mark hertsgaard

Independent Journalist & Author


Australian Atomic Confessions


Welcome to Spotlight, Link TV’s weekly series of investigative reports from
around the world. I’m Mark Hertsgaard in San Francisco, and this episode the
spotlight is on nuclear weapons in Australia.


Australia has never possessed nuclear weapons, but its people and ecosystems
have suffered their effects just the same. Uranium mining has polluted soil
and water while sickening miners and nearby residents. The deadliest effects,
however, came from 12 nuclear weapons that were deliberately exploded on
Australian territory during the Cold War.

The bombs were detonated between 1952 and 1963 (1958) by Great Britain,
Australia’s former colonial ruler. The goal was to test the bomb’s
effectiveness. The bombs were exploded above ground and released vast amounts
of radioactivity, most of which fell back to earth in Australia.

British and Australian authorities repeatedly assured the public there was no
danger. But people on the receiving end of these nuclear tests—including
Australian military personnel and Aboriginal tribes people—soon found out

We’ll be back afterwards with an update. For now, from New South Wales
Productions in Australia, here is, Australian Atomic Confessions, on Link
TV, your connection to the world.


You’re watching Spotlight on Link TV. I’m Mark Hertsgaard.

The Australian and British governments are by no means the only ones to
endanger and lie to their own people about nuclear weapons. That has been
standard procedure for every one of the world’s nuclear weapons programs,
whether in totalitarian states like Russia and China or democracies like
France, India, Israel or the United States.

In 1993, the U.S. Department of Energy admitted that for many years it had
conducted radiation experiments on largely unsuspecting populations. As a
result of U.S. atmospheric nuclear weapons tests between 1945 and 1963, an
estimated seventy to eight hundred thousand people worldwide will die
prematurely from cancer.

Some 200,000 U.S. military personnel were exposed to radiation, usually
without their knowledge. Congress has repeatedly approved compensation for
these so-called atomic veterans, but the veterans complain that the
bureaucracy still reject their claims. Above ground weapons tests were banned
in 1963, but forty years later some Americans are still paying dearly for our
government’s commitment to atomic weapons.

If you want to find out more about these issues, check out the resources
listed at the end of this program. You can also find those resources at our

Following those listings you’ll see a clip from next
week’s program. Until then, this is Mark Hertsgaard in San Francisco for
Spotlight. Thanks for joining us.



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About Mark

Independent journalist Mark Hertsgaard is the author of seven books that have been translated into sixteen languages, including Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden; HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth; and A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. He has reported from twenty-five countries about politics, culture and the environment for leading outlets, including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Time, Mother Jones, NPR, the BBC and The Nation, where is the environment correspondent. He lives in San Francisco.