Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s nuclear weapons plan, and the connection with NSW nuclear reactor

On Nov. 2, 1956, Australia’s Defense Committee formally recommended the acquisition of kiloton-range tactical nuclear weapons.

In 1969, the government announced plans to construct a 500-megawatt nuclear reactor at Jervis Bay in New South Wales.

The intention was clear — this reactor was to support a nuclear weapons program. The reactor project pushed ahead and preliminary site work commenced.

Atomic-Bomb-SmRevealed: Australia’s Failed Bid for Nuclear WeaponsChris Walsh, The text-from-the-archivesNational Interest 16 Sept 15, At 9:00 in the morning on Oct. 3, 1952, a 25-kiloton nuclear explosion vaporized the retired British frigate HMS Plym off Australia’s remote western coast. The Operation Hurricane detonation in the Monte Bello Islands was a seminal moment for Britain and marked its return to the club of great powers.

But for Australia, these tests and others served a murkier purpose – as important and deliberate steps toward Australia’s own acquisition of nuclear weapons. It was in the tense Cold War environment of the late 1950s and early 1960s that these aspirations moved beyond talk and into concrete action.

By the time the Hurricane detonation took place, Australia was already experienced in weapons of mass destruction. From 1943 and in the shadow of a possible Japanese invasion, Australia built extensive stocks of chemical weapons and delivery systems…….

Australia — with its vast coastlines and deserts — emerged as a key player in Britain’s nuclear strategy.

When Britain approached Australia to host nuclear tests, a sympathetic government led by Prime Minister Robert Menzies readily agreed. While Menzies — an Anglophile — focused on his relationship with the United Kingdom, others saw this as an opportunity for Australia to buy membership into the nuclear club.

But they would be disappointed. Throughout Britain’s early testing program and even after the subsequent construction of the Maralinga testing site, Australia did not gain access to the nuclear crown jewels. Between 1956 and 1963, Britain detonated seven weapons in the South Australian desert and in all cases kept Australian scientists at a respectful distance.

The same cannot be said for nuclear delivery systems. In 1949, Britain and Australia established a joint weapons testing facility at Woomera where Britain tested technology such as the abortive Blue Streak missile. Australia was actively involved in the development of these technologies.

Its taste for missiles and other weapons grew…….

On Nov. 2, 1956, Australia’s Defense Committee formally recommended the acquisition of kiloton-range tactical nuclear weapons. They quickly ascertained that direct acquisition of weapons from the United Kingdom or at least access to British weapons was the most realistic option. The United States was out of the question. Far-sighted U.S. policy makers had already implemented restrictions on the export of nuclear weapons knowledge.

It was here that that nuclear politics and policy intersected. Prime Minister Menzies was happy to support his defense chiefs, but had no real passion for obtaining nuclear weapons. During the next two years, Australia raised the idea with Britain at defense, diplomatic and political levels.

While British leaders were initially reluctant, they began to warm to the idea. They believed Australia could be a lucrative customer in the arms business — particularly for airborne delivery systems………

When Britain’s secret plans to store the weapons in Singapore were made known to Australia, the opportunity to advance Canberra’s own nuclear cause was not lost on advocates……….

While studies progressed through 1965-1968, the political environment changed markedly. Harold Holt replaced Menzies as prime minister, and suddenly died. John Gorton followed Holt. Gorton was a former World War II pilot and a strong advocate for Australian nuclear capability.

But time was running out.

In the background, discussions about international agreement in the form of a Non-Proliferation Treaty gained strength. The window for Australia to develop an indigenous nuclear capability was closing.

In 1969, the government announced plans to construct a 500-megawatt nuclear reactor at Jervis Bay in New South Wales.

The intention was clear — this reactor was to support a nuclear weapons program. The reactor project pushed ahead and preliminary site work commenced. But politics and circumstances would intervene once again. Pressure grew on Australia to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it eventually did in March 1970 after much bureaucratic hand wringing.

Australia held off on ratifying the treaty. But in 1972, the conservative Gorton government was swept from power and replaced. Gough Whitlam, a longtime advocate of arms control, wasted no time ratifying the NPT and abandoning the Jervis Bay reactor. In a heartbeat, the 40-year quest for Australian nuclear capability was over……..http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/revealed-australias-failed-bid-nuclear-weapons-13857

Advertisements

December 12, 2015 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, reference, weapons and war

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: