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British Nuclear Testing in Australia

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  • British Nuclear Testing in Australia

    The Maralinga Story

    Between 1955 and 1963, the British government conducted secret nuclear tests in Maralinga, an area in the west of South Australia. Seven major nuclear tests were performed, as well as hundreds of minor tests, many of which investigated the effects of fire or non-nuclear explosions on nuclear weapons.

    Operation Buffalo was the first major series of tests, spanning September and October 1956 and consisting of the detonation of four nuclear devices. The radioactive cloud from the first of these detonations, codenamed One Tree, reached a height of 11.43km, considerably higher than the expected 8.5km, and radioactivity was detected in South Australia, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, and Queensland. Operation Antler, conducted in 1957, tested a further three weapons.

    In 2001, Dr Sue Rabbit Roff, a researcher at Scotland’s University of Dundee, uncovered evidence which suggested that troops had been instructed to walk across the detonation sites within hours of detonation, and then return to these sites in the days following the detonation to expose themselves to radioactive materials. This was later confirmed by the British government, contradicting previous statements made that said than no humans were used in experiments related to nuclear weapons testing.

    As well as the major tests, more than 500 minor tests were conducted in absolute secrecy. These series of tests, codenamed Kitten, Tims, Rats and Vixen, involved testing several different properties of the weapons, including ways to make them more efficient and how radioactive weapons reacted to non-nuclear explosions.

    In 1967, Operation Brumby, a cleanup operation, was conducted by the UK Ministry of Defence, who attempted to dilute the concentration of plutonium in the soil by turning over and mixing the topsoil. The remains of the explosive devices, including fragments contaminated by plutonium, were buried in pits covered in concrete.

    In the 1980’s, both Australian servicemen and traditional Aboriginal occupants of the Maralinga site began to fall ill. After pressure from several lobby groups, the government held a royal commission, called the Royal Commission into British nuclear tests in Australia or the McClelland Royal Commission, after chairman James McClelland. This commission ultimately found that there were still significant radiation hazards around many of the original test sites, and ordered the set up of a Technical Assessment Group to assess the situation and better advise on options for the rehabilitation of the area.

    The Group’s plan was approved in 1991, and work took place on site between 1996 and 2000. Major works included the removal and burial of 350,000 cubic metres of soil and debris, as well as the vitrification of eleven debris pits. Much of the site is now considered safe for unrestricted access, while approximately 120 square kilometers is considered safe for access but not for permanent occupancy.

    The land where the testing had taken place was returned to the Maralinga Tjarutja, indigenous inhabitants of the Maralinga area, in December 2009. It is still questionable whether the land is actually fit for occupancy

    Of the 8000 Australian service personnel who worked in the nuclear testing program, around 2000 are still alive. Despite a Department of Veteran’s Affairs study which concluded that “only 2% of participants received more than the current Australian annual dose limit for occupationally exposed persons,” a 1999 study for the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association found that 30% of the nuclear test veterans had died, mostly in their fifties, from cancers or cancer-related illnesses.

    In addition, a 2007 New Zealand study found that New Zealand sailors who had been exposed to the nuclear testing had three times the level of genetic abnormality and notably higher rates of cancer than the general population. Following a British decision in 1988, the Australian Government negotiated compensation for a small group of Australian servicemen suffering from two specific conditions – leukemia (except lymphatic leukemia) and a rare blood disorder known as multiple myeloma.

  • #2
    Re: British Nuclear Testing in Australia

    Defence chiefs admit radiation risks From: The Australian August 04, 2008 12:00AM

    BRITISH defence chiefs have admitted servicemen were exposed to dangerous radiation levels during nuclear tests in Australia and the South Pacific in the 1950s.
    The admission, made after years of denials, features in papers filed with the High Court in London by Ministry of Defence lawyers.

    The Sunday Mirror newspaper said the court papers revealed that the ministry now believed that nuclear tests were responsible for the deaths of some British servicemen.


    British 'misled' Australia over atomic tests, court told Belinda Tasker in London From: Herald Sun January 22, 2009 12:00AM

    BRITAIN deliberately misled Australia about the effects of its nuclear tests at Maralinga and poisoned hundreds of servicemen, a court has heard.
    The claims were made on the first day of a long-awaited legal battle at London's High Court by more than 800 veterans who are demanding millions of dollars in compensation from Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD).

