Archive for the ‘AUSTRALIA’ Category

Damning refutation of Australian Government plan to join the Framework Agreement for Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems

May 18, 2017

Today, I am taking the unusual step of publishing an entire submission. That’s because it is so good.  The nuclear lobby pulled a swifty on Australians, by having government and media very quietly do what is sure to be a “rubber stamp” job on Australia joining up to the Framework Agreement for Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems.

They allowed a very short time for submissions to the Parliamentary Inquiry. The nuke lobby must have been in the know, as they put in 11, whereas there were only 3, (one mine) critical of the plan.

Fortunately the critical ones contain compelling information. So, here, in full, is the:

Submission from Friends of the Earth Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation .

Contacts:

• Jim Green (Friends of the Earth, Australia) jim.green@foe.org.au, 0417 318 368

• Dave Sweeney (Australian Conservation Foundation) dave.sweeney@acf.org.au, 0408 317 812

Contents

1. Introduction and Response to National Interest Analysis

2. Generation IV Reactor Concepts ‒ Introduction

3. Decades Away

4. Purported Benefits

5. French Government’s IRSN Report

6. US Government Accountability Office Report

7. The Slow Death of Fast Reactors

8. Integral Fast Reactors

9. Thorium 10. Small Modular Reactors 11. Fusion Scientist Debunks Fusion (more…)

Camecco’s uranium deposits in Western Australia

May 18, 2017

The Global Uranium Industry & Cameco’s Troubled History May 2017 Jim Green − Friends of the Earth, Australia http://tinyurl.com/cameco-may-2017

“…….. Kintyre (70% Cameco / 30% Mitsubishi) The Martu Aboriginal people have fought against this proposed uranium mine since the 1980s. The deposit sits between two branches of a creek called Yantikutji which is connected to a complex network of surface and groundwater systems. It is also in an area that was cut out of the Karlamilyi National Park, WA’s biggest National Park. Kintyre is home to 28 rare, endangered and threatened species. The project would include an open pit 1.5 km long, 1.5 km wide, it would use 3.5 million litres of water a day and leave behind 7.2 million tonnes of radioactive mine waste over the life of the project.

In June 2016, Martu Traditional Owners led a 140 km, week-long walk to protest against Cameco’s proposed uranium mine at Kintyre. Aboriginal Traditional Owners are concerned the project will affect their water supplies as well as 28 threatened species in the Karlamilyi National Park.

Joining the protest walk was Anohni, the Academy Award-nominated musician from Antony and the Johnsons. She said: “It’s a huge landscape – it’s a really majestic place. It’s really hard to put a finger on it but there’s a sense of presence and integrity and patience, dignity and perseverance and intense intuitive wisdom that this particular community of people have. There is almost an unbroken connection to the land – they haven’t been radically disrupted. They are very impressive people – it’s humbling to be around these women. In many regards, I think the guys who run Cameco are desolate souls, desolate souls with no home, with no connection to land, with no connection to country.” www.ccwa.org.au/kintyre

Yeelirrie (100% Cameco) Yeelirrie in the local Wongutha Aboriginal language means ‘place of death’. The local community has fought against mining at Yeelirrie for over 40 years. There was a trial mine in the 1970s which was poorly managed: the site was abandoned, unfenced and unsigned with a shallow open pit and tailings left behind. The project would include a 9 km long, 1 km wide open pit, it would use 8.7 million litres of water a day and leave behind 36 million tonnes of radioactive mine waste over the life of the mine. There are many cultural heritage sites under threat from this proposal. The project was rejected by the Western Australian Environmental Protection Agency in 2016 because of the threat that 11 species of underground microfauna would become extinct. The WA Environment Minister ignored the EPA advice and approved the project anyway. www.ccwa.org.au/yeelirrie

Australian Prime Minister Menzies let Britain exploit Australia

May 18, 2017

Australian tolerance of the British and their obsessive secrecy may be explained by the deference and loyalty to the ‘motherland’. Prime Minister Menzies identified so strongly with Britain that he considered British national interest as Australia’s national interest.

Another factor which underlay Australian deference during the course of the testing program was the role of Sir Ernest Titterton.

The full legal and political implications of the testing program would take decades to emerge. The secrecy which surrounded the British testing program and the remoteness of the tests from major population centres meant that public opposition to the tests and awareness of the risks involved grew very slowly.

Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector / P N Grabosky
Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989 

“…..Admittedly, in the 1950s knowledge of radiation hazards was not as advanced as it is today. At the time it was not generally recognised that small doses of low level radiation might increase the risk of cancer years later. But even in the light of knowledge of the time, the information on which Menzies based his decisions was seriously deficient.

There seems little doubt that the secrecy in which the entire testing program was cloaked served British rather than Australian interests.From the outset, the British were under pressure to demonstrate to the Americans that they were able to keep secrets at all. Full disclosure of the hazards and potential costs to Australia entailed in the testing program were out of the question. Information passed to Australian officials was kept to the minimum necessary to facilitate their assistance in the conduct of the testing program. The use of plutonium in the minor trials was not disclosed.

Australian tolerance of the British and their obsessive secrecy may be explained by the deference and loyalty to the ‘motherland’. Prime Minister Menzies identified so strongly with Britain that he considered British national interest as Australia’s national interest. Although he was later to seek assurances that hazards inherent in the testing program would be minimal and that appropriate safeguards would protect the Australian public, his enduring faith in the British was to blunt his critical faculties.

It is perhaps illustrative that on the occasions chosen by Australian authorities to assert themselves on matters of policy, the issues of concern were purely symbolic. The Antler series of tests was renamed, after Australians objected to the proposed name ‘Volcano’ (Milliken 1986, p. 226). On another occasion, a detonation scheduled for a Sunday was postponed in deference to Australian sensibilities (Australia 1985, p. 287).

Another factor which underlay Australian deference during the course of the testing program was the role of Sir Ernest Titterton. A British physicist, Titterton had worked in the United States on the Manhattan Project, which developed the first nuclear weapon.

After the war, he held a position at the British Atomic Energy Research Establishment, and in 1950 he was appointed to the Chair of Nuclear Physics at the Australian National University. Among Titterton’s earliest tasks in Australia was that of an adviser to the British scientific team at the first Monte Bello tests. In 1956, the Australian government established an Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee (AWTSC) responsible for monitoring the British testing program to ensure that the safety of the Australian environment and population were not jeopardised. To this end, it was to review British test proposals, provide expert advice to the Australian government, and to monitor the outcome of tests. Titterton was a foundation member of the Committee and later, its Chairman.

While Menzies had envisaged that the Committee would act as an independent, objective body, evidence suggests that it was more sensitive to the needs of the British testing program than to its Australian constituents.

Members tended to be drawn from the nuclear weapons fraternity, as was Titterton; from the Defence establishment, from the Commonwealth Department of Supply, from the Commonwealth X-Ray and Radium Laboratory, and from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Although the expertise of these individuals is beyond dispute, one wonders if they may have been too closely identified with the ‘atomic establishment’ to provide independent critical advice. The nuclear weapons fraternity have often been criticised as a rather cavalier lot; no less a person than General Leslie Groves, who headed the Manhattan Project which developed the first atomic bomb, has been quoted as having said ‘Radiation death is a very pleasant way to die’ (Ball 1986, p. 8). In retrospect, the Australian safety committee suffered from the absence of biologists and environmental scientists in its ranks.

The plight of Aborigines in the vicinity of the prohibited zone was in many respects a reflection of their status in Australia at the time. In a revealing statement to the Royal Commission, Sir Ernest Titterton was quoted as having said that if Aboriginal people objected to the tests they could vote the government out (Australia 1985, p. 121). It is naive to suggest that such a small disadvantaged minority might wield electoral influence; doubly so since Aboriginal people were denied full voting rights at the time of the tests, and indeed, were even excluded from census enumeration until 1967. There is no dearth of evidence of the low regard in which Aborigines were held at the time. The chief scientist of the Department of Supply, a British expatriate, criticised an officer whom he regarded as overly concerned with Aboriginal welfare for ‘placing the affairs of a handful of natives above those of the British Commonwealth of Nations’ (Australia 1985, p. 309).

Because of their unique lifestyle, and often their lack of clothing, footwear and permanent shelter, Aboriginal residents in remote parts of Australia were particularly vulnerable to radiation. Although this was recognised and acted upon later in the testing program, the AWTSC was initially ignorant of or unconcerned with these risks.

Disinformation, whether deliberate or unintentional, was all too common during the testing programs. In order to provide accurate meteorological data for the weapons tests, a small weather station was constructed across the Western Australian border from Maralinga. The Australian Minister of Supply at the time, Howard Beale, quite falsely claimed that it was sited very carefully away from Aboriginal watering places (Australia 1985, p. 373). In fact, the site was chosen without seeking the advice of the native patrol officer. Moreover, the roads which were built to provide access to the weather station contradicted the assurances made by the government in 1947 that no roads would encroach upon the Aboriginal reserve.

In the aftermath of the second Monte Bello tests in 1956, the AWTSC filed a reassuring report which failed to refer to complications with the tests and to levels of fallout on the mainland which were higher than expected (Australia 1985, pp. 257-9).

In 1960, the British advised the AWTSC that ‘long lived fissile elements’ and ‘a toxic material’ would be used in the ‘Vixen B’ tests. Titterton requested that the materials be named, and later announced ‘They have answered everything we asked.’ The substances in question were not disclosed (Australia 1985, p. 414). In recommending that the Australian government agree to the tests, he appears to have been either insufficiently informed of the hazards at hand, or to have failed to communicate those hazards to the Safety Committee, and through it, to the Australian government. Earlier, before the Totem tests, he had reassured the Australian Prime Minister that

the time of firing will be chosen so that any risk to health due to radioactive contamination in our cities, or in fact to any human beings, is impossible. . . . [N]o habitations or living beings will suffer injury to health from the effects of the atomic explosions proposed for the trials (quoted in Australia 1985, p. 467).

There were other examples of Titterton’s role in filtering information to the Australian authorities, a role which has been described as ‘pivotal’ (Australia 1985, p. 513). He proposed that he be advised informally of certain details of proposed experiments. In one instance, he advised the British that ‘It would perhaps be wise to make it quite clear that the fission yield in all cases is zero’, knowing that this would be a misrepresentation of fact (Australia 1985, p. 519). Years later, the Royal Commission suggested that Titterton may have been more a de facto member of the British Atomic Weapons Research Establishment than a custodian of the Australian public interest.

The Royal Commission’s indictment of Titterton would be damning:

Titterton played a political as well as a safety role in the testing program, especially in the minor trials. He was prepared to conceal information from the Australian Government and his fellow Committee members if he believed to do so would suit the interests of the United Kingdom Government and the testing program (Australia 1985, p. 526).

British secretiveness and imperfect review of test proposals and consequences by Australian officials notwithstanding, the degree to which Australian authorities went in limiting debate and discussion of the testing program and its effects cannot be ignored.

Such media coverage of the tests as was permitted by British and Australian authorities tended to be trivial and generally celebratory (Woodward 1984). Restrictions were onerous, in some occasions to the point of absurdity. D-notices were applied in such a manner that Australian journalists were forbidden from reporting items which had already been published freely in the United Kingdom.

Dissent or criticism by Australian personnel involved in the testing program was not tolerated. One patrol officer who objected that the development of testing sites was proceeding without due regard for the protection and welfare of local Aborigines was ‘reminded of his obligations as a Commonwealth Officer’ (Australia 1985, p. 304), and warned against speaking to the press.

Occasionally, when Aborigines were sighted in restricted areas, reports of these sightings were disbelieved, or less than subtly discouraged. One officer who reported sighting Aborigines in the prohibited zone was asked if he realised ‘what sort of damage [he] would be doing by finding Aboriginals where Aboriginals could not be’ (Australia 1985, p. 319).

After the Milpuddie family was found in the restricted area at Maralinga, the Range Commander invoked the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 (Cwlth) to prevent disclosure of the incident by any personnel on the scene.

The flow of information within government departments was at times impeded, with adverse consequences. According to one account, incomplete information about plutonium contaminations at Maralinga was given to Vic Garland, a Minister in the McMahon government, causing him to mislead Parliament in 1972 (Toohey 1978).

The full legal and political implications of the testing program would take decades to emerge. The secrecy which surrounded the British testing program and the remoteness of the tests from major population centres meant that public opposition to the tests and awareness of the risks involved grew very slowly.

But as the ban-the-bomb movement gathered momentum in Western societies throughout the 1950s, so too did opposition to the British tests in Australia. An opinion poll taken in 1957 showed 49 per cent of the Australian public opposed to the tests and only 39 per cent in favour.

Evatt and Calwell, Leader and Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition, called for an end to the tests. Following the conclusion of the Antler series in October 1957, the British conducted their large thermonuclear tests at Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean; only the so-called ‘minor’ trials continued at Maralinga.

By the early 1960s, the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain signed an agreement to cease atmospheric nuclear tests. The British, having finally gained the confidence of the United States, were invited to conduct underground tests at United States facilities in Nevada. It was thus decided to close the Maralinga facility……..http://aic.gov.au/publications/previous%20series/lcj/1-20/wayward/ch16.html

British nuclear weapons testing – the toxic price paid by Australia

May 18, 2017

Australia’s hospitality, largesse and loyalty to Britain were not without their costs. Moreover, the sacrifices made by Australians on behalf of the ‘motherland’ were not equally borne. Whilst low population density and remoteness from major population centres were among the criteria for the selection of the testing sites, the Emu and Maralinga sites in particular were not uninhabited. Indeed, they had been familiar to generations of Aboriginal Australians for thousands of years and had a great spiritual significance for the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people.

A variety of factors underlay the harm to public health, Aboriginal culture and the natural environment which the British tests entailed. Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program.

During the entire course of the testing program, public debate on the costs and risks borne by the Australian public was discouraged through official secrecy, censorship, misinformation, and attempts to denigrate critics

Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector / P N Grabosky
Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989 “…….
In 1950, Labor Prime Minister Clement Atlee sent a top secret personal message to Australian Prime Minister Menzies asking if the Australian government might agree to the testing of a British nuclear weapon at the Monte Bello Islands off Western Australia. Menzies agreed in principle, immediately; there is no record of his having consulted any of his Cabinet colleagues on the matter.

The Monte Bello site was deemed suitable by British authorities, and in a message to Menzies dated 26 March 1951 Atlee sought formal agreement to conduct the test. Atlee’s letter did not discuss the nature of the proposed test in minute detail. He did, however, see fit to mention the risk of radiation hazards:

6. There is one further aspect which I should mention. The effect of exploding an atomic weapon in the Monte Bello Islands will be to contaminate with radio activity the north-east group and this contamination may spread to others of the islands. The area is not likely to be entirely free from contamination for about three years and we would hope for continuing Australian help in investigating the decay of contamination. During this time the area will be unsafe for human occupation or even for visits by e.g. pearl fishermen who, we understand, at present go there from time to time and suitable measures will need to be taken to keep them away. We should not like the Australian Government to take a decision on the matter without having this aspect of it in their minds (quoted in Australia 1985, p. 13).

Menzies was only too pleased to assist the ‘motherland’, but deferred a response until after the 195 1 federal elections. With the return of his government, preparations for the test, code-named ‘Hurricane’, proceeded. Yet it was not until 19 February 1952 that the Australian public was informed that atomic weapons were to be tested on Australian soil. On 3 October 1952 the British successfully detonated a nuclear device of about 25 kilotons in the Monte Bello Islands.

The newest member of the nuclear club was by no means content to rest on the laurels of one successful test, however. Indeed, even before the Monte Bello detonation, British officials had visited sites in a remote area of South Australia with an eye to conducting future tests.

In December 1952, the new British Prime Minister, Churchill, asked Menzies for agreement in principle to a series of tests at Emu Field, some 1,200 km northwest of Adelaide in the Great Victoria Desert. Menzies replied promptly, in the affirmative. On 15 October 1953, Totem 1, a device with a yield of approximately 10 kilotons was detonated; two days later, Totem 11 was exploded with an approximate yield of 8 kilotons.

By this time, the British government had become firmly committed to a continuing nuclear weapons program. Three days after the conclusion of the Totem trials, the Australian government was formally advised of British desires to establish a permanent testing site in Australia. In August 1954, the Australian Cabinet agreed to the establishment of a permanent testing ground at a site that became named Maralinga, north of the transcontinental railway line in southwestern South Australia.

Following the ‘Mosaic’ tests in mid-1956, which involved the detonation of two weapons at the Monte Bello site, the British testing program in Australia was confined to the mainland. Four ‘Buffalo’ tests were conducted at Maralinga in September and October 1956, and three ‘Antler’ explosions were detonated there the following year.

Each of these explosions generated considerable radioactivity, by means of the initial nuclear reaction and the through dispersion of radioactive particulate colloquially known as ‘fallout’. In addition to British scientific and military personnel, thousands of Australians were exposed to radiation produced by the tests. These included not only those involved in supporting the British testing program, but also Aboriginal people living downwind of the test sites, and other Australians more distant who came into contact with airborne radioactivity.

A series of British hydrogen bomb tests was conducted in the Pacific Ocean during 1957 and 1958 without Australian involvement. In addition to the major weapons testing programs, the British undertook a number of minor trials at Emu and at Maralinga during the period 1953-1963. The ‘Kittens’, ‘Tims’ and ‘Rats’ series of experiments tested individual components or sub-assemblies of nuclear devices. Subsequent series, called ‘Vixen A’ and ‘Vixen B’ sought to investigate the effects of accidental fires and explosions on nuclear weapons.

While less spectacular than the major detonations, the minor trials were more numerous. They also contributed to the lasting contamination of the Maralinga area. As a result of the nearly 600 minor trials, some 830 tons of debris contaminated by about 20 kg of plutonium were deposited in pits which graced the South Australian landscape. An additional 2 kg of plutonium was dispersed over the area. Such an outcome was unfortunate indeed, as plutonium is one of the most toxic substances known; it dissipates more slowly than most radioactive elements. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. At this rate of decay, the Maralinga lands would be contaminated for the next half-million years.

Thus, Australia’s hospitality, largesse and loyalty to Britain were not without their costs. Moreover, the sacrifices made by Australians on behalf of the ‘motherland’ were not equally borne. Whilst low population density and remoteness from major population centres were among the criteria for the selection of the testing sites, the Emu and Maralinga sites in particular were not uninhabited. Indeed, they had been familiar to generations of Aboriginal Australians for thousands of years and had a great spiritual significance for the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people.

In the interests of the testing program, it was decided to curtail the movements of those Aboriginal people traversing the Maralinga area. In addition, a number were taken to a reserve which had recently been established at Yalata, some distance to the south, across the transcontinental railway line. The removal of Aboriginal people from their traditional homelands was more than an inconvenience. The Maralinga lands contained mythological sites of spiritual significance for their inhabitants, a significance which was at best only vaguely appreciated by white officials. Indeed, this lack of sensitivity was illustrated by the consideration given by authorities to identifying sacred objects and ‘removing’ them to areas of resettlement (Australia 1985, pp. 300-1). During the 1950s, hundreds of former inhabitants of the Maralinga lands sought to reaffirm their threatened culture by travelling considerable distances from the Yalata area in order to attend ceremonial functions and to visit other Aboriginal groups. These movements extended as far west as Cundalee, Western Australia, and as far east as Coober Pedy and Mabel Creek.

Some Aboriginal people were even less fortunate. Security patrols in and around the Maralinga area were intermittently effective, and from time to time some Aboriginal people were evicted from the area. Years later, Aboriginal people from Western Australia would recall how they were directed away from Maralinga along a road which diverged from their standard water hole routes, and how some of their party died from lack of access to water.

For those who survived, there seems little doubt that for the Western Desert (Maralinga) people the alien settlement of Yalata and lack of access to their desert homelands contributed significantly to the social disintegration which characterises the community to this day. Petrol sniffing, juvenile crime, alcoholism and chronic friction between residents and the South Australian police have become facts of life (Brady & Morice 1982).

The security measures taken to restrict access to the testing site were not without flaws. One morning in May 1957, four Aboriginal people, the Milpuddie family, were found by range authorities near the crater formed by the ‘Buffalo 2’ explosion the previous October. ‘Me man, woman, two children and two dogs had set out on foot from the Everard Ranges in the northwest of South Australia, and were unaware that the Aboriginal inhabitants of the Maralinga area had been removed. When authorities discovered them, the family was immediately taken to a decontamination centre at the site, and were required to shower. After this experience, which must have been frightening enough, the family was driven to Yalata.

As one of the site personnel described the experience:

It was a shocking trip down as they had never ridden in a vehicle before and vomited everywhere (Australia 1985, p. 320).

On instructions from the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Supply, the dogs were shot. ‘ne woman was pregnant at the time the family was taken into custody; subsequently, her baby was born dead. Australian authorities went to great lengths to keep the incident secret, but they appear to have been less concerned with the family’s subsequent health. Commenting upon the fact that no-one appears to have taken the time to explain the experience to which the hapless Aborigines were subjected, a team of anthropologists was to comment:

[T]he three remaining members of the family have been subjected to a high degree of stress and unhappiness about the events of twenty-eight years ago (Australia 1985, p. 323).

Knowledge of the hazards of radioactivity has accumulated only gradually over the past century. Some of the dangers posed by radiation become apparent soon after the discovery of X-rays in 1895. It was recognised early on that exposure to sufficient doses of radiation could cause injuries to internal organs, as well as to the skin and the eyes. Only after a number of years did scientists become aware of the risk of genetic damage, and of carcinogenic effects as well, at low levels of exposure. Degrees of exposure regarded as tolerable in the 1950s are now internationally recognised as unsafe.

The amount of radioactivity generated by a nuclear explosion can vary considerably depending upon a number of factors. These include the size of the weapon, and the location of the burst – an explosion at ground level may be expected to generate more dust and other radioactive particulate matters than an air burst. The dispersion of radioactive material is also dependent upon weather conditions.

The heritable and carcinogenic effects of radiation often do not manifest themselves for considerable periods. Moreover, both effects may result from other causes, unrelated to radiation, or may even occur spontaneously. Thus, any determination of the health consequences of nuclear weapons testing in Australia would require very detailed records identifying those citizens who were exposed to radiation, and the degree of radiation to which they were exposed.

Although most of the British and Australian personnel involved in the testing program were equipped with film badges and dosimeters to record the extent of their exposure to radiation, some did not. Moreover, those measuring devices which were provided did not record exposure with perfect accuracy.

Nor could the risk to the general public be assessed with any real rigour. Despite the fact that airborne radiation from the Monte Bello tests was detected as far away as Townsville and Rockhampton, official fallout measurements were not compiled, and available data was insufficient to estimate collective exposure. Whilst it is probable that some cases of cancer and genetic damage were caused by radiation generated by the nuclear tests, a realistic estimate of their extent is not possible.

A variety of factors underlay the harm to public health, Aboriginal culture and the natural environment which the British tests entailed. Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program. The decision to make the Monte Bello Islands available to the British for their first nuclear test appears to have been made by the Prime Minister alone, without reference to Cabinet, much less Parliament or the Australian public. During the entire course of the testing program, public debate on the costs and risks borne by the Australian public was discouraged through official secrecy, censorship, misinformation, and attempts to denigrate critics……Read http://aic.gov.au/publications/previous%20series/lcj/1-20/wayward/ch16.html

Australia’s undemocratic nuclear waste law disempowers indigenous landowners

May 18, 2017

13 March 2017, Friends of the Earth Australia is today releasing a detailed report on the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 (NRWMA). The report ‒ written by Monash University fifth-year law student Amanda Ngo ‒ comes against the backdrop of the federal government’s targeting of a site near Hawker in SA’s Flinders Ranges for a national radioactive waste store and repository.

The NRWMA is heavy-handed, undemocratic legislation that gives the federal government the power to extinguish rights and interests in land targeted for a radioactive waste facility. In so doing the Minister must “take into account any relevant comments by persons with a right or interest in the land” but there is no requirement to secure consent. Traditional Owners, local communities, pastoralists, business owners, local councils and State/Territory Governments are all disadvantaged and disempowered by the NRWMA.

The NRWMA disempowers Traditional Owners ‒ in this case Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners ‒ in multiple ways, including:

  • The nomination of a site for a radioactive waste facility is valid even if Aboriginal owners were not consulted and did not give consent.
  • The NRWMA has sections which nullify State or Territory laws that protect the archaeological or heritage values of land or objects, including those which relate to Indigenous traditions.
  • The NRWMA curtails the application of Commonwealth laws including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 and the Native Title Act 1993 in the important site-selection stage.
  • The Native Title Act 1993 is expressly overridden in relation to land acquisition for a radioactive waste facility.

Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners have been clear in their opposition to the planned radioactive waste facility in the Flinders Ranges. “I call upon the Federal and State Governments to put an end to this volatile position that the Adnyamathanha people are facing,” said Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Enice Marsh. “Native Title and the Aboriginal Heritage Act are not protecting our land. This needs a complete review or a Royal Commission. The Barndioota site in the Flinders Ranges must be struck off as a potential radioactive waste dump site and the National Radioactive Waste Management Act needs to be amended to give us the right to say ‘no’.”

Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie, who lives on Yappala Station near the proposed dump site, said: “The NRWMA is a political attack on Adnyamathanha women’s spiritual beliefs. The destruction of our culture and significant woman’s sites is a form of assimilation and thus breaches Article 8.1 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The NRWMA also breaches Article 25 of the UN Declaration which refers to our spiritual relationship with the land and the right to maintain and strengthen our culture. This is a breach of our Aboriginal human rights and our people and amounts to cultural genocide.”

The NRWMA has been criticised in both Senate Inquiries and a Federal Court challenge to an earlier federal government attempt to impose a national radioactive waste facility at Muckaty in the Northern Territory.

The NRWMA also puts the federal government’s radioactive waste agenda above environmental protection as it seeks to curtail the application of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Dr Jim Green, national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia, said: “A senior government official claims the NRWMA is based on ‘world’s best practice’. In fact, the legislation systematically disempowers local communities and Traditional Owners and weakens environmental protections. It needs to be radically amended or replaced with legislation that protects the environment and gives local communities and Traditional Owners the right to say no to nuclear waste dumps.”

 Amanda Ngo’s paper, ‘National Radioactive Waste Management  Act 2012′, is posted at http://tinyurl.com/nrwma-2017

Ben Heard sets up Australian nuclear front group; 25 prominent South Australians sign up

February 1, 2017

12 Dec 16 Australian nuclear lobbyists have had remarkable success in making themselves famous internationally, which is probably their main aim. . Barry Brook set this off, with a thin veil of environmentalism covering his dedication to the nuclear industry, in Brave New Climate. He got a heap of well-meaning environmentalists to sign up to a pro nuclear letter.

Now Ben Heard has gone a step further, with HIS nuclear front group – Bright New World. He’s got 25 important people to sign up to a pro nuclear campaign for South Australia.  As with Brook’s disciples, some of these people seem quite altruistic and disconnected with the nuclear and mining industries.

Others do not:

Dr Ian Gould:   chairing South Australia Energy and Resources Investment Conference 23-24 May 2017  Adelaide, geologist with  40 years experience in the minerals industry in diverse and senior positions, mainly within the CRA/Rio Tinto Group, current Chancellor of the University of South Australia and was awarded an AM in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to mining.

David Klingberg is a South Australian businessman, civil engineer and former Chancellor of the University of South Australia. director of ASX listed companies E & A Ltd and Centrex Metals Ltd. Klingberg is chair of a technical sub-group working on the Australian Government‘s National Radioactive Waste Management Project. 

Dr Leanna Read is South Australia’s  Chief Scientist, Expert Advisory Committee of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission in South Australia.] Read is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering,[which advocated for nuclear power in Australia in August 2014.. Read is also the Chair of the South Australian Science Council.

Stephen Young  director or Chairman on a number of companies including ,Electricity Trust of South Australia, Australian Submarine Corporation ,The University of Adelaide ,E&A ltd and its Subsidiaries.

Mr Jim McDowell Chancellor of the University of South Australia   Jim McDowell is currently Chair of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and non-Executive director of a number of private and listed companies. He advises the Federal Government in a number of areas of Defence and Defence Procurement. He is a member of the First Principles Review of the Department of Defence and is currently on the Expert Advisory Panel for the Future Submarine. Formerly CEO OF BAE Systems Australia, the nation’s largest defence contractor.

Michael John Terlet  Primary qualification in Electrical EngineeringNon Executive Chairman of Sandvik Mining and Construction Adelaide Ltd, a Director of Australian Submarine Corporation Pty. Ltd. Served as the Chief Executive Officer at AWA Defence Industries, Chairman of SA Centre for Manufacturing, Defence Manufacturing Council SA (MTIA)

Graham Douglas Walters AM, FCA Mr. Graham Douglas Walters, AM, FCA, serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors at Minelab Electronics Pty Ltd. Mr. Walters serves as Chairman and Director at Minelab International Pty Ltd.

Scrutinising ARPANSA’s Information for Stakeholders on nuclear radioactive waste facility

February 1, 2017

Effectively this is the same draconian situation that existed under the earlier Commonwealth Noonan, David
Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005 introduced by the Howard government to override State and Territory interests to protect community health, safety and welfare from the risks and impacts of nuclear wastes and to nullify Federal laws that protect against imposition of nuclear wastes.


Public submission to the draft ARPANSA Information for Stakeholders & associated Regulatory Guide to Licensing a Radioactive Waste Storage or Disposal Facility

Summary

Revised ARPANSA “Information for Stakeholders” should address the following:

The nuclear fuel waste Store in the Flinders Ranges is intended to operate for approx. 100 years.

The ARPANSA “Information for Stakeholders” fails to be transparent and is not fit for purpose.

ARPANSA must inform the public on the proposed licence period for this nuclear fuel waste Store.

ARPANSA should also publicly acknowledge the Contingency that the proposed nuclear fuel waste Store may be at a different site to the proposed near surface Repository in the Flinders Ranges.

The proposed above ground Store in our iconic Flinders Ranges is unnecessary as the ANSTO’s existing Interim Waste Store (IWS) at the Lucas Heights Technology Centre can manage reprocessed nuclear fuel waste on contract from France and from the United Kingdom over the long term.

The ANSTO application for the Interim Waste Store was conservatively predicated on a 40 year operating life for the IWS, and ANSTO has a contingency to “extend it for a defined period of time”.

ANSTO also has a contingency option for the “Retention of the returned residues at ANSTO until the availability of a final disposal option” – which does not involve a Store in the Flinders Ranges.

The Lucas Heights Technology Centre is by far the best placed Institution and facility to responsibly manage Australia’s existing nuclear fuel waste and proposed waste accruals from the Opal reactor.

The Interim Waste Store (IWS) at the Lucas Heights Technology Centre can conservatively function throughout the proposed operating period of the Opal reactor without a requirement for an alternative above ground nuclear fuel waste Store at a NRWMF in the Flinders Ranges or elsewhere.

It is an inexplicably omission or an unacceptably act of denial for ARPANSA to fail to even identity or to properly explain Australia’s existing nuclear fuel wastes and proposed further decades of Opal reactor nuclear fuel waste production in the “Information for Stakeholders”.

Australia’s nuclear fuel wastes are by far the highest activity and most concentrated and hazardous nuclear wastes under Australian management, and must be distinguished from other waste forms. (more…)

The legal barriers to Australia importing nuclear wastes

November 21, 2016

Nuclear waste debate re-emerges in Australia. Moulis Legal 17.11.16

“…….A long history of talk but with little “legal” support

South Australia’s proposal to encourage the world to export its high-level nuclear waste to Australia is in stark contrast to the previous positions of both the Federal and South Australian Governments. Moreover, significant reform to State laws and to existing Federal practice would be required to facilitate the proposal, none of which has been formulated.

In 1998, the responsible Federal Minister condemned a recommendation by nuclear waste management consortium Pangea Resources for a repository for international high-level nuclear waste in the Western Australian outback. He reiterated Australia’s long-standing bipartisan opposition to such a development:

…no high level radioactive waste facility is planned for Australia and the government has absolutely no intention of accepting the radioactive waste of other countries. The policy is clear and absolute and will not be changed. We will not be accepting radioactive waste from other countries.1

After only cursory consideration of the repository idea in 1998, Western Australia actually went the other way, passing a law to make it illegal to establish a nuclear waste storage facility in the State, or to use any part of the State to store or dispose of nuclear waste, or to even transport nuclear waste in the State.2

Other Australian states – New South Wales;3 Queensland;4 Victoria;5 and South Australia6 – have enacted similar legislation either completely prohibiting a nuclear waste facility in their jurisdiction or making it necessary to seek certain approvals to build one. These legislative constraints would first need to be addressed before any facility were to be capable of being built in any of those States.

At a Federal level, a nuclear waste facility is not prohibited, however the statute responsible for creating the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (“ARPANSA”) also places a blanket ban the construction of nuclear fuel fabrication plants, power plants, enrichment plants and reprocessing facilities.

ARPANSA can permit imports of radioactive waste

Despite the above State prohibitions on the building of nuclear waste facilities and on the transportation of nuclear waste, no absolute prohibition applies to the importation of radioactive waste into Australia. Regulation 4R of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 (“the Regulations”) stipulates that radioactive substances can be imported into Australia, but only if permission has been granted by the Customs Minister or an authorised officer, such as the CEO of ARPANSA.7

ARPANSA administers Australia’s rights and obligations under a number of specific international treaties, with the most relevant to radioactive waste disposal and storage being the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (“IAEA”) Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management(“the Joint Convention”) which was ratified by Australia in 2003.

The discretion under regulation 4R of the Regulations to approve radioactive imports has rarely been afforded with respect to radioactive waste and never on a premise of the commercial disposal of international nuclear waste. ARPANSA officials readily advise interested parties that “current Commonwealth Government policy prohibits importation of spent nuclear fuel or radioactive waste of foreign origin into Australia”.

The international framework

The Joint Convention enforces a commitment to achieving and maintaining a consistently high-level of safety in the management, transboundary movement and disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste. The Joint Convention notes:

… radioactive waste should, as far as is compatible with the safety of the management of such material, be disposed of in the State in which it was generated, whilst recognizing that, in certain circumstances, safe and efficient management of spent fuel and radioactive waste might be fostered through agreements among [the] Parties to use facilities in one of them for the benefit of the other Parties, particularly where waste originates from joint projects8

These principles are also recognised in the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, to which Australia is also a party.9 The Joint Convention also recognises that any state has the right to ban import into its territory of foreign spent fuel and radioactive waste.10

Additionally, just as Australia exports unspent nuclear material, being uranium, to foreign countries under safeguards, countries like Canada do too. Those safeguards are essentially accounting and inspection procedures designed to ensure that neither the uranium nor any by-product of it (such as plutonium) could be used to contribute to the construction of a weapon. Bodies such as the IAEA and the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (an office within the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) track exported nuclear material through its whole lifecycle, all the way through to the spent fuel and the reprocessing and/or the recycling of that fuel.

Any facility that were to accept international nuclear waste could also expect to be subject to scrutiny against the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (“NPT”). The overall quality and security of any nuclear waste disposal facility, as well the country that hosts it, need to satisfy extremely high domestic and international standards to be commercially – and politically – viable.

