The Atomic Age, Maralinga, Lucas Heights and beyond

Media release: Tuesday, 17 June 2014

From Top Secret World War II files and early scientific curiosities, to the role of camels in extraction, uranium mining has played an interesting and controversial role in Australian history.

These and other archival treasures revealing the development of nuclear power in Australia will be shared at the National Archives of Australia, Brisbane office, in public talks this week.

'Nuclear controversies continue over uranium mining, management of radioactive waste and the place for nuclear reactors in Australian society', says Greg Cope from the National Archives' Brisbane office, who has been delving into Australia's history with nuclear power.

'Australia is not a world nuclear power, but we do make contributions in the global scientific and political development of nuclear science and technology', he says. 'And we happen to have the largest known deposits of Uranium located in any one country'.

The Archives holds a number of files which were once Top Secret relating to the Commonwealth and British involvement in seeking uranium for military purposes. These files are now open to the public and detail Australia's role during World War II when uranium mining was one of Australia's most closely guarded war secrets.

'Originally discovered in 1789, uranium was not known to be radioactive until 1896', says Greg as he explores how scientific advancements around the development of nuclear power were discovered by accident.

'Uranium was a scientific curiosity for many years', he explains, 'and only used as a yellow pigment in glass and ceramics'.

At the public talks, Greg will step through the history of Australia's involvement in nuclear power from first discoveries, the Atomic Age, Maralinga, Lucas Heights and beyond.

The talks will be held at the National Archives of Australia, 16 Corporate Drive, Cannon Hill, Brisbane next Wednesday 18 June at 10am and again on Friday 20 June at 2pm. A reference officer will be on hand to help researchers find their topic of interest.

Contact information

  • Greg Cope (Director, Queensland State Office)
    t (07) 3249 4224 m 0400 753 854
  • Lisa McKelvie (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 6269 m 0401337069 e Lisa.McKelvie@naa.gov.au
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2014