Radiation Poisoning from South Australian Nuclear Tests

By Paul Langley

From 1957 to 1978 the Australian Government carried out dissections on the bodies of people
who had died of illness or accident. These dissections were carried out to monitor the amount
of Strontium 90, a radioactive element, absorbed by Australians. Strontium 90 was a
component of the fallout deposited from nuclear tests conducted in Australia, the Pacific and
China. Permission to carry out the dissections was not sought from relatives. The tests were
carried out by the Federal Health Department, and test subjects included babies. Evidence of
this activity was released in 1981 by the NSW Health Commission. The Australian Radiation
Laboratory paid the costs of bone sample removal and transport to Melbourne The secret
operation involved hospitals in Brisbane, Perth, Sydney. Melbourne and Adelaide. (Source:
Atomic Fallout, March/June 1992 page 11 )

Data Gathering and Use

From 1965 to the present time, the South Australian Government carried out monitoring of
all reservoirs for nuclear fallout. The graphs created from the data are contained in an earlier
report (The Monitoring of the Radiological Contamination of SA Drinking Water, by
P. Langley). This data has not received wide publicity. Dr Helen Caldicott and others have
however spoken on this theme over a period of many years. Results of British water
catchment monitoring of South Australian water, carried out prior to 1965, remains
unavailable to Australians. SA Water Corp confirms that Australian radiological monitoring
commenced only in 1965 – after the cessation of nuclear weapons testing by the UK in
Australia. Although the SA Government does not possess records earlier than 1965, involved exservicemen state that British monitoring of water commenced in the 1950s. The records of
this early monitoring are unavailable in Australia.

As British nuclear weapons testing in Australia commenced in the early l950s, this data is of
great importance. Given that the Nuclear ExServicemens’ Associations have initiated action
against Britain via the European Union Court of Human Rights, it may be productive if
Australians petition the court to force Britain to release all Australian radiological data to
Australian Nuclear Veterans and hence to the general public. Australians who retain
citizenship to member nations of the European Union especially are entitled to petition the
EU. (Since the enabling of the Maastricht Treaty 1992, all such citizens are entitled to access
to the EU court of Human Rights. As the release of British held documents impact on the
human rights of Citizens of Europe living in Australia, petitions to the court may be

In 1956, a senior biologist employed by the CSIRO began a biological survey into the effects
of atomic weapons testing in Australia. His name was Dr Hedley Marston. He and his team
collected the thyroid glands from cattle and sheep in areas of Australia likely to have been
contaminated by atomic fallout clouds. He concluded that extensive areas of Australia had
been contaminated, including densely populated areas in a band 1,600 miles wide right across
the continent. He found that Adelaide and the country surrounding it had been contaminated.
He feared that the radioisotope Strontium 90, released by atomic bomb testing, had entered
the Australian food chain. He told the CSIRO that his findings indicated that the official
version of events was false. He stated that either monitoring instruments were faulty or
someone was lying. Dr Marston passed away shortly after making his report.

Source Complete Report From

The Australian Nuclear Veterans Association (ANVA):

The Australian Nuclear Veterans Association (ANVA) is a voluntary group of ex-service personnel and their families committed to the ongoing support of all survivors of nuclear weapons testing, warfare, and accidents. Due to our experiences and suffering we seek to end the testing, proliferation and use of nuclear weapons for the safety of all living beings on this planet.

The purpose of this page is to provide interested parties with information on the British nuclear tests in Australia. This has been compiled from a number of sources including The Report of the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia (referred to as the McClelland Royal Commission). Testimonies of witnesses and survivors are also included.

It is hoped through providing this information, survivors of nuclear exposure and their families are able to share their experiences. For those who have not experienced these situations first hand, this page attempts to provide an understanding of the trauma and health effects associated with nuclear weaponry, providing a clear demonstration of why nuclear weaponry should be abandoned.

This page is dedicated to the veterans, indigenous peoples, civilians and children worldwide who have suffered from the development and use of nuclear weapons. Those who have experienced the power and effects of nuclear weapons know that there is no safe way to control them.

Recent media:

Britain ‘mislead’ Australia over Maralinga atomic tests

Brits ‘dumped n-waste at sea’ :

NUCLEAR waste ordered to be removed from the South Australian desert after atomic tests in the 1950s may have been dumped at sea rather than shipped to the UK…

Britain agreed to secretly remove 500g of plutonium and about 20kg of radioactive waste intermingled with debris on condition its final resting place was never publicly revealed and that Australia never again made a clean-up request.

Fallout at Maralinga – BBC Radio 4 :

For half a century, the Tjarutja aboriginal people of Maralinga have waited to get to get their land back. The land is now said by the Australian government to be clean and ready for hand-back – sometime this year. Professor John Keane explores the history of British atomic tests at Maralinga from 1956 to 1963. He finds out how and why the British and Australian governments together confiscated the sacred lands of the Tjarutja people and examines how far aboriginal people, servicemen and the desert environment were put at risk.


Source: http://www.australianmap.net/map/nuclear.gif

8 Comments on "Radiation Poisoning from South Australian Nuclear Tests"

  1. Hi. I’d like to point out that the above excerpt from my e book was authored in the early 1990s.

    Id also like to point out that statement by former Prime Minister Howard in early 2006 regarding the siting of nuclear power reactors in Australia occurred at the same time as the then Minister of Veterans Affairs stated by press release that the excess cancers suffered by Australian Nuclear Veterans were not related to radiation exposure.

    Even though the cancers were radiogenic.

    It was petrol you see, that caused the cancers, according to the University of Adelaide.

    So reactors dont vent harmful hot particles? Pigs. See the CDC toxicological profile for Strontium 90 which includes the monitoring data for emissions from US power reactors.

    So the veterans were pressed ganged again into acting as guinea pigs.
    This time to show through a phony health survey that radiation is safe.

    The world today is a town called Hiroshima. This is no fallout they said.

  2. As a child at school at the time we were given milk each morning to make sure we all got a dose of rads so they could see if we could stand a future atomic war. A great big test on the Australian people, all those sneaky bastards should be hung. How much cancer did they cause?

  3. Many of us who live in the outback of South Australia are aware of the cancers still happening since Maralinga.

    Is this why we aren’t allowed to know the past and current radon tests?

    We too are guinea pigs and information which is withheld, prevents us from suing this government for deliberate and ongoing genocide on all inhabitants of the South Australian desert.

    How can we test our water for radon?

  4. Good question, who are you talking about suing? The corporation of South Australia? Anyway, the tests were in no mans land, the UN-incorporated part of that part of Australia, trying not to call it ‘South Austrlaia’ , look at the mess SAINC is in with Mintabie, they have no jurisdiction there, but they are there, some day they said ….they would get caught with their dacks down …ha ha…Rankine must be spewing!

  5. i liked this article. just wondering, how many people get radiation poisoning?

  6. Get a copy of the 2004 video Silent Storm, recently shown on ABCTV. The secrecy of those tests is being repeated today in the obfuscation of facts regarding the dangers of nuclear energy – an the unconscionable use of DU in war in Bosnia and Iraq.

  7. why was maralinga chosen for nuclear testing in the first place?

  8. Minnie, Len Beddell marked out the woomera zone in the 1940’s, I believe Australians were being used as human guinea pigs as were people all over the world, to see how they stand up to doses of strontium 90 and other fallout products. Its hard to believe, but there are people who little regard for human life and would put science and the $ ahead of humanity, just look at the horror mix of chemicals in OZ food and therapeutic goods and you can see that the real genicide is called mass consumerism and we are only just waking up to have foul it is.

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