Atomic bomb fallout covered the city


RADIOACTIVE clouds from two atomic tests at Maralinga were swept across the Nullarbor Plain to Adelaide, classified documents have revealed.

Despite repeated official denials the fallout was dangerous, levels recorded at secret sampling stations exceeded those now permitted under federal health standards.

The Advertiser has obtained classified documents which reveal radioactivity was detected in Adelaide, Woomera, Oodnadatta, Ceduna, Giles, Cook, Cleve, Leigh Creek, Tarcoola, Marree, Port Augusta and Mt Gambier after atomic bombs were exploded at Maralinga in 1956 and 1957.

Fallout from the first SA tests at Emu Field, 480km northwest of Woomera, as part of Operation Totem was not officially monitored, but The Advertiser understands air sampling devices in the Adelaide central business district also detected radioactivity.

Fallout from the first Totem explosion on October 15, 1953, heavily contaminated nearby cattle stations, particularly Welbourn Hill and Wallatinna, with station owners, their families, workers and desert Aborigines exposed to a mushroom cloud dubbed "The Black Mist".

Adelaide was hit by radioactive fallout from the final and biggest explosion of the four-bomb Operation Buffalo series on October 22, 1956, with further fallout detected 12 months later after three bombs exploded during Operation Antler. The contamination occurred when inversion layers either trapped the mushroom clouds and pushed them towards Adelaide or forecast winds changed direction and dispersed the clouds to the east, rather than north as planned.

The clouds were tracked across SA, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland by RAAF aircraft, which became so contaminated they had to be cleaned at a special facility.

A national monitoring program established by the Menzies government in 1956 detected three nuclear byproducts – strontium 90, caesium 137 and radioactive iodine – in human and sheep bones, air samples, rainwater, soil, cabbages and flour in SA.

Similar results were obtained in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and Tasmania.

Strontium 90 is one of the most dangerous nuclear fission byproducts. It has a half-life of 28 years and lodges in bone tissue, causing leukemia and cancer. It was still being detected when the national program of testing the bones of dead children and adults was officially stopped in 1971.

The compound continued to be detected in milk samples randomly collected from Adelaide and other capital cities until 1984. No official monitoring for strontium 90 has occurred since then.

Caesium 137, which causes cancers and birth defects, was detected in SA children and adults during a Royal Adelaide Hospital study in 1962.

The results of the study were secretly presented to the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee, established to monitor radioactive fallout two years after the first atomic tests were held at Emu Field.

The AWTSC assembled official data to deny radioactive fallout was dangerous, leading to a confrontation with Adelaide University biochemist Hedley Marston, who secretly gathered contaminated air samples at Urrbrae and Roseworthy.

The committee then tried to stop Dr Marston from publishing a paper detailing how his air samples and contaminated thyroid glands from sheep and cattle proved the SA public had been exposed to strontium 90.

Four Adelaide hospitals – the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science, Adelaide Children's Hospital, the RAH and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital – provided bones from dead children, including stillborn babies, for strontium 90 testing for 14 years. AWTSC chairman Sir Ernest Titterton told successive federal governments the levels were so low the radioactive fallout could not have endangered Australians.

Nuclear tests no one knew about
Mums, babies had picnics during tests
What killed the Woomera babies
Nuclear dust settled across 1950s Adelaide
Just like your dad
Spate of deaths, serious illness over three decades leads to call for a national inquiry
Health card victory for test veterans
Shut your eyes and dig, dig ... that was the British military's advice for surviving an A-bomb
Found: hidden documents on A-bomb tests
Nuclear bombs 'caused cancer'
Maralinga tests on nerve gas, files show
Secret atomic child files opened
Atomic tests payouts reach $5m
Water 'fouled by nuclear waste'
Atomic waste 20m from public road
Maralinga veterans urged to have a say
How a dying rabbit was all it took to lift the lid on what it was really like at Maralinga
The key that unlocks the lies of Maralinga
Cloak of secrecy thrown on veterans
Hospital with no patient records
Aborigines died in test site bunker
Disabled son linked to atomic tests
Atomic bomb fallout covered the city
Nuclear truth revealed
How the RAAF used ocean as a nuclear dump
Crawling into a hotbed of radiation
Civilians exposed to atomic bomb test radiation
17,000 people exposed to atomic tests
Dark secrets
Files on atomic tests not inspected


We welcome your comments on this story. Comments are submitted for possible publication on the condition that they may be edited. Please provide your full name and suburb/location. We also require a working e-mail address – not for publication, but for verification. The telephone field is optional.
Fill in the form below and click on the submit button.
Full name:
E-mail address:
Telephone (optional):
      Your comment:

privacy      terms      © Advertiser Newspapers Pty Limited

Archive Search:
Newstext is our online newspaper library – with more than 150 papers archived. You need to register to search.
Pick a pic from our extensive archives at Newsphotos.
Buy or sell your car, find spare parts and read the best motoring news in our Carsguide section.
City or Suburb
Find a home anywhere.

Suburb or postcode: