On the beach: Australia’s nuclear history

The clouds of radioactive fallout are descending and humanity is doomed to extinction. In Nevil Shute’s book, On the Beach, the inhabitants of Melbourne await their end – the final victims of a 37 day nuclear war that has destroyed the northern hemisphere. John Osborne, played by Fred Astaire in the film version, decides to die in the embrace of the one he loves. So donning his crash helmet and goggles, he pops his suicide pills while sitting behind the wheel of the Ferrari that has recently won him the Australian Grand Prix: ‘The car had won him the race that was the climax of his life. Why trouble to go further?’ For John, as for all, it was the end of the road.

With the onset of the Atomic Age, Australia set out optimistically along the yellow-brick road to peace and prosperity, but 50 years later, the Emerald City seems as far away as ever. Australia’s involvement with nuclear energy has been largely limited to the provision of raw materials – uranium to power other countries’ reactors, and test sites for Britain’s bomb program. To understand Australia’s nuclear history you need to focus not on the journey’s end, but on the journey itself. How was the road mapped? Where were the markers? And who was doing the driving?

the bulldozer

In 1944, a new road was rapidly taking shape in the Northern Flinders Ranges. A team of geologists and miners watched as the first bulldozer most of them had ever seen tore through the scrub, opening access to an isolated mine site. All this urgency was at the behest of the British government, who were keen to know the extent of Australia’s uranium supplies. The geologist and Antarctic explorer, Douglas Mawson, had discovered radioactive minerals in the Flinders Ranges many years before. Although some attempts had been made to take commercial advantage of them, such as through promoting the health-giving effects of the radioactive Paralana Hot Springs, the deposits were apparently of little value. All this seemed about to change. This was a road to the future.1

The British government was, of course, cooperating with the USA in the development of the atomic bomb. All the uranium for the Manhattan Project had thus far come from the Belgian Congo, so it seemed wise to identify other potential sources. Mark Oliphant, the Australian-born physicist who was one of the leaders of the Manhattan Project’s British contingent, suggested the Flinders Ranges.

Oliphant always had an eye on Australian interests, and had alerted the Australian government to the wartime work on atomic energy as early as 1941. Oliphant’s ‘leak’ came via Richard Casey, then Ambassador to Washington. Casey asked Oliphant to prepare a memo outlining the developments, which was then forwarded to Sir David Rivett, the Chairman of Australia’s peak science organisation, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Rivett began to seek more information through his scientific contacts, and tried to arrange for increased Australian involvement in the work. He was, however, unsuccessful. This quest for information continued for the next decade and more, shaping much government policy. Uranium gave Australia a foot in the door, but no invitation to step inside was forthcoming. The atomic club was for members only.2

This was all the more frustrating for it seemed that Australia was ideally placed to take advantage of all that this new technology might have to offer. Looking forward to the postwar world, Australia’s planners envisaged rapid industrial growth – the development of the manufacturing sector. But this could not occur without power, and traditional fuel sources appeared too limited. Add to this a large land mass, a growing population, uranium deposits, and a strong scientific base, and atomic power was a very attractive prospect indeed. Follow that bulldozer!

But just as Australia was about to set out along the road to atomic utopia, the landscape shuddered and changed. In the tracks of the bulldozer a signpost suddenly appeared. The way forward was no longer so clear.

the crossroads of destiny

At 8.00 am on the 1 July 1946 the inhabitants of eastern Australia tuned in to the atomic age. In a live radio broadcast from Bikini Atoll, they listened as the world’s fourth atomic bomb was exploded – ‘Bomb’s away! Bombs away!’ came the excited radio announcer’s call. Some weeks later, a fifth atomic bomb was detonated, again at Bikini. The blue waters of the atoll’s idyllic lagoon erupted skyward with the force of the explosion, signalling a dramatic end to the USA’s first peacetime atomic ‘test’ programme. The ‘target’ for these tests was a fleet of retired American and captured enemy warships, ‘manned’ by pigs, goats and other animals – some in uniform. By blowing up this junkyard menagerie the USA confirmed its status as the world’s only atomic power. In another attempt to win the favour of the bouncers guarding the doors of the atomic club, Australia offered up one of its own disused battleships for the honour of irradiation. The offer was refused, but Australia was allowed an official observer.

While the first three atomic explosions were planned and executed in secret, the Bikini atomic tests were conducted amidst well-organised publicity. The responsible authority, Joint Task Force One, arranged for extensive media coverage, aiming to make the test programme ‘the best-reported as well as the most-reported technical experiment of all time’.3 An Australian press representative fed a steady stream of stories back to the local media, heightening the sense of anticipation and causing some unexpected side effects. On 27 June, an evening lecture on cosmic rays by Melbourne University’s professor of physics, L.H. Martin, drew an unexpectedly large crowd of 500 people, overwhelming the 200 seat lecture theatre. This sudden interest in nuclear physics, it was claimed, was a result of the forthcoming bomb test.4

The Bikini tests refocussed attention on the implications of atomic energy. Stunned by the news from Hiroshima, there had been little time to reflect on the meaning of this new, atomic age. But Bikini offered not only the chance for reflection, but a conceptual structure within which to contain it. Imagine again the radio broadcast on the morning of the first atomic test at Bikini, relayed nationally from the National Broadcasting Company of America. The technical distortions add a sense of otherwordliness as the commentators set the scene. The dramatic tension is heightened by the ticking of a metronome that continues right up until the point of the explosion. Finally the call comes through, ‘Bombs away!’, but then another voice cuts across the broadcast with a chilling warning: ‘Listen world, this is the crossroads’.

therefore choose life

At some point marked vaguely by the destruction of Hiroshima, atomic energy was assumed to have split the future of the world into two. Humankind was suddenly confronted by a ‘choice’, for atomic energy offered it the chance to pursue the well-worn path of war to its inevitable apocalyptic end, or to strike out anew towards a miraculous vision of peace and prosperity. The world was standing at a ‘turning-point’ where these two roads could be seen leading off into the future, the alternatives made clear by a signpost pointing one way to ‘Destruction’ and the other way to ‘Progress’ – this was the ‘crossroads’.

The message from Bikini was hardly subtle, the whole undertaking was code-named ‘Operation Crossroads’. It was a formula repeated ad nauseam in the local press. The atomic crossroads was a hackneyed image, recycled, reworked and re-emphasised many times following its original formulation. It became one of the favourite clichés of authors, speechmakers, commentators and journalists grasping for a pithy summation of the implications of atomic energy – a representation of the fundamental dualism that characterised reactions to this new technology.

But this sort of choice was a familiar one, appearing in many cultural guises. On the first Sunday after the destruction of Hiroshima, the Rev. C.N. Button of St Andrews Kirk, Ballarat, warned his congregation: ‘Humanity is at the cross-roads’. Button drew a parallel between the coming of the atomic bomb, and the choice laid down by God in Deuteronomy, ‘I have set before you life and death, cursing and blessing. Therefore choose life, that thou and thy seed may live.’ This was a theme elaborated by many religious commentators – in bestowing the gift of atomic energy on the world God was repeating the offer made to Israel, to either accept His purpose or be destroyed, it was a challenge, a choice.5 However, it was a loaded choice. The options were not equally weighted, for in presenting them God commanded His people to ‘choose life’. God is not suggesting to the people of Israel that they might like to consider idolatry, he is seeking to make his will known by imposing a particular conceptual structure upon options that already exist. What is offered is no real choice, but rather an affirmation of a pre-established order.

It is this type of ‘choice’ which is central to the crossroads image. The options it presents are not real alternatives, for it is assumed that you will want to travel along the positive route. The whole structure is organised around this assumption: the negative route is not given as a reasonable alternative, rather it is the threat, the punishment, which enforces the ‘correct’ choice. The crossroads were not invoked so that humankind could choose to go to hell or to be annihilated by atomic bombs – this could only happen if something went wrong with the whole set-up. The question with which the crossroads image confronted humankind was not which path to choose, but how to avoid straying down the wrong one. It did not offer the opportunity to make a decision about the priorities of human existence, instead it set the limits of what was assumed to be possible. A discussion about the social impact of a new technology was transformed through the language of the crossroads into an imperative to develop that technology. Humankind was called upon to follow the path sanctioned and defined by its presence in the crossroads structure as the only reasonable vision of the future – progress. The bulldozer offered us the only way ahead, but to where?

participating in progress

In 1948, the Australian public was given the chance to fall into line when the ‘Atomic Age Exhibition’ rolled into town. Sponsored by the major newspapers, the exhibition toured Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Although it had been originally designed and built in the UK, the exhibition was modified for Australian audiences, even including a sample of local uranium. In Sydney, the exhibition formed part of the Royal Easter Show, though popular demand forced it to continue beyond the Show’s usual closing. In Melbourne, where it was considerably expanded and renamed the ‘Atomic Age and Industrial Exhibition’, many thousands attended.6

The exhibition’s pin-up boy was the atomic genie, who made his appearance in a diorama depicting the first atomic explosion at Almagordo, New Mexico. Emerging from the atomic cloud, electrons whizzing around his head like bush flies, the atomic genie was another manifestation of the ‘choice’. Having been released from his prison within the atom, the genie awaited our command, would it be for good or evil?

In case even this symbolism was too abstract, a signpost was positioned in the middle of the exhibition, pointing one way to ‘Destruction’ and the other to ‘Progress’. Destruction in this instance was represented by a scale model of the bombing of Hiroshima, complete with flashing lights and sound effects for that authentic atomic annihilation experience. The path to progress, however, led through the commercial exhibits, where all manner of consumer and industrial goods were arrayed as icons of the coming atomic utopia.

Such visions of progress abounded in the fifties, promulgated by advertisers, encouraged by governments. Progress in the Atomic Age meant a modern household, full of the latest appliances, inhabited by a nuclear family (a term first used in 1945). It meant economic growth, industrial development, the investment of overseas dollars, and the growing dominance of multinational companies. Atomic energy, through the image of the crossroads, helped to confirm this route as necessary, as inevitable, even though atomic energy itself failed to live up to expectations.

recurring dreams

Mark Oliphant, who returned to Australia to establish the Research School of Physical Sciences at the Australian National University, was but one of the many atomic prophets who believed that the technology would help propel Australia forward into the ranks of the world’s leading industrialised nations. As well as cheap electricity, Oliphant envisaged atomic-powered desalination plants that would enable the irrigation of Australia’s desert regions. The Premier of South Australia, Thomas Playford, was particularly inspired by these sorts of possibilities. Undeterred that known uranium reserves were small and of low quality, Playford set out to see South Australia through an atom-led recovery.7

Through persistence and good timing, Playford managed to extract a very generous deal from the USA for the development of the Radium Hill site. In 1950, the USA had just entered a new war, and their atomic weapons production program was in full swing – they wanted all the uranium they could get their hands on. Another deal between the USA and the Federal Government followed for work at the newly-discovered Rum Jungle deposits in the Northern Territory. The British, although they had knocked back Playford’s early offers, began to worry that they might be missing out. In 1956, an agreement was finalised to supply them with uranium from the Mary Kathleen mine, near Mount Isa. By the time these agreements had run their course, the USA and Britain were thankful to be relieved of their obligations. The Australian ore was low-yielding, and world uranium prices were steadily dropping. By the early sixties all the mines had closed. Uranium had not brought the economic windfall expected of it.

However, the efforts of Playford and others were motivated not just by the anticipated monetary returns. They wanted information. It was hoped that these sorts of cooperative arrangements would lead to a greater flow of technical data about the use of atomic energy for industrial purposes. Certainly this carrot was regularly dangled, but Australia only ever managed the smallest of nibbles. The Americans were bound by their own domestic legislation, as well as their commercial ambitions, while the British were bound by their obligations to the Americans. Australia’s hopes figured very small in comparison.

Nonetheless, Australia had managed to institute a modest program of scientific collaboration. A number of Australian scientists were sent to the British atomic research establishment at Harwell, to work in non-classified areas. These scientists, it was reasoned, together with a small nuclear physics unit, established at the University of Melbourne by the CSIR, would at least have some experience in the field. If Australia was finally admitted to the atomic club, they would have a few people who would know their way around.8

The Australian Atomic Energy Commission was established in 1952 to formalise Australia’s research effort. The indications were that Britain would be more likely to release information if Australia had its own research to exchange. So the AAEC embarked on a research program suggested by the British, built an experimental reactor designed by the British, and waited for the pay-off. It never came. By the time Australia’s one and only nuclear reactor went critical, Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ program had freed up access to atomic information. Why bother going through the expensive and complex business of designing and building your own reactor when you could buy one off the shelf from Westinghouse? In any case, it had become clear that Australia’s fossil fuel supplies were greater than had been imagined. Australia no longer needed atomic power.

The AAEC continued on as an organisation without a mission, although there was a flurry of excitement in the early 1970s when a reactor was planned for Jervis Bay. It seems the plans were motivated, at least in part, by the desire for Australia to develop its own nuclear weapons capability. The options were much studied, but nothing eventuated. The chosen site, I have heard, remains empty – waiting…

Atomic energy did not provide electricity too cheap to meter, cars or planes that never needed refuelling, nor the means to launch Australia’s economy into the superpower range. Yet, the Atomic Age was real. We were changed by example. The afterimage remained clear long after the blinding flash of atomic possibilities had faded. Although it never lived up to the dreams of its prophets, atomic energy shaped Australia’s history by helping to define the meaning of progress. Instead of a map and compass to chart our way in the postwar world, we were presented with a road. There was no choice but to follow in the bulldozer’s wake.

the dread secret

The verb ‘to bulldoze’ preceded the bulldozer by several decades, its meaning being ‘to coerce by violence’ or ‘intimidate’. The meaning became machine – the bulldozer so-named because it transforms its surroundings by violence. Our atomic bulldozer is an apt metaphor indeed, for in carving out its road to the future, the atomic bulldozer was also defining the limits of acceptable behaviour – threatening those who dared to depart from the ‘straight and narrow’. If the vision of progress wasn’t enough to keep us in its trail, there was the other half of the crossroads equation – destruction, alienation, dissolution, death. The bulldozer entreated us to stay on the road – for our own safety.

At about 11.30pm on 5 October 1948, a student walking through the grounds of Melbourne University noticed a fire in one of the ex-army huts used by the Physics Department. He raised the alarm, but little could be done to save the building or its contents. The results of two years research into cosmic rays was destroyed, along with much valuable equipment. The wiring in these huts was notoriously bad and it seemed that the fire had simply been caused by a fault in one of the electrically-driven recording instruments. Or had it?

In Canberra, twenty-four hours later, the Opposition member, W.J. Hutchinson was on his feet, bringing the fire to the urgent attention of the House. He quoted reports that described the labs as carrying out ‘vital defence experiments in nuclear physics’. This cast the fire in a rather more sinister light. After all, communist fifth columnists around the world were trying to infiltrate defence establishments, perhaps this was no accident, but an act of sabotage. Perhaps the fire was lit to cover the theft of secret documents.

J.J. Dedman, the responsible Minister, dismissed these speculations. The research was in fundamental physics, and of no defence significance. However, the battle was rejoined the following day as the Opposition conjured ever more elaborate conspiracies. It seemed more than coincidence that Australia’s only atomic research laboratory had gone ‘up in smoke’. An exasperated Dedman could do little but repeat his assertions of the previous night, but the damage was done. The invocation of ‘atomic secrets’ added an immense rhetorical weight to the Opposition’s otherwise bizarre allegations.9

The news of the destruction of Hiroshima had provoked much earnest discussion about dabbling with the ‘secrets of nature’. The liberation of atomic energy was both a victory for scientists, and a source of anxiety. Allusions abounded to Prometheus, Pandora, Adam and Eve, Faust, and, of course, Frankenstein – this was dangerous knowledge. Having discovered one of the secrets of nature, it seemed that humanity might have loosed a force beyond its control. This ‘dread secret’, this ‘sacred trust’, as US President Truman described it, carried with it a heavy responsibility. The secret needed to be guarded, the knowledge controlled, lest it be used to bring about humankind’s destruction.

Guarded against whom? The idea that atomic energy had been given to the USA as a ‘sacred trust’, neatly divided the world into those who could be trusted, and those who could not. If the USA had been blessed (or cursed) with the dread secret, then it was because the USA, and not its enemies, could be depended upon to do all that was good and true. The USA would defend the secret from those who would turn it to evil purposes. In the developing Cold War atmosphere, it was not difficult to hang a name on this threat – communism. This was the dark force waiting to devour those who stepped from the road to progress.

freedom through control

The manufactured hysteria that surrounded the Melbourne University fire was far from an isolated incident. The Opposition had for some time been attempting to discredit the Labor Government and CSIR by pointing to communists in their midst. In mid-1948, reports appeared in the press suggesting that the USA was withholding ‘atom secrets’ from Australia because of concerns about the security of CSIR. This was denied at the time, but the Opposition used the Estimates debate in late September to resurrect the controversy, brandishing leaked documents that clearly ran counter to the official denials. In a brutal tirade of allegation and innuendo, Opposition members attacked CSIR, questioning a number of appointments and viciously smearing its Chairman, David Rivett. Dedman and Prime Minister Chifley struggled unsuccessfully to defend their Government against this ‘evidence’ that it was endangering the country’s security and standing by being ‘soft’ on communism. It was in the midst of this bitter conflict that the fire occurred, arming the Opposition’s parliamentary brawlers with yet another blunt instrument to bludgeon the beleaguered Chifley government.10

US officials certainly were suspicious of Australian security, but ‘atom secrets’ were hardly the issue, as they had no intention of divulging this sort of information to anyone. It seems that the ‘secrets’ in question related to guided weapons development, necessary for the research Australia was undertaking in cooperation with the British at the Woomera Rocket Range. ‘Atom secrets’ was a big red warning label to slap on any defence-related information. It immediately placed this information in the most dangerous and most vital category – the sort of information that communist spies were most desperate to obtain. To prove oneself worthy of ‘atom secrets’, you had to be willing to deal with communism. To show itself capable of controlling atomic energy, a government had to be able to control its people.11

The Chifley Labor government tried hard to establish its security credentials. When it seemed that work on the Woomera Rocket Range might be disrupted by unions concerned about its impact on an Aboriginal reserve, the government introduced the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act. Amongst other draconian provisions, this Act provided for up to 12 months jail for any person who advocated the obstruction of an ‘approved defence project’. Such an attack on free speech in peacetime was unprecedented. Significantly, this act formed the basis of legislation introduced later to establish the AAEC, and to clear the way for the British atomic tests. The government had previously argued that the Crimes Act contained all the provisions necessary to protect defence-related projects, but the new act signalled more effectively the seriousness of the government’s anti-communist intentions.12

Continued attacks on security within CSIR forced the government to excise all defence-related research and to reconstitute the organisation, bringing it more closely under the provisions of the Public Service Act – CSIR became CSIRO. All employees were thenceforth required to take an oath of allegiance. Rivett could not agree to these changes, which he saw as attacks on the fundamental freedom of scientific research, and resigned. It was a bitter end to the career of a man who had contributed so much to the development of science in Australia. The consequences of the new order quickly became clear when in 1949, Tom Kaiser, a young CSIRO physicist studying in the UK, was identified at a ‘communist inspired’ demonstration outside Australia House. Although Kaiser was not involved in any ‘secret’ research, his interest in nuclear physics was enough to set the alarm bells ringing. The CSIRO Executive demanded that he return to Australia immediately. He refused and was sacked. The full story of Kaiser’s political crucifixion is yet to be told, but it is now clear that he was under surveillance before he even left Australia. Indeed, security officers had tried to have his request for a passport refused. This makes the manner of his ‘identification’ at the rally all the more intriguing.13

Such legislative reforms were still not proof enough of Australia’s trustworthiness, however. To directly answer the concerns of the US about the handling of secret information, the Chifley government overhauled the country’s internal security apparatus, establishing the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in 1949.14 ‘Atom secrets’ figured prominently in any public discussion over the need for such measures. Dangerous knowledge needed special precautions. Atomic energy had helped redefine the nature of freedom.

Having campaigned hard on the anti-communist issue, the new conservative government, elected in December 1949, needed no encouragement to fire up the bulldozer and gouge deeper and more viciously than their predecessors. The image of ‘atom secrets’ fitted well within the environment of fear and threat engendered to support their program to outlaw communism. Even though Australia’s own atomic developments were, as we have seen, very limited, atomic energy remained a prime concern of the security establishment.

In 1954, George Briggs, a mild-mannered physicist who had eschewed all political involvement, was called before the Royal Commission on Espionage (the Petrov Commission). Briggs had acted as a scientific adviser to the Australian delegation to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission in 1946-7. His appearance before the Royal Commission was prompted by a reference in one of the documents handed over by Petrov upon his defection. The document identified ‘Don Woods’ as a person of possible value to Soviet intelligence, and described him as ‘Secretary of the adviser of Dr E on “Enormaz”‘. The reference seemed to point to Donald Woodward, Technical Secretary of CSIRO’s Division of Physics, headed by Briggs. But what was ‘Enormaz’? Petrov had failed to identify the code word, despite the insightful prompting of ASIO’s Deputy Director-General, who suggested ‘The nearest I can think of “Enormaz” is big’. Edvokia Petrov finally identified it as referring to Soviet interest in the atomic bomb.15

Despite Briggs’s involvement in the UNAEC there was no way that Woodward could have had access to information relating to the atomic bomb. Nonetheless, Briggs was brought before the Commission, in closed session for security reasons, and questioned as to whether any of the secrets of the Western world in relation to atomic energy had happened to reside in his office safe. The grip of the atomic secret was strong indeed.

defending democracy

Not even ASIO’s best efforts were enough to convince the Americans and the British to start the flow of atomic information, but there were other ways to prove ourselves worthy of initiation into the atomic club. Selling uranium didn’t do the trick, even though it was often stressed that the uranium was being supplied for the defence of the Free World. So why not go that one step further? In 1950, the British were looking for somewhere to test their own atomic bomb. The Americans wanted to place too many conditions on the use of their test facilities, so the British Prime Minister asked his Australian counterpart, Menzies, if Australia could provide a site. With little hesitation or consultation, Menzies said yes.16

The first test was held in 1952 in the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia. The following year two more atomic devices were exploded at Emu Field, part of the Woomera Rocket Range in South Australia. The first of these, Totem I, is thought to have been responsible for the ‘black mist’ – a mysterious cloud that descended upon aboriginal communities to the north-east of the test site, causing vomiting, diarrhoea, skin rashes and sore eyes. The long-term health effects have never been determined.

Two more bombs were exploded in the Monte Bello Islands in 1956, before testing was transferred to a permanent site – Maralinga. Seven atomic tests were conducted at Maralinga between 1956 and 1958. So-called ‘minor trials’ continued on until the early sixties. While these trials did not involve the detonation of fission devices, they did result in the distribution of large amounts of radioactive material.

Ever optimistic, the Australian authorities looked upon the British atomic tests as another opportunity to gain access to information about atomic energy. However, for the first three tests they insisted on no formal scientific involvement. No doubt they realised that this would place the British in a difficult position, as any such arrangement would be frowned upon by the Americans. After much negotiation, three scientists were permitted to attend the tests on Australia’s behalf. Their background and connections made them politically acceptable, but they had no formal authority. Despite the grudging nature of Australia’s scientific involvement, the Australian government went to some lengths to stress the cooperative nature of the undertaking.

With the establishment of the Maralinga test range, it was decided to formalise arrangements somewhat, and an Atomic Weapons Test Safety Committee was established. This Committee comprised primarily the three scientists who had attended the previous tests. While the committee was supposed to ensure the safety of the tests, it was wholly dependent on information provided by the British. The Safety Committee’s main role seems to have been as a means of public reassurance. Concerns about fallout could be diffused by reference to these eminent scientists who were conscientiously protecting Australia’s interests.

But what of the interests of the Australian servicemen carelessly exposed to dangerous levels of radioactivity. Or of the aboriginal people, relocated, irradiated and ignored. Attempts to clean up the Maralinga range continue, but the stain can never be removed. Health and freedom were sacrificed for the protection of democracy, and in the name of progress. The images of the crossroads and the secret provided distorting lenses through which such perverse equations somehow seemed to make sense. The momentum of the atomic bulldozer carried us beyond reflection, beyond caring.

Nevil Shute’s cataclysmic war was, fortunately, never fought. But the atomic bomb has been deployed nonetheless. The main battleground was the future and the strike was quick and decisive. As the fallout cleared we found there was but one road left – our choices had been obliterated – and so we began our journey to the present, stumbling over the broken landscape.

  1. Reg C. Sprigg, Arkaroola – Mt Painter in the Northern Flinders Ranges, SA: The last billion years, Arkaroola, 1984, pp. 229-33. []
  2. For an overview of Australian government policy relating to atomic energy from 1944 to 1990 see Alice Cawte, Atomic Australia, NSW University Press, 1992. []
  3. From the official history of the test programme, Bombs at Bikini, quoted in, Stephen Hilgartner, Richard C. Bell & Rory O’Connor, Nukespeak, Penguin, 1983, p. 73. For information on the Bikini tests and their consequences, see : Neal O. Hines, Proving Ground – An account of the radiobiological studies in the Pacific, 1946-1961, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1962; Robert C. Kiste, The Bikinians: A study in forced migration, Cummings Publishing Company, Menlo Park (California), 1974. []
  4. Argus, 28 June 1946, p. 1. []
  5. Rev. Dr. C.N. Button, God, Man, and the Bomb, St.Andrew’s Kirk, Ballarat, no date. []
  6. The Courier-Mail Atomic Age Exhibition, Royal National Show, Brisbane, August 1947, Brisbane, 1947; The Daily and Sunday Telegraph Atomic Age Exhibition, Royal Easter Show, March 1948, Sydney, 1948; The Herald Atomic Age and Industrial Exhibition, January-February 1948, Herald & Weekly Times Ltd, Melbourne, 1948. The relevant newspapers carried many articles about the exhibition while it was in town. []
  7. For information on the development of uranium mining see Cawte 1992, chapters 4 & 5. []
  8. Tim Sherratt, ‘”A political inconvenience”: Australian scientists at the British Atomic Weapons Tests’, Historical Records of Australian Science, 6, 2, 1985, p. 141. []
  9. Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, 198, 6 October 1948, pp. 1317-19; 7 October 1948, pp. 1332-34. []
  10. Rohan Rivett, David Rivett: Fighter for Australian science, self published, 1972, chapter 1. []
  11. Frank Cain, ‘An aspect of post-war Australian relations with the united Kingdom and the United States: Missiles, spies and disharmony’, Australian Historical Studies, 23, 92, April 1989, pp. 187-202. []
  12. Don Watson, Brian Fitzpatrick – A radical life, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1979, pp. 210-11. []
  13. Rivett, 1972; Boris Schedvin, Shaping science and industry – A history of Australia’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, 1926-49, Allen & Unwin, 1987, chapter 8. []
  14. Frank Cain, The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation: An unofficial history, Frank Cass, Ilford, 1994, chapters 2 & 3. []
  15. Tim Sherratt, ‘”A physicist would be best out of it”: George Briggs and the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission’, Voices, III, 1, Autumn 1993, pp. 17-30. []
  16. For more information on the British atomic tests see: Sherratt 1985, pp. 137-52; Robert Milliken, No conceivable injury – The story of Britain and Australia’s atomic cover-up, Penguin, Ringwood, 1986; Lorna Arnold, A very special relationship: British atomic weapon trials in Australia, HMSO, London, 1987. []

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Tim Sherratt Written by:

I'm a historian and hacker who researches the possibilities and politics of digital cultural collections.

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