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The Impact Of Nuclear Testing On The Australian Environment

3056 words - 12 pages

The impact of British nuclear tests in Australia, as well as the government funded uranium mines which operated from the 1950's through to the early 1970's (the most notorious of these mines being Rum Jungle) has had a significant impact on the Australian environment and has caused long term damage to water systems, wildlife and plant life. In order to understand why Britain undertook nuclear tests in Australia and why the Australian government helped to fund uranium mining, one must understand the political climate of the time.In 1947 the British government, under Prime Minister Clemet Atlee, who it could be argued was eager for the country to acquire nuclear weapon capabilities due to the fear that if the United States were the only country to have the nuclear bomb, Britain's role in the world would be 'down graded' to being that of little more than a second ranked nation in relation to the global community. So thus the decision was made by the Atlee government that if Britain was to retain her status as a global power in the 'new' world after the Second World War, then she would need to acquire the nuclear bomb as soon as possible.But although they had the technology to develop nuclear weapons (they had been working on them since 1939) they had no where to test them, due to Britain been too small and overcrowded. Therefore Britain would have to look overseas for possible tests sites in countries where their were large uninhabited regions suitable for atmospheric and contained nuclear explosions. Britain at first requested permission to use the Nevada test site in the United States, but although the Americans agreed somewhat reluctantly to let the British use the site, they imposed conditions which made it impractical to do so.In 1949 the Liberal party came to power under Robert Menzies and Britain's problem of where to test was solved. The Menzies government believed it was in Australia's best interest to help the British obtain the bomb because it was believed it would also benefit Australia and in December 19. As well as this the Australian government also believed, as did Britain and America, that uranium was a mineral in short supply and their for highly valuable .In 1952 the Australian government gave permission to the British to undertake tests in the Monte Bello Islands of the coast of Western Australia. Atlee informed Menzies that for three years after the tests were completed the islands would be unfit for habitation or for occasional visits from indigenous pearl fishermen who visited their from time to time. Menzies accepted the information given to him by Atlee, little realising how absurdly optimistic his estimation and gave the go ahead for the tests to start commencing .So on October 3, 1952 the first tests were undertook at Monte Bello islands, with the explosion of a 25 kiloton bomb just off the coast of Trimouille island. After the explosion survey teams moved into the contaminated zone to recover their measuring devices. They...

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