Australian population used to test for radiation contamination from Maralinga

BRITISH scientists secretly used the Australian population to test for radiation contamination after the nuclear tests at Maralinga in the 1950s. 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. The final phase of the testing would be to determine if Strontium-90 was being absorbed by the Australian population.

The scientists then agreed to start testing the bones of dead Australian infants and children for radiation contamination. “As many bones as possible are to be obtained,” says DEFE 16/608. The bones would be crushed into a powder and sent to the UK for analysis along with the soil, animal samples and vegetation collected from the Australian testing sites.