October 3, 1952. Why is this day, 65 years ago, of significance to Western Australia?
At 8 am on that day, Britain conducted its first-ever nuclear bomb test – a plutonium bomb detonated inside the frigate, HMS Plym, as it was anchored in a bay at Trimouille Island, part of the Monte Bello group 70 kilometres off WA’s north-west coast.
Apart from obliterating the frigate, the blast left a crater in the seabed which was 6 metres deep and 300 metres wide.
The area became alive with deadly radiation, while atmospheric radiation fallout also proved hazardous as it spread over crew aboard the watching fleet, and further across the Australian mainland affecting Aborigines. Over the years, Britain paid compensation and the federal government also contributed to people battling cancer and radiation-induced illnesses.
Britain had become the third member of the nuclear club … joining the United States and the Soviet Union. Today, nine countries have nuclear weapons – the US, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.