By virtue of both the Joint Convention and the NPT, Australia would need to establish treaties with overseas governments interested in disposing their nuclear waste in the facility, to specify the arrangements that would be put in place for the management of nuclear waste. Australia may also be obliged to seek evidence of “upstream” agreements in circumstances where the original nuclear product and/or the waste has moved between third party countries before its exportation to Australia…….. http://moulislegal.com/nuclear-waste-debate-re-emerges-in-australia/

Nuclear-free New Zealand and its Australian hero – Helen Caldicott

November 21, 2016

Helen did not hold back, explaining that nuclear war means “blindness, burning, starvation, disease, lacerations, haemorrhaging, millions of corpses and an epidemic of disease”. Helen’s dramatic and blunt style reduced many in her audiences to tears. She always ended her talks with a call to action – especially to parents – as she strongly believes that nuclear disarmament is “the ultimate medical and parenting issue of our time.”

To those who would claim New Zealand was not a target she had a short reply: “Trident submarines in ports are targeted. They are a first strike target. It is much easier to destroy subs when they are in dock than it is when they are submerged in the ocean.”

The new Labour Government of 1984 passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act in 1987, the world’s first national nuclear-free legislation. Dr Helen Caldicott’s influence had culminated in the passage of the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy.

Marilyn Waring on the Australian hero of nuclear-free New Zealand http://thespinoff.co.nz/society/14-11-2016/the-australian-hero-of-nuclear-free-new-zealand/  November 14, 2016 The former National MP whose decision to support anti-nuclear legislation led to the 1984 snap election writes on the transformative influence of the passionate Australian physician Helen Caldicott, who speaks in Auckland this week

If you were growing up in New Zealand and Australia post World War II, there’s a chance you knew about the United States using the Marshall Islands as a nuclear testing site from 1947 until 1962. In an agreement signed with the United Nations, the US government held the Marshall Islands as a “trust territory” and detonated nuclear devices in this pristine area of the Pacific Ocean – leading, in some instances, to huge levels of radiation fall-out, health effects, and the permanent displacement of many island people. In all, the US government conducted 105 underwater and atmospheric tests. You would have also known that the British conducted seven atmospheric tests between 1956 and 1963 on traditional Aboriginal land, in Maralinga, Australia.

It may be that you read Neville Shute’s 1957 novel On the Beach, in which people in Melbourne, Australia wait for deadly radiation to spread from a Northern Hemisphere nuclear war. This book made a memorable impact on Helen when she read it as a teenager.

Both Helen and I saw Peter Watkin’s The War Game, a BBC documentary drama about nuclear war and the consequences in an English city. In New Zealand the film was restricted for children unless accompanied by an adult, so I had to get my father to take me. The War Game won the Oscar for the best documentary in 1965.

France began its series of over 175 nuclear tests at Mururoa, in the South Pacific, in 1966. At least 140 of these tests were above ground. In 1973, the New Zealand and Australian governments took France to the World Court for continued atmospheric testing, and forced the last tests underground. The testing finally came to an end in 1976.

In New Zealand the US Navy made regular visits between 1976 and 1983 with nuclear-powered and, most likely, nuclear-armed, ships. These visits produced spectacular protest fleets in the Auckland and Wellington harbours, when hundreds of New Zealanders — in yachts of all sizes, in motor boats and canoes, even on surf boards — surrounded the vessels and tried to bring them to a complete stop. By 1978, a campaign began in New Zealand to declare borough and city council areas nuclear-free and, by the early 1980s, this symbolic movement had quickly gained momentum, covering more than two-thirds of the New Zealand population.

Helen Caldicott and I had not met up to this point, but these were shared parts of our history and consciousness when Helen visited New Zealand in 1983. Helen Caldicott graduated with a medical degree from University of Adelaide Medical School in 1961. She moved to the United States, becoming an Instructor in paediatrics at Harvard Medical School and was on the staff of the Children’s Hospital Medical Centre in Boston, Massachusetts. In the late 1970s, Helen became the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility. This group was founded when Helen was finishing medical school, quickly making its mark by documenting the presence of Strontium-90, a highly radioactive waste product of atmospheric nuclear testing, in children’s teeth. The landmark finding eventually led to the Limited Nuclear Test Ban treaty, which ended atmospheric nuclear testing.

But it was the Three Mile Island accident that changed Helen’s life. An equipment failure resulted in a loss of cooling water to the core of a reactor at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania, causing a partial meltdown. Operator failure meant that 700,000 gallons of radioactive cooling water ended up in the basement of the reactor building. It was the most serious nuclear accident to that date in the US Helen published Nuclear Madness the same year. In it she wrote: “As a physician, I contend that nuclear technology threatens life on our planet with extinction. If present trends continue, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink will soon be contaminated with enough radioactive pollutants to pose a potential health hazard far greater than any plague humanity has ever experienced.” In 1980, Helen resigned from her paid work positions to work full time on the prevention of nuclear war.

In 1982, Canadian director Terre Nash filmed a lecture given by Helen Caldicott to a New York state student audience. Nash’s consequent National Film Board of Canada documentary If You Love this Planet was released during the term of US President Ronald Reagan, at the height of Cold War nuclear tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The US Department of Justice moved quickly to designate the film “foreign propaganda,” bringing a great deal of attention to the film. It went on to win the 1982 Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject. That same year, Helen addressed about 750,000 people in Central Park, New York in the biggest anti-nuke rally in the United States to that date.

In 1983, I was serving as a member of the New Zealand parliament, having been elected eight years earlier at the age of 23. Our parliament established a Disarmament and Arms Control Select Committee to conduct hearings on the possibility of making New Zealand a nuclear-free zone. During this critically important time, Helen was invited to New Zealand on a lecture tour. The documentary If You Love This Planet was shown at her speaking engagements.

I did not get to meet her, nor hear any of her lectures in person, as I was working in parliament every night. But I did follow the media coverage.

Helen told the Listener about having observed five-star generals in US congressional and senate committees complaining that the Russian missiles were bigger than the American ones. “The Russian missiles are very big [and] inaccurate and clumsy. America has very small, very accurate missiles, which are better at killing people and destroying targets,” she explained. A frequent message in her talks to New Zealand audiences was the redundant overkill capacity of both superpowers. Caldicott noted to her audiences that “The US has 30,000 bombs and Russia 20,000.”

I had sat in a New Zealand parliamentary committee hearing some months earlier, when a government colleague, brandishing a centrefold of a Russian submarine, excitedly called for us to “Look at how big it is.” I had thought that no one would believe me if I had repeated such an inane banality – when an adult male was more impressed by the size of the submarine than its capacity to destroy life on this planet.

Helen’s public addresses were grounded in the potential impact of nuclear weapons. “Imagine a 20-megaton bomb targeted on Auckland,” she told audiences in New Zealand. “The explosion, five times the collective energy of all the bombs dropped in the Second World War, digs a hole three-quarters of a mile wide by 800 feet deep and turns people, buildings and dirt into radioactive dust. Everyone up to six miles will be vaporised, and up to 20 miles they will be dead or lethally injured. People will be instantly blinded looking at the blast within 40 miles. Many will be asphyxiated in the fire storm.”

Helen did not hold back, explaining that nuclear war means “blindness, burning, starvation, disease, lacerations, haemorrhaging, millions of corpses and an epidemic of disease”. Helen’s dramatic and blunt style reduced many in her audiences to tears. She always ended her talks with a call to action – especially to parents – as she strongly believes that nuclear disarmament is “the ultimate medical and parenting issue of our time.”

