Totem 1 was the first of 12 atomic bombs to be detonated in South Australian from 1953 - 1967

Totem 1 and Totem, at Emu Field near Coober Pedy were the first two of the 12 atomic bombs to be detonated in South Australian from 1953 - 1963

UPDATE:  The Nuclear Veterans have a new website as of 28 November 2009 as per comment below. 

The Australian Nuclear Veterans website has been closed down – it’s former web hoster TELSTRA, REFUSED to allow it as they have decided not to allow users to have a Telstra hosted website anymore and wanted to start charging fees for hosting it.
Nuclear Veteran events and information can now be found at
We (at sandersonsite) will be hosting it free of charge.

Read the events leading up to the original Nuclear Veterans website being closed down by Telstra….

Maralinga Anniversary October 15, 1953 – 1963 and nuclear veteran’s website is closed down.

Only a few weeks ago, the Australian veterans of the atomic tests launched a class action against the Australian Federal Government on the basis that at the time of exposing Australian troops to nuclear blasts the Government knew that the exposed troops were placed in danger from internalisation of fission products. 

Australian Nuclear Veterans Association’s had an information website until last week at, however the website has suddenly been closed down without explanation.

The ANVAR Web Site is normally maintained by Australian Nuclear Veterans who were involved in nuclear testing.

The veterans are trying to find a reason for the closure of their Australian Nuclear Veterans website? “Now Telstra tell us that we can no longer have our free space and have offered no explanation, ” said Ric Johnstone of ANVAR.

“We are now trying to find someone who can rebuild our website for us. We plan to put it on a private ISP as many of the service providers give free website space to their users”, said Mr. Johnstone. October 15 is the anniversary of the first nuclear test at Maralinga, Totem 1.

There will be an Adelaide memorial service to remember the day that Totem 1 was detonated – the beginning of atomic testing in Australia 1953 – 1967, and the contamination of traditional  Kokatha Lands in the Western Desert of South Australia. The Action Australia page on the ANVAR website contained the details.

Both Totem Bombs at Emu Field were mounted on towers for detonation. Totem 1 (10 kilotons) was exploded at 07.00 on 15 October and Totem 2 (8 kilotons) was exploded 07.00 on 27 October 1953. 

(The Emu Field site, approximately 100km west of Coober Pedy on the edge of the Great Victoria Desert in South Australia, is now abandoned. Radiation signs still warn outback travellers of the lingering danger.)

A series of kittens tests designed to evaluate initiator devices also took place during the Emu trials. [Note a kitten is an explosion where a charge (e.g. TNT) is used to detonate the warhead. As such this is not defined as a nuclear weapon despite the atmospheric release of radioactive particles.]

Unexpected contamination of air sampling aircraft occurred after the Totem 1 explosion. Also atmospheric stillness meant that the cloud did not disperse, and it retained its shape for over 24 hours after the blast.

The cloud traveled over Australia and crossed the coast near Townsville 50 hours after the blast. Sampling flights did not detect radiation in Fiji, although fallout was experienced across the mainland. A radioactive black mist from Totem 1 significantly contaminated the areas of Wallatinna and Welbourn Hill. This resulted in the exposure of at least 45 Aboriginal people, who experienced commonly recognised symptoms of radiation sickness, and estimated excessive exposures to radiation. Deaths were reported, but due to the Pitjanjarra tribal rules surrounding speaking about the dead, no estimate could be ascertained.

The Royal Commission concluded that it did not have sufficient evidence that the radiation caused the illnesses described by the residents of Wallatinna and Welbourn Hill. This was in spite of the reports of 50 eye-witnesses, the known meteorological conditions associated with the test, the known cloud dispersal pattern, and independent scientific cloud modeling that demonstrated that it was certain that the test conditions produced the black mist.

Similar back mist and rain events were noted at both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At the One Tree test site, the scene of the first atomic bomb exploded at Maralinga, scientists have recorded the highest residual radioactivity level of any of the blast sites. It will be unsafe for human occupation well into the next century.

At Taranaki, scene of the balloon-burst, twenty-one burial pits contain over 800 tons of contaminated material, including plutonium.

At the test sites code-named TM 100 and 101, the experiments carried out in the minor trials left some twenty kilo of plutonium scattered over the surrounding area, and evidence of minute particles of plutonium on the surface of the ground are still picked up on the detection devices used by survey teams.

The Australian Radiation Laboratory has declared that the British attempts at cleaning up after the tests were inadequate.

The clean-up operation, code-named Brumby, was carried out by a team of royal Engineers and scientists from AWRE in 1967. Before that date, the plutonium was left where it had been scattered. During Brumby it was ploughed back into the earth, under 10 centimetres of topsoil.

 Those who know the famous Maralinga winds and dust have argued that such a precaution was inadequate and the plutonium-contaminated soil was bound to get dispersed over the surrounding country. ‘The storms were like whirlwinds’, one veteran remembers, ‘and very powerful’.

Nuclear Veterans

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    This clip shows black-and-white newsreel footage of a nuclear test at Maralinga, South Australia, in the 1950s, and includes comments from people exposed to radioactive fallout from the test.

    A former serviceman reports that he was instructed to shield his eyes against the flash that accompanied the blast, while an Indigenous woman describes seeing what appeared to be smoke coming through the trees overhead that left behind a residue of grey-black dust.

    The clip includes historical footage and still images of the test site.

  2. One must admire the persistence of those like the Maralinga veterans who have experienced and been touched by this lethal poison, that should never have seen light of day. All it does it mame and kill.

    Just over one year ago this horrible reality was brought out into the open when a “prominent judge” fell victim to having built a home on top of a radioactive waste dump.

    If it wasn’t for the fact she was so prominent this may never have made the news. Of course it did. Unlike the brave veterans who were simply guinea-pigs!!

    The problem here is that despite the news and the judges prominence our dear GOV and it’s underlings still appeared prepared to shaft the judge and sideline the issue.

    Do these people take some special pill or have an exemption card that it can’t happen to them, or their families? God forbid.

    High Court Judge Built On Radioactive Waste
    Wednesday, 20 February 2008

    Australia’s first female High Court Judge, Justice Mary Gaudron, built a house and raised a family on part of the Radium Hill uranium smelter site, documents obtained by Member for Castle Hill Michael Richardson show.

    “Justice Gaudron – then a deputy Commissioner of the Australian Arbitration Commission – and her husband, Mr Nurse, bought vacant land at No. 11 Nelson Parade in 1968, built the three-storey home currently standing on it and raised their family there,” Mr Richardson said.

    “The Department of Health knew their land was heavily contaminated, but failed to pass the message on – which seems to be typical of the Department’s entire approach to the site.

    “The report calculated that a child spending more than one hour a week in a sandpit on the site or eating more than 0.15g of soil a day would exceed guidelines – but the Nurses were still allowed to live there.”

    “However, Canadian miners started dying of radon-induced lung cancer, the Government knew it had to act.” read it all here plus more………

  3. The Australian Nuclear Veterans website has been closed down – it’s former web hoster TELSTRA REFUSED to allow it as they have decided not to allow users to have a Telstra hosted website anymore and wanted to start charging fees for hosting it.
    It can now be found at
    We (at sandersonsite) will be hosting it free of charge.

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