’s endorsement of the contribution by Australian corporations to France’s nuclear strike capacity can be seen on the video released by the French Presidential Palace (quote starts at 9:03 minutes): http://www.elysee.fr/videos/conference-de-presse-conjointe-avec-m-tony-abbott-premier-ministre-de-l-australie/
However, when you go to the English-language transcript of the press conference on Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s website, part of the translation is missing. There’s a reference to “France’s strategic strength”, but the words “the French nuclear strike force” are nowhere to be found!
Maybe the word “nuclear” brings back memories of Moruroa Atoll and the Rainbow Warrior, and the tense relationship between the two countries during thirty years of French nuclear testing in the south Pacific.
Hollande’s formal state visit – the first ever by a French President – was supposed to transcend past rivalries. Media coverage of the President’s visit highlighted joint action on trade and terrorism, the emotional link of Villers-Bretonneux and the slaughter of World War One diggers in France. But both governments are reluctant to talk about modern strategic warfare.
France resists international calls for comprehensive disarmament negotiations and maintains a significant nuclear arsenal, with an estimated 300 nuclear warheads. Successive Australian governments also refuse to criticise extended nuclear deterrence. Last October, 155 countries endorsed a New Zealand statement to the United Nations on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war. Canberra refused to sign on and put forward a counter-resolution, a worrying diplomatic stand as we move towards the Third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, to be held in Vienna on 8-9 December……….http://www.islandsbusiness.com/news/australia/6411/australian-support-for-frances-nuclear-force/
Australia’s Future Fund invests in nuclear weapons development and our banks are happy to provide capital as well.
The protesters were drawing attention to the fact that the federal government’s $101 billion Future Fund invests more than $260 million in foreign companies involved in the manufacture of nuclear weapons (and that figure has increased by $33 million since last June)…….. Continue reading
Secret Outback nuclear testing site handed back to traditional land owners 50 years after British did HUNDREDS of nuclear tests causing fatal radiation poisoning
- The British nuclear testing site in outback Australia has been returned to its Aboriginal owners
- Seven atomic bombs were detonated on ‘Section 400′ in the 1950s
- There were also about 600 smaller nuclear tests on the area
- The land traditionally belonged to the Maralinga-Tjarutja community
- Britain’s nuclear tests in Australia caused widespread radiation poisoning
- Aborigines and Australian and UK soldiers suffered disease and death
- Radioactive fallout in remote Australia was three time greater than predicted
- Australia spent $100 million cleaning up the traditional lands
- The government held on to the 1782sq km testing range until this week
By CANDACE SUTTON FOR DAILY MAIL AUSTRALIA and AAP, 6 November 2014……………………Hundreds of nuclear trials were carried out. Britain dropped twelve nuclear bombs at Maralinga, and then went on to test nuclear warheads.
Although many Aboriginal people were forcibly removed from their land, more than a thousand were directly affected.
The widespread radioactive fallout of the bombs across the environment, which the local Aboriginal people called ‘puyu’ or ‘black mist’, caused disease and death……..http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2822906/Secret-nuclear-testing-site-Australian-outback-known-Section-400-finally-handed-Aboriginal-traditional-land-owners-50-years-British-dropped-atomic-bombs-causing-radiation-poisoning-death.html
Uranium the Silent Killer By Hilary Tyler
http://www.pozible.com/project/187985 The story of the project At the ANFA (Australia Nuclear Free Alliance) meeting in Oct 2014 Indigenous Elders called for documentation of the health effects from the Maralinga and other atomic bomb tests in the 1950’s and 1960’s. See https://ausnukefreealliance.wordpress.com for the meeting statement.
Permission was never sort from the Aboriginal nations.
“Just remember that the fallout at Maralinga affected the whole lot of us. Black, white, brindle; we all breathe the same air, and we’re all being affected in various ways, even though that happened a long time ago. It’s still around.” Sue Coleman-Haseldine (Kokatha Mula – Ceduna)
From 1952 to 1963 atomic testing covered vast areas of South Australia including Maralinga and Emu Fields test sites.
In November 2014 there will be a 3 week road trip to archive the stories of the people from Arabuna, Walitina, Ceduna, and Yalata country to produce film, audio and digital documentaries. We will begin a data base of the families affected, the geographical distributions of fall out and detrimental health repercussions of these unconsented tests.
Nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. Both in the scale of the devastation they cause, and in their uniquely persistent, spreading, genetically damaging radioactive fallout, they are unlike any other weapons.