To those who would claim New Zealand was not a target she had a short reply: “Trident submarines in ports are targeted. They are a first strike target. It is much easier to destroy subs when they are in dock than it is when they are submerged in the ocean.”

In 2015, I asked Helen how she managed to deliver such bad news and yet keep her audiences with her. “Being a doctor helps because you have to learn to negotiate with a patient and with language they can understand,” she explained. “You have to convert the medical diagnosis and treatment to lay language. I also have to keep them awake sometimes by letting them laugh because it relieves their tension and because the stuff I say is pretty awful.” Helen told me that she practises “global preventative medicine”.

Helen’s tour through New Zealand in 1983 had a huge, and lasting, impact. At one stop, Helen addressed over 2,000 people at a public event in Auckland. The librarian with whom I corresponded looking for old newspaper reports of Helen’s visit, wrote to me: “Her chillingly detailed description of the effects of a nuclear device detonated over the hall in which we were sitting remains rooted in my psyche to this day! …The other message I most recall is the dichotomy she evoked between the destructive drive of ‘old men’ rulers, the instigators of war, versus the procreative energy of mothers most impelled to oppose them — which, however reductive, retains the compelling logic of a truism!”

Helen’s approach was transformative in New Zealand. Helen’s speaking events packed auditoriums, and overflows of audiences had to be accommodated using loud speaker systems. People responded strongly to this woman, whose life work involved caring for children, speaking about medical effects of fallout, and speaking without the use of the clichéd military and defence ideological rhetoric that treated people as if they were simpletons who couldn’t understand. Her speeches inspired people to act. After Helen spoke, the volume of mail delivered to my parliamentary office increased—particularly from women.

On May 24, 1983, 20,000 women wearing white flowers and armbands and holding banners with peace signs marched quietly up a main street in Auckland to hold a huge rally and call for New Zealand to be nuke-free. It was one of the largest women’s demonstrations in New Zealand’s history. In her book, Peace, Power and Politics – How New Zealand Became Nuclear Free, Maire Leadbetter writes: “I am one of many activists who think of Helen Caldicott’s visit as the point when the peace movement began to grow exponentially … Helen had a magical ability to motivate previously passive citizens to become activists.”

Shortly after Helen’s visit to New Zealand, in 1984, I advised that I intended to vote for the opposition-sponsored nuclear-free New Zealand legislation. This prompted conservative Prime Minister Rob Muldoon to call a snap election. Muldoon told media that my “feminist anti-nuclear stance” threatened his ability to govern.

The new Labour Government of 1984 passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act in 1987, the world’s first national nuclear-free legislation. Dr Helen Caldicott’s influence had culminated in the passage of the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy.

This essay is one of 28 stories by notable women about remarkable women peacemakers, When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. 

The toxic legacy of British nuclear bomb testing in Australia

November 21, 2016

One wonders if the interests of a ‘handful of natives’ might on some future occasion again be deemed subordinate to those of the dominant culture.

Each of these explosions generated considerable radioactivity, by means of the initial nuclear reaction and the through dispersion of radioactive particulate colloquially known as ‘fallout’. In addition to British scientific and military personnel, thousands of Australians were exposed to radiation produced by the tests. These included not only those involved in supporting the British testing program, but also Aboriginal people living downwind of the test sites, and other Australians more distant who came into contact with airborne radioactivity.

While less spectacular than the major detonations, the minor trials were more numerous. They also contributed to the lasting contamination of the Maralinga area. As a result of the nearly 600 minor trials, some 830 tons of debris contaminated by about 20 kg of plutonium were deposited in pits which graced the South Australian landscape. An additional 2 kg of plutonium was dispersed over the area. Such an outcome was unfortunate indeed, as plutonium is one of the most toxic substances known; it dissipates more slowly than most radioactive elements. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. At this rate of decay, the Maralinga lands would be contaminated for the next half-million years.

Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program. The decision to make the Monte Bello Islands available to the British for their first nuclear test appears to have been made by the Prime Minister alone, without reference to Cabinet, much less Parliament or the Australian public.


Chapter 16: A toxic legacy : British nuclear weapons testing in Australia  Published in:  Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector / P N Grabosky Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989 ISBN 0 642 14605 5
(Australian studies in law, crime and justice series); pp. 235-253 “……..In 1950, Labor Prime Minister Clement Atlee sent a top secret personal message to Australian Prime Minister Menzies asking if the Australian government might agree to the testing of a British nuclear weapon at the Monte Bello Islands off Western Australia. Menzies agreed in principle, immediately; there is no record of his having consulted any of his Cabinet colleagues on the matter. A preliminary assessment of the suitability of the proposed test site was conducted in October-November 1950.
The Monte Bello site was deemed suitable by British authorities, and in a message to Menzies dated 26 March 1951 Atlee sought formal agreement to conduct the test. Atlee’s letter did not discuss the nature of the proposed test in minute detail. He did, however, see fit to mention the risk of radiation hazards:

6. There is one further aspect which I should mention. The effect of exploding an atomic weapon in the Monte Bello Islands will be to contaminate with radio activity the north-east group and this contamination may spread to others of the islands. The area is not likely to be entirely free from contamination for about three years and we would hope for continuing Australian help in investigating the decay of contamination. During this time the area will be unsafe for human occupation or even for visits by e.g. pearl fishermen who, we understand, at present go there from time to time and suitable measures will need to be taken to keep them away. We should not like the Australian Government to take a decision on the matter without having this aspect of it in their minds (quoted in Australia 1985, p. 13).

Menzies was only too pleased to assist the ‘motherland’, but deferred a response until after the 195 1 federal elections. With the return of his government, preparations for the test, code-named ‘Hurricane’, proceeded. Yet it was not until 19 February 1952 that the Australian public was informed that atomic weapons were to be tested on Australian soil.

On 3 October 1952 the British successfully detonated a nuclear device of about 25 kilotons in the Monte Bello Islands.

The newest member of the nuclear club was by no means content to rest on the laurels of one successful test, however. Indeed, even before the Monte Bello detonation, British officials had visited sites in a remote area of South Australia with an eye to conducting future tests.

In December 1952, the new British Prime Minister, Churchill, asked Menzies for agreement in principle to a series of tests at Emu Field, some 1,200 km northwest of Adelaide in the Great Victoria Desert. Menzies replied promptly, in the affirmative. On 15 October 1953, Totem 1, a device with a yield of approximately 10 kilotons was detonated; two days later, Totem 11 was exploded with an approximate yield of 8 kilotons.

By this time, the British government had become firmly committed to a continuing nuclear weapons program. Three days after the conclusion of the Totem trials, the Australian government was formally advised of British desires to establish a permanent testing site in Australia. In August 1954, the Australian Cabinet agreed to the establishment of a permanent testing ground at a site that became named Maralinga, north of the transcontinental railway line in southwestern South Australia.

Following the ‘Mosaic’ tests in mid-1956, which involved the detonation of two weapons at the Monte Bello site, the British testing program in Australia was confined to the mainland. Four ‘Buffalo’ tests were conducted at Maralinga in September and October 1956, and three ‘Antler’ explosions were detonated there the following year.

Each of these explosions generated considerable radioactivity, by means of the initial nuclear reaction and the through dispersion of radioactive particulate colloquially known as ‘fallout’. In addition to British scientific and military personnel, thousands of Australians were exposed to radiation produced by the tests. These included not only those involved in supporting the British testing program, but also Aboriginal people living downwind of the test sites, and other Australians more distant who came into contact with airborne radioactivity.

A series of British hydrogen bomb tests was conducted in the Pacific Ocean during 1957 and 1958 without Australian involvement.   In addition to the major weapons testing programs, the British undertook a number of minor trials at Emu and at Maralinga during the period 1953-1963. The ‘Kittens’, ‘Tims’ and ‘Rats’ series of experiments tested individual components or sub-assemblies of nuclear devices. Subsequent series, called ‘Vixen A’ and ‘Vixen B’ sought to investigate the effects of accidental fires and explosions on nuclear weapons.

While less spectacular than the major detonations, the minor trials were more numerous. They also contributed to the lasting contamination of the Maralinga area. As a result of the nearly 600 minor trials, some 830 tons of debris contaminated by about 20 kg of plutonium were deposited in pits which graced the South Australian landscape. An additional 2 kg of plutonium was dispersed over the area. Such an outcome was unfortunate indeed, as plutonium is one of the most toxic substances known; it dissipates more slowly than most radioactive elements. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. At this rate of decay, the Maralinga lands would be contaminated for the next half-million years.

Thus, Australia’s hospitality, largesse and loyalty to Britain were not without their costs. Moreover, the sacrifices made by Australians on behalf of the ‘motherland’ were not equally borne. Whilst low population density and remoteness from major population centres were among the criteria for the selection of the testing sites, the Emu and Maralinga sites in particular were not uninhabited. Indeed, they had been familiar to generations of Aboriginal Australians for thousands of years and had a great spiritual significance for the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people.

In the interests of the testing program, it was decided to curtail the movements of those Aboriginal people traversing the Maralinga area. In addition, a number were taken to a reserve which had recently been established at Yalata, some distance to the south, across the transcontinental railway line. The removal of Aboriginal people from their traditional homelands was more than an inconvenience. The Maralinga lands contained mythological sites of spiritual significance for their inhabitants, a significance which was at best only vaguely appreciated by white officials. Indeed, this lack of sensitivity was illustrated by the consideration given by authorities to identifying sacred objects and ‘removing’ them to areas of resettlement (Australia 1985, pp. 300-1). During the 1950s, hundreds of former inhabitants of the Maralinga lands sought to reaffirm their threatened culture by travelling considerable distances from the Yalata area in order to attend ceremonial functions and to visit other Aboriginal groups. These movements extended as far west as Cundalee, Western Australia, and as far east as Coober Pedy and Mabel Creek.

Some Aboriginal people were even less fortunate. Security patrols in and around the Maralinga area were intermittently effective, and from time to time some Aboriginal people were evicted from the area. Years later, Aboriginal people from Western Australia would recall how they were directed away from Maralinga along a road which diverged from their standard water hole routes, and how some of their party died from lack of access to water.

For those who survived, there seems little doubt that for the Western Desert (Maralinga) people the alien settlement of Yalata and lack of access to their desert homelands contributed significantly to the social disintegration which characterises the community to this day. ……..

…Although most of the British and Australian personnel involved in the testing program were equipped with film badges and dosimeters to record the extent of their exposure to radiation, some did not. Moreover, those measuring devices which were provided did not record exposure with perfect accuracy.

Nor could the risk to the general public be assessed with any real rigour. Despite the fact that airborne radiation from the Monte Bello tests was detected as far away as Townsville and Rockhampton, official fallout measurements were not compiled, and available data was insufficient to estimate collective exposure. Whilst it is probable that some cases of cancer and genetic damage were caused by radiation generated by the nuclear tests, a realistic estimate of their extent is not possible.

A variety of factors underlay the harm to public health, Aboriginal culture and the natural environment which the British tests entailed. Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program. The decision to make the Monte Bello Islands available to the British for their first nuclear test appears to have been made by the Prime Minister alone, without reference to Cabinet, much less Parliament or the Australian public. During the entire course of the testing program, public debate on the costs and risks borne by the Australian public was discouraged through official secrecy, censorship, misinformation, and attempts to denigrate critics…….

There seems little doubt that the secrecy in which the entire testing program was cloaked served British rather than Australian interests. From the outset, the British were under pressure to demonstrate to the Americans that they were able to keep secrets at all. Full disclosure of the hazards and potential costs to Australia entailed in the testing program were out of the question. Information passed to Australian officials was kept to the minimum necessary to facilitate their assistance in the conduct of the testing program. The use of plutonium in the minor trials was not disclosed.

Australian tolerance of the British and their obsessive secrecy may be explained by the deference and loyalty to the ‘motherland’. Prime Minister Menzies identified so strongly with Britain that he considered British national interest as Australia’s national interest…….

….British secretiveness and imperfect review of test proposals and consequences by Australian officials notwithstanding, the degree to which Australian authorities went in limiting debate and discussion of the testing program and its effects cannot be ignored.

Such media coverage of the tests as was permitted by British and Australian authorities tended to be trivial and generally celebratory (Woodward 1984). Restrictions were onerous, in some occasions to the point of absurdity. D-notices were applied in such a manner that Australian journalists were forbidden from reporting items which had already been published freely in the United Kingdom.

Dissent or criticism by Australian personnel involved in the testing program was not tolerated. One patrol officer who objected that the development of testing sites was proceeding without due regard for the protection and welfare of local Aborigines was ‘reminded of his obligations as a Commonwealth Officer’ (Australia 1985, p. 304), and warned against speaking to the press.

Occasionally, when Aborigines were sighted in restricted areas, reports of these sightings were disbelieved, or less than subtly discouraged. One officer who reported sighting Aborigines in the prohibited zone was asked if he realised ‘what sort of damage [he] would be doing by finding Aboriginals where Aboriginals could not be’ (Australia 1985, p. 319).

After the Milpuddie family was found in the restricted area at Maralinga, the Range Commander invoked the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 (Cwlth) to prevent disclosure of the incident by any personnel on the scene.

The flow of information within government departments was at times impeded, with adverse consequences. According to one account, incomplete information about plutonium contaminations at Maralinga was given to Vic Garland, a Minister in the McMahon government, causing him to mislead Parliament in 1972 (Toohey 1978).

The full legal and political implications of the testing program would take decades to emerge. The secrecy which surrounded the British testing program and the remoteness of the tests from major population centres meant that public opposition to the tests and awareness of the risks involved grew very slowly………

In 1984, the South Australian Parliament passed the Maralinga Tjarutja Land Rights Act conferring freehold title to the Maralinga lands upon their traditional owners. But Aboriginal control over their land was not absolute. Mineral rights remained vested in the Crown, and the Act did not confer a right of veto on the Aboriginal owners. Rather, in the event of a dispute over whether the lands could be explored or mined, an Arbitrator would weigh the interests of the traditional owners against the economic significance of the proposed operations to the state and to Australia.

One wonders if the interests of a ‘handful of natives’ might on some future occasion again be deemed subordinate to those of the dominant culture. http://aic.gov.au/publications/previous%20series/lcj/1-20/wayward/ch16.html