    The veterans from Britain, New Zealand and Fiji claim they were used as guinea pigs by the British government so it could study the effects of radiation fallout from the tests in Australia and the South Pacific between 1952 and 1958.

    Many have suffered a range of illnesses, from cancer to fertility problems, which they blame on the dangerous exposure to high levels of radiation.

    They argue that scientific evidence, including a study from New Zealand, has linked their health problems with their presence at the nuclear tests and that as a result they deserve compensation.

    While the MoD believes the veterans have left it too long to sue, the veterans want the High Court to decide whether they still have the right to pursue any compensation after half a century.

    Their barrister, Ben Browne QC, told judge David Foskett the British government never understood the risks involved with the nuclear blasts and deliberately misled Australian officials about their impact.

    In one case, the British tried to keep secret from Australian officials tests they carried out on animal thyroid glands after atomic blasts at Maralinga, South Australia, in 1956.

    A British government document written at the time suggested officials did not want the Australians linking the need for the thyroid tests to the nuclear blasts, even though the author described this as "fundamentally wrong".

    "We are in fact misleading our friends and endangering the goodwill that has been built up over so many years," the author wrote.

    Browne said Britain had deliberately misled Australia about the effects of the atomic tests.

    "What seems to have happened was they started to collect thyroid glands from animals ... thinking they would find nothing," he said.

    "They found the thyroid glands were contaminated but worse ... all that was kept from the Australian government."

    Browne said the failure by British officials to understand the risks of the atomic blasts, including how much radioactivity they would produce, led to the poisoning of hundreds of men.

    "There is no doubt that on occasions ... things did go seriously wrong," Browne said.

    "One group of men were so badly contaminated by the penetrating radiation that they were found, over days, to produce radioactive urine.

    "Another man was found to be `radioactive above the permissible limit despite four showers and a haircut'; indeed his level did not fall to within the permissible level until the following day.

    "So the government's own document shows that they did not really know what they were doing and that because of that men were poisoned with radiation."

    About 25,000 servicemen from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji took part in the British nuclear tests.

    They began in 1952 on the Montebello Islands off the north-west coast of West Australia before moving a year later to Emu Field in SA's Great Victoria Desert and Maralinga from 1956.

    Other explosions were carried out on Christmas Island (since renamed Kiritimati) and Malden Island in the Pacific Ocean between 1957 and 1958.

    The High Court case is expected to last between two and three weeks.

    Australian nuclear test veterans last year said they would monitor the British case amid plans to launch their own class action against the federal government.


    • #3
      Re: British Nuclear Testing in Australia

      No help for Australian British nuclear test veteranss IAN McPHEDRAN From: The Advertiser January 20, 2010 12:01AM

      THE Rudd Government has refused to help Australian veterans who are suing the British Government over radiation exposure during atomic bomb tests in the 1950s and 60s.
      A group of survivors and their families are joining a class action after 800 British nuclear veterans were granted permission to sue their own Ministry of Defence for compensation.

      Many of the soldiers, wearing just a hat, shorts and boots, were exposed to radioactive fallout and were later treated for radiation sickness. They were never told of the risks they faced.

      In 1993, the Keating Labor government accepted a £20 million ex-gratia compensation payment from Britain to settle all future Maralinga claims. That is about $109 million in today's money.

      A condition of that settlement was that any future compensation won by Australian veterans would be paid by the Australian Government.

      Not one dollar of the money has gone to the 8000 Australian soldiers who were ordered into the desert, although since 2006 many have had cancer treatments paid for by the Federal Government.

      Australian Nuclear Veterans Association president Ric Johnstone said he could not understand why successive governments continued to cover up the atomic test issue.

      The 76-year-old former RAAF airman, who spent 12 months at Maralinga in 1956 and was involved in four atomic tests, says he is alive only thanks to medical science.

      He says 25 of his mates from Maralinga are dead. "It is hard to explain the lack of care; even China and Russia look after their nuclear veterans," Mr Johnstone said.

      Veterans' Affairs Minister Alan Griffin said all the British money had been spent on site rehabilitation, but the compensation status of the veterans was under review.

      "I cannot provide any assurances as to whether there will be a change to the current compensation arrangements in place for Australian British nuclear test participants," Mr Griffin said yesterday.

      He ruled out the Federal Government helping the veterans with their legal case.

      Atomic bomb test veterans hit out at Commons silence over compensation Saturday, August 07, 2010, 07:15 Hull & East Riding Mail UK.

      ATOMIC test veterans from East Yorkshire have lashed out at a Government gag on MPs from asking questions about in parliament.

      The ex-servicemen witnessed nuclear blasts in Australia and Christmas Island in the Pacific in the 1950s and began having health problems when they returned home.

      They expected to claim damages from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after a High Court victory last year.

      But the MoD lodged an appeal earlier this year.

      Defence officials have since refused to take questions from MPs claiming the matter is sub judice and could jeopardise the court appeal hearing which resumes next month.

      Veterans in East Yorkshire – among 1,000 former servicemen and families engaged in a legal battle with the MoD – have opposed the move.

      Alderman Gordon Wilson, 71, who served with the Royal Engineers between 1957 and 1958, was five miles away from a nuclear blast in Maralinga.

      He said: "We've been told MPs can't raise our issues in a bill and it's just disgraceful.

      "It seems to me that the MoD can do what they like when they say that and elected members cannot raise the issue in the Commons.

      "Where else can we go?

      Mr Wilson, of Ings Road, east Hull, has been battling cancer for the past 10 years.

      "The MoD have spent about £16 million fighting us who have nothing.

      "It's mind boggling when they say they can't raise anything to settle with us," he said.

      A statement on the MoD website said: " MPs were free to ask questions but responses would be 'constrained by the confidential nature of discussions and the legal proceedings'.


      • #4
        Re: British Nuclear Testing in Australia

        Maralinga Atomic Bomb test Survivors

        In the 1950's Australia was the location for the testing of British nuclear weapons. Here two survivors, Yani Lester and Avon Hudson remember the tests. Yani was a young man living with his community in the desert and Avon wasd an Australian serviceman seconded to the programme.


        • #5
          Re: British Nuclear Testing in Australia

          Australia's atomic confessions


          • #6
            Re: British Nuclear Testing in Australia

            Silent Storm (Documentary) - 1 of 5

            Did fallout from nuclear testing contaminate Australia's milk supply? From 1957 to 1978, scientists secretly removed bone samples from over 21,000 dead Australians as they searched for evidence of the deadly poison, Strontium 90 - a by-product of nuclear testing. Silent Storm reveals the story behind this astonishing case of officially sanctioned 'body-snatching'. Set against a backdrop of the Cold War, the saga follows celebrated scientist, Hedley Marston, as he attempts to blow the whistle on radioactive contamination and challenge official claims that British atomic tests posed no threat to the Australian people. Marston's findings are not only disputed, he is targeted as 'a scientist of counter-espionage interest'. Now, questions are being raised about the health repercussions for generations of Australians.

            Silent Storm (Documentary) - 2 of 5


            • #7
              Re: British Nuclear Testing in Australia

              Silent Storm (Documentary) - 3 of 5

              Silent Storm (Documentary) - 4 of 5


              • #8
                Re: British Nuclear Testing in Australia

                Silent Storm (Documentary) - 5 of 5


                Did fallout from nuclear testing contaminate Australia's milk supply?

                From 1957 to 1978, scientists secretly removed bone samples from over 21,000 dead Australians as they searched for evidence of the deadly poison, Strontium 90 - a by-product of nuclear testing. Silent Storm reveals the story behind this astonishing case of officially sanctioned 'body-snatching'. Set against a backdrop of the Cold War, the saga follows celebrated scientist, Hedley Marston, as he attempts to blow the whistle on radioactive contamination and challenge official claims that British atomic tests posed no threat to the Australian people. Marston's findings are not only disputed, he is targeted as 'a scientist of counter-espionage interest'. Now, questions are being raised about the health repercussions for generations of Australians.

                Silent Storm was partly based on Roger Cross's 2001 book Fallout - Hedley Marston and the British Bomb Tests in Australia. But writer/director Peter Butt (Who Killed Dr Bogle & Mrs Chandler) also independently researched hundreds of previously classified documents, private letters and ASIO files as well as linking the 'body snatching' episode in the film to the Marston story.

                As Butt comments,

                "Hedley Marston really was one of Australia's first whistleblowers. I think it's rare for a scientist to come out and whistle blow on an issue that impacts upon the public in such a way. I don't think it would happen again in the same way. It was the McCarthy era in America, we had the Petrov Affair, scientists had dossiers on them, everyone was watching everyone else. Back then there wasn't even such a word. I'm not saying they (whistleblowers) are not brave today, but Hedley was very brave at the time."

                Just before Silent Storm's television release it was revealed in the Bulletin magazine (September 1, 2004) and followed in the European press that Tony Blair had lived in Adelaide during the period of the British Tests in Australia. Blair was three when the British detonated their third atomic device in the Maralinga desert region on 11 October, 1956 and an unanticipated wind change blew the radioactive cloud toward Adelaide.

                British medical researcher and toxicologist Dick van Steenis told the Bulletin that the death of Mr Blair's mother from thyroid cancer could have been caused by the family's exposure to the radioactive fallout. He said:

                "Adelaide in South Australia was plastered with radioactive fallout from 11 to 16 October, 1956. As a youngster in Adelaide drinking local milk, Tony Blair is very likely to be at risk of bone cancer himself."

                Blair's mother, Hazel Blair, died 19 years after the blast following a long battle with thyroid cancer.

                Silent Storm screened at many International Festivals and was nominated for four AFI awards. It was winner of Earth Vision Grand Prize (Best Film) at the Tokyo Global Environmental Film Festival and the International Gold Panda Awards for Documentary at the Sichuan TV Festival.



                • #9
                  Re: British Nuclear Testing in Australia

                  Woomera: Nuclear danger zone

                  One-eighth of SA is a no-go zone; a place of secret military testing, nuclear explosions and a heck of a lot of sheep.

                  When areas in the west of the WPA – now known as part of the Maralinga Tjarutja lands – were identified in the 1950s as a top spot for the British to do their next round of nuclear bomb testing, nobody checked if that was all right with the locals. In fact, many Aboriginals were fortunate to be found and moved out of the area before the nine full-scale blasts – some of which were as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. “There was one person in charge of moving people out of an area the size of some European countries,” Andrew says.

                  Sitting in the salmon-coloured dust outside the locked gates of Maralinga – the area where seven of the atomic blasts occurred – Hughie Windlass, community elder and chairperson of the Oak Valley Council, vividly remembers Army trucks moving Aboriginals out of the area before the nuclear testing. He was in his mid-20s. “In those days they don’t care about blackfellas. They say ‘get the hell out of it’.” Hughie says most of his people were moved to missions in sa or wa. “But people were still there, hidden out of the way. They were still there. I remember, I seen it, with my own eyes.” Hughie slows his speech and gestures gently with his hands. “Place here. A few people been laying out here. A fire here. Sleep beside. There were no blankets to keep you warm in those days. I seen the place.”

                  Hughie remembers after the blasts they caught kangaroos that they couldn’t eat because they were yellow inside. His people then avoided the Maralinga area. “We don’t live around it – we go through it,” he says, indicating the area behind him. “We don’t hang around there.”

                  Read more:

                  a good article worth reading as it fits in with the theme of this thread


                  • #10
                    Re: British Nuclear Testing in Australia


                    Are there any charities set up for these victims and their families?


                    • #11
                      Re: British Nuclear Testing in Australia

                      Originally posted by Kelly d View Post

                      Are there any charities set up for these victims and their families?

                      I believe the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association (UK) have some scheme in operation .....there are some details on their website

                      The main problems are both the British and Australian governments.......they have been sweeping the issue under the carpet for many spending $millions in legal defence to avoid any responsibility...............there is a court case against the MOD (Ministry of Defence) under way in the UK at present, where they are once again trying to avoid the issue (the MOD) between the respective governments and civil serpents it is quite a vexing issue.