For more information on nuclear weapons, including an article on Yami Lester, one of the survivors of the nuclear tests in South Australia, see http://www.icanw.org/au/
Many Aboriginal people in South Australia still rely on bush foods – plants and animals sourced from land that still is contaminated. The possibility of bioaccumulation is very real. Certainly the stories of early death from cancer, thyroid disease and congenital deformities are continuing.
“I’ve lost a lot of my family members through early death – and a lot of it was through cancer, and I do blame the Maralinga fallout.”
Aunty Martha – Arabana (Lake Eyre) Contact us at: email@example.com
Backgrounder: Why was Maralinga used for secret nuclear tests?SBS News 5 Nov 14 “…….
The nuclear testings lead to widespread dispersion of radioactive material in the local environment. The Anangu Aboriginal people who lived the area called it “puyu” or “black mist”.
UK servicemen, Australian soldiers and civilians, including Indigenous people, were all exposed to radiation. Illnesses reportedly included cancer, blood diseases, eye problems, skin rashes, blindness, vomitting, which are all symptoms of radioactive poisoning.
Between 1953 and 1957, two nuclear devices were detonated at Emu and seven at Maralinga, the Department of Industry reported. According to the Australian Radiationn Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) these “major trials” have largely decayed and are “no longer a significant health risk” as these nuclear devices were conducted at higher altitudes (from balloons).
However, the biggest cause of contamination was from “minor trials”, which were weapons development trials that investigated the performance of various components of a nuclear device. Although minor trials didn’t involve nuclear explosions, they did contain radioactive material.
Since contamination remains on or close to the ground surface, there is a significant health risk for locals. Three sites, Taranaki, TM100/101 (TMs), and Wewak remained highly contaminated with plutonium 40 years later……..
Were victims compensated by the British government?
Aboriginal people exposed to British nuclear tests in South Australia during the 1950s are being told they have no hope of compensation. British firm Hickman and Rose had hoped to represent more than 150 civilians, if a huge class action by 1,000 British veterans had succeeded.
But the class action was blocked – the UK Supreme Court ruling that 60 years after the event their claims were too late, the causes of their illnesses apparently unprovable. (Read the full judgment here)
The Australian Greens’ nuclear spokesman Scott Ludlam said the dangers of radiation are well known and it’s unfair to ask Aboriginal people with scant medical records to prove a direct link between exposure to fallout and subsequent sickness.
“The British courts have blocked the application from Defence personnel and Aboriginal people in central Australia by saying you can’t prove those radiations exposures are what caused your illness,” he said. “Now, we know that ionising radiation is harmful for health – we know that for a fact. The right thing for the British Government to do is make an Act of Grace payment to the people who they injured in their nuclear weapons tests.”
In response, UK Defence Personnel Welfare and Veterans Minister of State Mark Francois said: “[The] Ministry of Defence’s position with respect to paying compensation is unchanged. I am sorry to have to send a disappointing reply, but I hope I have explained the reasons for doing so.”……http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/11/05/backgrounder-why-was-maralinga-used-secret-nuclear-tests
British Nuclear Test Site Returned To Aborigines, Yahoo News UK 5 Nov 14 A former British nuclear test site in the depths of the Australian outback has finally been handed back to its Aboriginal owners after more than half a century.
Codenamed Section 400, the secret Cold War atomic weapons testing base was used in the 1950s and 60s and covered 1,782 square kilometres (688 square miles) of remote South Australia.
Now the Australian Government has formally given the site at Maralinga back to its traditional owners, the Maralinga Tjarutja, who hope to turn it into a tourism attraction.
Maralinga Tjarutja general manager Richard Preece says the community is establishing a business to take visitors round the nuclear test sites.
“We’re going to set up bus tours so people can be taken round by Robin (the local caretaker), who is a walking encyclopaedia of Maralinga,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
He added the area still had some contamination but would be safe for visitors if they were escorted………https://uk.news.yahoo.com/british-nuclear-test-returned-aborigines-130655845.html#vPKBkL8
Vladimir Putin ups the ante with reminders Russia is a nuclear power October 18, 2014 – Peter Hartcher Sydney Morning Herald political and international editor “……..jokes about nuclear weapons are an uneasy genre of humour. Russia’s nuclear arsenal is the ultimate reality of its power. It sits at the back of every conversation and calculation about Russia….. Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, has put his country’s 5000 nuclear warheads at the forefront. Three times in the past two months, he has raised the spectre of nuclear war as he confronts the West.
Most recently, he did it overnight Thursday Australian time while he was en route to a summit of 50 nations, the annual Asia-Europe Meeting, in Milan. “He’s again threatened the West with nuclear weapons,” says John Besemeres, a Russia expert at the ANU……..
