Backgrounder: Why was Maralinga used for secret nuclear tests?SBS News 5 Nov 14 “…….
What happened to the people who lived there?
The nuclear testings lead to widespread dispersion of radioactive material in the local environment. The Anangu Aboriginal people who lived the area called it “puyu” or “black mist”.
UK servicemen, Australian soldiers and civilians, including Indigenous people, were all exposed to radiation. Illnesses reportedly included cancer, blood diseases, eye problems, skin rashes, blindness, vomitting, which are all symptoms of radioactive poisoning.
Between 1953 and 1957, two nuclear devices were detonated at Emu and seven at Maralinga, the Department of Industry reported. According to the Australian Radiationn Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) these “major trials” have largely decayed and are “no longer a significant health risk” as these nuclear devices were conducted at higher altitudes (from balloons).
However, the biggest cause of contamination was from “minor trials”, which were weapons development trials that investigated the performance of various components of a nuclear device. Although minor trials didn’t involve nuclear explosions, they did contain radioactive material.
Since contamination remains on or close to the ground surface, there is a significant health risk for locals. Three sites, Taranaki, TM100/101 (TMs), and Wewak remained highly contaminated with plutonium 40 years later……..
Were victims compensated by the British government?
Aboriginal people exposed to British nuclear tests in South Australia during the 1950s are being told they have no hope of compensation. British firm Hickman and Rose had hoped to represent more than 150 civilians, if a huge class action by 1,000 British veterans had succeeded.
But the class action was blocked – the UK Supreme Court ruling that 60 years after the event their claims were too late, the causes of their illnesses apparently unprovable. (Read the full judgment here)
The Australian Greens’ nuclear spokesman Scott Ludlam said the dangers of radiation are well known and it’s unfair to ask Aboriginal people with scant medical records to prove a direct link between exposure to fallout and subsequent sickness.
“The British courts have blocked the application from Defence personnel and Aboriginal people in central Australia by saying you can’t prove those radiations exposures are what caused your illness,” he said. “Now, we know that ionising radiation is harmful for health – we know that for a fact. The right thing for the British Government to do is make an Act of Grace payment to the people who they injured in their nuclear weapons tests.”
In response, UK Defence Personnel Welfare and Veterans Minister of State Mark Francois said: “[The] Ministry of Defence’s position with respect to paying compensation is unchanged. I am sorry to have to send a disappointing reply, but I hope I have explained the reasons for doing so.”……http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/11/05/backgrounder-why-was-maralinga-used-secret-nuclear-tests