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SA Memory. South Australia past and present, for the future


The British began atomic bomb tests in Australia in 1952. The first tests took place on the Monte Bello Islands off the north coast of Western Australia and at Emu Field about 480 kilometres north west of Woomera in South Australia. After the success of these trials, it was decided that the British would establish a permanent proving ground for further tests. Maralinga, in the desert of South Australia's west, was chosen and regular British atomic testing began there on 27 September 1956. Seven atomic bombs were detonated at Maralinga in 1956 and '57 with a further series of 'minor trials' in which at least another 300 nuclear devices were exploded.

Atomic testing at Maralinga has left a dreadful legacy. The sites were officially 'cleaned up' in 1967. However, there are continued concerns about the effect of radiation exposure on the people involved in the tests. There have been numerous incidences of radiation sickness, chronic illness and birth defects amongst the Australian and British service personnel who served at Maralinga and in the Aboriginal communities on whose lands the tests occurred.

Atomic testing at Maralinga
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No risk from atom blast : minister's assurance
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Plutonium buried at Maralinga
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