                      Here is some old research to give you some background...............

                      Medical Research
                      Published Data
                      Mortality and Cancer Incidence 1952-1998 in UK Participants in the UK Atmospheric Nuclear Weapons Tests and Experimental Programme
                      National Radiological Protection Board (February 2003)

                      Non-technical summary
                      The full document (PDF, 764 KB, 137 pages)

                      Mortality and Morbidity of Members of the British Nuclear Tests Veterans Association and the New Zealand Nuclear Tests Veterans Association and their Families
                      in Medicine, Conflict and Survival (Volume 15, Supplement 1, July-September 1999)



                      • #12
                        Re: British Nuclear Testing in Australia

                        Aussies 'could miss-out' on radiation compo
                        Source: ABC News
                        Published: Saturday, June 6, 2009 7:19 AEST
                        Expires: Friday, September 4, 2009 7:19 AEST

                        Around 1,000 British servicemen who took part in atomic tests in the 1950s have won the right to sue the UK Government for health problems they blame on nuclear radiation, but there is concern that any flow-on will take too long for Australian survivors to benefit.

                        Just go to the link to watch the short (1.30) ABV news video

                        The court case mentioned above which brought smiles to their faces is now could result in nothing happening.


                        • #13
                          Re: British Nuclear Testing in Australia

                          Thanks Gordon,

                          I know nuclear poisoning is very serious. I do wish all the victims the best outcome possible. We can rant and rave but the brass tax will be the Government taking responsibility. We all know how that goes.....


                          • #14
                            Re: British Nuclear Testing in Australia

                            This article does not refer to the core title of this thread but it serves to illustrate the various governmental attitudes and non-action when radiation induced illnesses rear their respective ugly heads.

                            .................................................. .................................................. .

                            Former Joliet chemical workers still waiting to be paid after exposure to high levels of radiation
                            source Chicago Tribune.

                            Fund created a decade ago to compensate Blockson Chemical employees, survivors

                            Four years ago, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama called them "veterans of the Cold War" and pledged to help them receive compensation.

                            But today, many former workers at Blockson Chemical Co. in Joliet and their survivors still have not been paid from a fund created in 2000 to make amends for exposing the workers to high levels of radiation without telling them or providing adequate protection.

                            Among them is Phyllis Keca, 84, whose husband, John, thought he was manufacturing laundry detergents during his 23 years working at Blockson. He wore only a paper mask while handling tanks that, unknown to him, were filled with uranium and radium to be used in the production of nuclear weapons.

                            He was "always sick," his wife said, and would come home covered in dust that she now believes was toxic and contributed to his death in 1996 from colon cancer at age 80.

                            "It's deceitful and it's deceiving because my husband went through so much," said Keca, who lives in Joliet just a few miles from where her husband once worked. "They made us feel like they were promising us something and then reneged."

                            That could change in the coming weeks, however. By early September, federal officials are expected to decide on a special petition filed on behalf of former Blockson Chemical workers and their survivors who not only struggled with radiation-induced cancer but also with a complex federal bureaucracy.

                            The petition would make it easier for Blockson employees to file claims by eliminating the requirement that they prove their illnesses were radiation-related.

                            "These are situations involving people who have waited for years to get a fair shake by the system, and we want to do the best we can to make sure they get that," said Fred Blosser, a spokesman for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which helps administer the program.

                            At stake are claims filed on behalf of former Blockson Chemical workers who helped build atomic weapons at the facility from March 1, 1951, to June 30, 1960.

                            Blockson employees were among more than 600,000 industrial workers nationwide who helped build and test nuclear weapons for the federal government during and after World War II.

                            In 2000, Congress established a fund to give $150,000 plus medical benefits to workers who got certain cancers caused by handling radioactive materials. In cases where the workers had died, the money would be paid to their survivors.

                            But the pace of payouts has been slow and the burden of proof has been high. Of 363 claims filed on behalf of Blockson workers or their relatives, 102 have been paid thus far, according to Department of Labor statistics.

