Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

“Project Sunshine” tested dead babies for radioactive fallout

Only baby bones used in nuke tests https://www.news24.com/xArchive/Archive/Only-baby-bones-used-in-nuke-tests-20010607 2001-06-0 Sydney, Australia – Bone samples from dead babies were shipped to the United States and Britain to be tested for radioactive fallout as part of an Australian government programme, officials said on Thursday.

The government’s Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) said from 1957 to 1978 Australia operated a programme to measure levels of “strontium 90” radioactive fallout in humans by testing corpses. Nuclear weapons tests were conducted in Australia and there was concern about radioactive fallout building up in the atmosphere.

In the early years of the study, known as Project Sunshine, hundreds of human bone samples from corpses of babies, children and adults aged up to 40 years were reduced to ash and sent to the United States and Britain for tests on radioactivity levels. Facilities were later constructed for the tests to be carried out in Australia.

ARPANSA chief executive officer Dr. John Loy said on Thursday that it was unlikely scientists sought consent to do the tests from relatives of the deceased.

Loy said the studies were “part of an overall programme to measure the impact on Australians of atmospheric nuclear testing throughout the world.”

“In the 1950s and 60s there were hundreds of nuclear explosions throughout the world and this led to contamination,” Loy told The Associated Press. “There were measurements of activity in water, air, food and … bone tissue,” he said.

Loy said human bone absorbs strontium 90 from the atmosphere. “So it was important to get a handle on what sort of exposure was resulting from these tests,” he added.

Project Sunshine was not kept secret by the government and reports on the study were published in scientific journals, Loy said.

Interest in the project was renewed this month by media reports that the bodies of stillborn babies from Britain and Australia were also used in the research.

The reports quoted documents from a meeting of the project’s scientists in 1955, during which project leader Dr Willard Libby said the supply of stillborn babies had been “cut off”.

“If anyone knows how to do a good job of body snatching, they will really be serving their country,” said Libby, a Nobel Prize laureate, according to The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

State governments across Australia have announced that they will hold inquiries into the reported export of stillborn babies for nuclear testing.

Loy said on Thursday that ARPANSA has “no evidence whatsoever” that stillborn babies’ bodies were used in tests, but only of bones.

“Conceivably it happened in some other way, I have no idea, but certainly we have no indication that it did happen,” he said.

Loy welcomed the inquiries as a chance to set standards for future nuclear testing. Currently, nuclear tests in Australia focus on radioactivity in plants, food and air only, he said.

“It’s a legacy of a bad time of nuclear testing in the atmosphere and I guess we’ve got to learn from that and the need to make sure that if these programmes are needed they are done with people’s proper consent,” Loy said.

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November 17, 2018 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, weapons and war

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