BRITISH scientists secretly used the Australian population to test for radiation contamination after the nuclear tests at Maralinga in the 1950s, a new book confirms.
Its author, Frank Walker, has obtained the minutes of a top secret meeting in England where the UK Atomic Energy Research Establishment approved a program to determine the long-term effects of the tests on Australia and its citizens.
In his book, Maralinga, Walker details how the meeting at Harwell on May 24, 1957, decided to first obtain soil samples from pasture regions near Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to check for fallout from the nine nuclear bombs detonated at Maralinga and the Monte Bello Islands, off WA.
The second phase was to test vegetation, particularly grass and cabbage, and milk for the presence of the radioactive isotope, Strontium-90, a fission by-product of nuclear explosions.
According to the document obtained by Walker, Professor Titterton told the meeting he wanted to collect animal bones “to see if Strontium-90 is getting into domestic animals”.
The meeting decided to take bone samples from 12 sheep stations along a 800km path of fallout tracked by Royal Australian Air Force planes which flew into the mushroom clouds following each nuclear explosion at Maralinga.
Professor Titterton told the meeting that the final phase of the testing would be to determine if Strontium-90 was being absorbed by the Australian population.
“We have to find out if Strontium-90 is entering the food chain and getting into humans,” says the document, which has the file number DEFE 16/608.
The scientists then agreed to start testing the bones of dead Australian infants and children for radiation contamination.
As The Advertiser has previously reported, hundreds of bones were subsequently collected from the bodies of 21,830 dead babies, infants, children, teenagers and young adults across Australia without the knowledge of their parents.
The Strontium-90 testing program in Australia was the longest of its kind in the world, finally ending in 1978.
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