                            Of 5,170 claims filed on behalf of former workers at 29 eligible facilities in Illinois, 1,250 have been paid by the fund, known as the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.

                            Under the petition filed on behalf of Blockson employees, former workers need a doctor's report verifying they had one of several specific types of cancers — including colon cancer — but they do not need to prove that the illness was radiation-related.

                            That would allow petitioners to circumvent the time-consuming process known as "dose reconstruction" — a complex formula used by federal officials in most compensation cases, including many Blockson claims, to estimate the type and level of radiation exposure to each of the workers' organs affected by cancer.

                            Former Blockson workers have argued that dose reconstruction is impossible because neither the government nor the chemical company adequately monitored the facility for radiation levels.

                            Dose reconstruction is largely why former workers have become frustrated by the compensation program, said Dennis J. Kellogg, a Chicago attorney who represented more than 20 Blockson workers.

                            "I think the intention (of the compensation program) was great, but the bureaucracy took over and the intent got buried in the details," he said.

                            In addition, many former workers and their families have been kept in the dark about the status of their claims, according to a Government Accountability Office report released in March.

                            "As a result of the many years of secrecy, the lack of information, and the years of denial that their conditions were related to exposure, many claimants find it difficult today to trust that the federal government is fairly evaluating their claims," the report said.

                            In the 1950s, the nation's nuclear program was kept top-secret because of national security concerns. Workers were given little, if any, information about the radioactive materials they handled and its potential hazards.

                            After the fund was established, Phyllis Keca filed a claim, beginning a nine-year correspondence with the federal government that she keeps in a 4-inch-thick binder. After each letter she sent, the government responded with a letter requesting more health records from when her husband worked at Blockson, she said.

                            "Trying to go back that far to get any kind of information is hopeless," Keca said. "That's what they want you to do. They want you to try to get something that is hopeless."

                            In 2006, then-Sen. Obama held a meeting in Naperville with former Blockson workers and their families to hear their frustrations and publicly urge the federal advisory board deciding their petition to expedite the process.

                            "It's important, from my perspective, to light a fire under (the board) and let them know we expect them to provide a just decision and do it quickly," Obama said at the time.

                            Last year, after becoming president, Obama appointed four new members to the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health. In July, the board broke its long deadlock on the Blockson petition and recommended its approval to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. If approved by the secretary, former Blockson workers or their survivors could receive compensation by this fall, federal officials say.

                            There are 27 other sites where former workers have filed petitions that are still pending.

                            "We expect a significant number of Blockson workers or their survivors to be able to now get compensation once the petition is fully approved," said James Melius, chairman of the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health.

                            Tony D'Atri, 86, worked at Blockson from 1947 to 1968 and for a short time at Argonne National Laboratory, where federal officials say employees were at risk of beryllium exposure.

                            D'Atri later lost a 12-inch section of his colon to cancer. He walks with a cane around his small house in Elwood, just a few miles south of the former Blockson plant. He receives an annual colonoscopy. His medical bills have been paid either out of pocket or through his insurance company, he said.

                            D'Atri said his claim for compensation has been evaluated three times. The last evaluation determined he was just shy of the amount of radiation exposure needed to receive payment, he said.

                            If he gets paid by the federal government, he will turn over the money to his kids because he is too old and frail to use it himself, he said.

                            "I don't care so much about the money," D'Atri said. "I just want to be recognized for what I did."

                            After 10 years of waiting, Keca is skeptical that the federal government will finally pay her. But if the money does arrive, "it would make life a little more pleasant," she said.

                            "I could stop counting pennies," she said.




                            • #15
                              Re: British Nuclear Testing in Australia

                              Explosive new images unearthed of British nuclear bomb testing

                              Article location: Daily Mail Newspaper
                              By Daily Mail Reporter
                              Last updated at 2:57 PM on 14th August 2010

                              Never-before-seen images of nuclear tests undertaken in Australia in the 1950s have been revealed.

                              They were taken by a Tyneside member of the RAF and amateur photographer John Alfred Milsom.

                              The striking images have been stored for decades among the possessions of the late Sgt Milsom, who witnessed the moment the bombs were detonated.

                              To view the photographs and read the remainder of the article just go to the following link.....