Russian missiles do have the range to strike NZ. Or Australia.
“There is a low probability that Russian nuclear weapons are aimed at Australia, with one possible exception,” says Peter Jennings, formerly head of strategy at the Australian Defence Department and now head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
“That would be the joint facilities” – the US-Australian satellite tracking bases at Pine Gap and Nurrungar from which US spy satellites over eastern Russia are controlled. “The joint facilities are the only thing that may be relevant to the US ability to launch an attack on Russia.”
Soviet officials bluntly told Australian defence officials during the Cold War that warheads were aimed at the joint facilities.
And today, “they are certainly on the Russian target list,” says O’Neil, who is knowledgeable on Russian nuclear policy……….
Analysts have remarked in recent weeks that Putin seems to be seeking to re-engage with the wider world. With Western sanctions biting Russia’s economy and NATO indignation finally roused, Putin was thought to be looking to ease the pressure.
There are signs he is. By choosing to attend the Asia-Europe summit, he signalled diplomatic re-engagement. This leads to the expectation he will attend the G-20 summit in Brisbane.
And, by announcing the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine, he seemed to be conceding to NATO pressure………http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/vladimir-putin-ups-the-ante-with-reminders-russia-is-a-nuclear-power-20141017-117pzr.html
Australia–India nuclear treaty: a non-proliferation disaster, The Strategist, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Blog 14Oct 2014 By Crispin Rovere “…….Nuclear suppliers do have a responsibility, however, for ensuring their nuclear material isn’t used to build nuclear weapons, and must maintain strict mechanisms for that purpose. If countries can access nuclear supply without the attendant responsibilities, then support for longstanding non-proliferation regimes will be undermined, countries will see less value in treaties such as the NPT, and a key pillar of the nuclear arms control regime as a whole will be weakened.
The text of the proposed Australian export deal fails that basic test. In addition to a range of other flaws, for the first time in 40 years Australia won’t be able to guarantee how the nuclear material it supplies is being used. Specifically, the agreement allows India to reprocess uranium supplied by Australia to create plutonium, potentially at weapons grade, with no direct accounting by India to Australia for that material, and unusually, no provision for the return of the material in the event of it being misused. As former Director-General of ASNO, John Carlson, explains, Australia currently allows reprocessing only by two export partners, the EU and Japan, each with direct reporting requirements and specific permission being given by Australia as to how the reprocessed material is to be used.
Accordingly, the deal with India isn’t comparable to Australia’s other nuclear export agreements. Australia is privileging India by excluding key provisions normally included to ensure a recipient of nuclear material is accountable to the supplier. Australia’s other nuclear export partners might demand similar concessions, undermining the integrity of the non-proliferation regime as a whole.
Moreover, the concessions made by Australia are unnecessary. ………Not only does this agreement undermine long established non-proliferation regimes and Australia’s credibility as a nuclear supplier, it represents a missed opportunity to strengthen it. Given that what matters most to India is being treated on a par with China and the United States, India should be expected to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) after the US Senate does, just as China has already agreed to do……..
The agreement marks a significant departure from Australia’s longstanding practice. By excluding the normal provisions that ensure a nuclear recipient is directly accountable to the supplier, Australia is abrogating the principle that nuclear suppliers are accountable for how their exported nuclear material is used……..Crispin Rovere is a former PhD student at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU and co-author of Non-strategic nuclear weapons: the next step in multilateral arms control. Image courtesy of Flickr user Indiawaterportal.org. http://www.aspistrategist.org.au/australia-india-nuclear-treaty-a-non-proliferation-disaster/
The following summarizes some of the key conclusions of the Royal Commission:
- The Australian government controlled media reporting such that news items provided what the UK government deemed suitable only;
- Prior to the first tests on the Australian mainland, the Government Cabinet, Parliament and news media were not informed of what was happening;
- It is likely that the major tests resulted in a general increase in cancer within the Australian population;
- Exposure to radiation increased the risk of cancer in nuclear veterans;
- There was a failure to adequately take into account the distinctive lifestyle of Aboriginal people living in the region;
- The authorities were negligent in their management, equipping and briefing of the crews of the Lincoln aircraft who were directed to fly through the nuclear cloud in the Totem 1 test;
- In the Buffalo tests, “. . . the attempts to ensure Aboriginal safety during the Buffalo series demonstrate ignorance, incompetence and cynicism on the part of those responsible for that safety.” (12)
This summary is a very small and selective account of the content of the Royal Commission’s Report.
Since Hiroshima: Australia’s Active Involvement in the Use and Abuse of Nuclear Energy Sunday, 05 October 2014 09:59By Lindsay Fitzclarence, Truthout “………..By 1952, the government had signed a contract with the CDA (Combined Development Agency) representing the UK and United States to supply uranium (5).
At the same time, in a remarkable expression of executive power, the pro-royalist prime minister of Australia, Robert Menzies, agreed to a British request to begin testing of atomic weapons in its former colony (6). At the dawn of the Cold War nuclear arms race, Australia was an active participant at both ends of the weapons cycle: the source of primary nuclear fuel and as a nuclear testing ground. Continue reading
AUDIO: Maralinga: Australia’s experience of nuclear testing ABC Radio p.m Mark Colvin reported this story on Friday, September 5, 2014 DAVID MARK: It happened in the 1950s. But the truth about a series of nuclear tests in which Britain let off atomic bombs at Maralinga in the South Australian desert only started to emerge in the ’70s.
Even now, there are still survivors demanding justice. Many are now dead, but there are still fears about the effects of the big doses of radiation they absorbed having on their children and even their grandchildren.
The journalist Frank Walker has written a book about Maralinga and he told Mark Colvin about what Australian servicemen actually experienced at the test site. ………… Continue reading
British scientists tested dead Australians for nuclear radiation, Australian Times.co.uk Startling evidence that British scientists secretly tested up to 21,830 dead young Australians, without the knowledge of their parents, for radiation contamination following nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s. By Estelle Vosloo on 1 September, 2014 Dead Australians were tested for nuclear radiation contamination following nuclear tests, according to a new book.
The author of Maralinga, Frank Walker, laid his hands on minutes of a top secret UK Atomic Energy Research Establishment meeting in England on 24 May 1957 approving a program to determine the long-term effects of the tests on Australia and its citizens.
In his book, Walker describes how officials at the meeting, chaired by Professor Ernest Titterton, decided to first obtain soil samples from pasture regions near Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to check for fallout from the nine nuclear bombs detonated at Maralinga in the Australian Outback and the Monte Bello Islands, off WA.
The group also sought to collect animal bones from the regions around where the nuclear explosions were carried out.
In the document, the professor says that the final phase of testing would be to determine if Strontium-90 was being absorbed by the Australian population – most likely through the food chain.
“We have to find out if Strontium-90 is entering the food chain and getting into humans,” says the document. The scientists then agreed to start testing the bones of dead Australian infants and children for radiation contamination.
Acting on these orders, hundreds of bones from the bodies of 21,830 dead babies, infants, children, teenagers and young adults across Australia were collected without the knowledge of their parents, according to Adelaide newspaper, The Advertiser.
In a 2001 report to then federal health minister, Michael Wooldridge, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency said it had detected varying levels of Strontium-90 in the bone ash samples it had collected from hospitals in Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne………..http://www.australiantimes.co.uk/news/uk-australian-news/british-nuclear-tests-australia-maralinga-radiation-contamination.htm
19 Aug 14 News that Australian officials have concluded a deal to sell uranium to India raises concerns the federal government may have violated its international nuclear non-proliferation obligations, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today.
“India’s nuclear industry has many continuing and unresolved safety and security problems,” said ACF’s nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney.
“In 2012 the Indian Auditor General released a damning report warning of ‘a Fukushima or Chernobyl-like disaster if the nuclear safety issue is not addressed’.
“ACF is concerned a uranium export deal with India would violate the 1995 nuclear non-proliferation (NPT) Review and Extension Conference commitment to require full-scope safeguards as a condition of supply, and Article IV of the Treaty of Rarotonga – the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty – which obliges signatories to not supply equipment or material to countries not under full scope safeguards. India is not under full scope safeguards.”
The former head of the national security advisory board in India, K. Subrahmanyam, said in 2005: ‘Given India’s uranium ore crunch and the need to build up our … nuclear deterrent arsenal as fast as possible, it is to India’s advantage to categorise as many power reactors as possible as civilian ones to be refuelled by imported uranium and conserve our native uranium fuel for weapons-grade plutonium production’.
“Clearly, Australian uranium would boost India’s nuclear weapons capacity,” Dave Sweeney said.
“Australian uranium in India will free up India’s uranium stockpiles to be used in its nuclear weapons program.
“Australian uranium is definitely fuelling radioactive waste and risk. It is also potentially fuelling the spread of nuclear weapons. Neither is desirable or acceptable.
“Before PM Tony Abbott inks a deal with New Delhi, the federal government must show that any bilateral agreement requires India to take measureable disarmament actions and does not breach international agreements to which Australia is a party.” For context and comment contact: Dave Sweeney, 0408 317 812