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Research Guides


Commonwealth Government Records about South Australia


British nuclear tests at Maralinga

Between 1952 and 1963 the British Government, with the agreement and support of the Australian Government, carried out nuclear tests at three sites in Australia – the Monte Bello Islands off the Western Australian coast, and Emu Field and Maralinga in South Australia.

Maralinga was developed as the permanent proving ground site, following a request from the British in 1954, and after its completion in 1956 was the location of all trials conducted in Australia. It was developed as a joint British–Australian facility with a shared funding arrangement. Following the two major trials (Operation Buffalo in 1956 and Operation Antler in 1957), there were a number of minor trials, assessment tests and experimental programs held at the site until 1963. Maralinga was officially closed following a clean-up operation (Operation Brumby) in 1967.

Eric Leslie Cook worked in the Department of Munitions between 1940 and 1946, and in 1947 was appointed as Secretary of the Long Range Weapons Board of Administration, which was involved in setting up a guided missile range and supporting development establishments in Australia. Between 1952 and 1961 Cook was Assistant Secretary, Research and Development, Department of Supply. Between 1961 and 1964 he was stationed at Australia House in the United Kingdom as Senior Representative, Department of Supply. In 1967 Cook was appointed Regional Director of the department. The Archives holds a collection of his personal records.

Information about Maralinga is located in records created by a number of Commonwealth agencies. These records cover matters such as personnel who served in the area, security arrangements for the site, and technical and survey information (including meteorological reports).

Selected series that contain records relating to nuclear tests in South Australia
Canberra, Sydney, Adelaide
Recorded by: Weapons Research Establishment, Salisbury, South Australia
Correspondence files, 1947– D174
Canberra
Recorded by: Weapons Research Establishment, Salisbury, South Australia
Identification cards of persons employed at the Maralinga atomic test site, 1955–67 A6242
Sydney
Recorded by: Weapons Research Establishment, Salisbury, South Australia
Maralinga reports, 1949–60 D1767
Drawings and maps relating to the Maralinga area, 1951–69 D2118
Aerial photographs, 1955–60 D4632
Aerial photographs, 1965–69 D4633
Adelaide
Recorded by: Weapons Research Establishment, Salisbury, South Australia
Photographs, films, drawings and glass negatives relating to Maralinga area, 1953–61 D1768
Copies of a catalogue of drawings and maps relating to the Maralinga area, 1954–83 D2117
Sydney
Recorded by: Director of Works, South Australia
Original plans (negatives), (Defence and Weapons Research), 1940–61 D1421
Maralinga project drawing register 3291 AM series, 1954–55 D4669
Copies of drawings and maps relating to the Maralinga area submitted to the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia, 1955–69 D4776
Sydney
Recorded by: Peace Officer Guard, Parafield, South Australia
Correspondence files (Peace Officer Guard, Parafield), 1942–56 D2569
Sydney
Recorded by: Chief Property Officer, South Australia
Computation books of Maralinga surveys, 1957–78 D5275
Sydney
Recorded by: Defence Security Branch, Salisbury, South Australia
Maralinga policy and administrative records, 1947–83 D4996
Miscellaneous records regarding Maralinga, 1949–68 D4997
Sydney
Recorded by: Stores and Transport Branch, South Australia
Maralinga photographs, 1956 D1826
Melbourne
Recorded by: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office, South Australia
Correspondence files relating to United Kingdom atomic weapons tests, 1956–57 D3684
Melbourne
Recorded by: Eric Leslie Cook MBE
Miscellaneous records relating mainly to atomic and long range weapons testing, 1929–69 M3881
Adelaide
Recorded by: Defence Science and Technology Organisation, Salisbury, South Australia
Records concerning Maralinga/British atomic tests, 1991– (Contents start by 1947) D4233
Selected items relating to nuclear tests in South Australia
Canberra
Protest against holding bomb tests in Australia, 1946–48 A1608, AW27/1/1 part 4
Department of Resources and Energy – radiological health during Operation Hurricane and Operation Totem, 1953 A6456, R021/001 part 75
British atomic tests in Australia – chronology of events, 1950–68 – Dr JL Symonds, 1984–85 A6456, R023/003
Melbourne
Photographs relating to atomic testing at various sites, 1947–60 M3881, 3
Adelaide
Welcome to the Claypan – an introduction to living and working at Emu Claypan campsite – in preparation for atomic testing in the area, 1953 D2861, WELCOME TO THE CLAYPAN
South Australian architectural drawing – Maralinga – village layout, 1956 D1423, folder 123 SA7724
Maralinga project – area security – booklet 'Radiological Safety Regulations Maralinga', 1957 D156, 1957/301

Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia

In response to growing concerns about the safety standards observed during the conduct of nuclear trials, especially with regard to measures taken to protect people from exposure to ionising radiation and the disposal of radioactive substances and toxic materials, the Commonwealth Government established a royal commission in 1984. The Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia during the 1950s and 1960s gave considerable attention to the tests conducted in the Maralinga area.

Selected series relating to the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia
Canberra
Recorded by: Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia during the 1950s and 1960s
Computer printout – list of items by title, R and Z series, 1984–85 A6476
Computer printout – file reports, R series, 1984–85 A6467
Computer printout – file reports, Z series, 1984–85 A6468
Computer printout – chronological list of newspaper articles, 1985 A6482
Computer printout – list of exhibits, 1985 A6470
Computer printout – numerical list of maps, 1985 A6480
Computer printout – numerical list of photographs, 1985 A6479
Exhibits tendered before the commission, 1984–85 A6455
Original agency records transferred to the commission, 1984–85 A6456
Research team bibliography, 1984–85 A6584
Statements received from Australian witnesses, 1984–85 A6450
Transcripts of proceedings, 1984–85 A6448
Atomic Weapons Research Establishment reports, 1984–85 A6454
Final report, 1985 A6460
Maps of atomic test sites, 1985 A6458
Photographs relating to atomic tests, 1985 A6457
Statements received from United Kingdom witnesses, 1985 A6449
Items relating to the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia
Adelaide
Final report, 1985 A6460, volume 1
Final report, 1985 A6460, volume 2

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