Australia and nuclear weapons - Nautilus Institute for Security and

and and
Richard Tanter
Nautilus Institute
of Melbourne
Nautilus Institute
Richard Tanter
Red Cross,
Alice Springs,
10 October 2013
of Melbourne
[email protected]
Red Cross, Alice Springs, 10 October 2013
[email protected]
1. The nature of nuclear weapons
2. Nuclear weapons in Australia in the past
3. Australia and nuclear weapons today
Extended nuclear deterrence
Australia and nuclear war planning
Australia as nuclear target
4. Australia and the abolition of nuclear
1. The nature of nuclear weapons
1. The nature of nuclear weapons
“A typical nuclear explosion…
(according to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs.)
produces energy which, weight for weight, is millions of times more
powerful than that produced by a conventional explosion
instantaneously produces a very large and very hot nuclear fireball;
instantaneously generates an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that can destroy
or disrupt electronic equipment;
transmits a large percentage of energy in the form of heat and light within a
few seconds that can produce burns and ignite fires at great distances;
emits, within the first minute, highly penetrating prompt nuclear
radiation that can be harmful to life and damaging to electronic equipment;
creates, if it occurs in the lower atmosphere, an air blast wave that can cause
casualties and damage at significant distances;
creates, if it is a surface or near-surface burst, a shock wave that can destroy
underground structures;
emits residual nuclear radiation over an extended period of time; and
can provide extended interference with communications signals.”
Source: “Appendix F: The effects of nuclear weapons”, Nuclear Matters Handbook (expanded edition, 2011), pp. 212-3, at
9 August 1945
• US detonated a 21 kiloton
plutonium implosion bomb
over Nagasaki
• Deaths - 73,884
• Injuries - 74,909
• Deaths by end of 1945 90,000
• 6.7 square km levelled
cancer risk
Increased rates of cancer and chronic disease
persisting in
continue throughout life
Nuclear numbers
WW II explosives: 3 Mt
Explosives in all wars >10 Mt
Largest nuclear test explosion 50 Mt, Novya Semlya, 30 October 1961
Peak nuclear arsenal 1986
– 15,000 Mt
– 70,000 weapons
• Current arsenal end-2012
– ~2,000 Mt
– 17,300 weapons, 4,300 operational,
– 1,800 Russia/US high alert
• Largest deployed warhead 2012 - on Chinese DF-5A land-based missiles, up
to 5 Mt
World nuclear forces, January 2013, (SIPRI)
Source: Nuclear forces development, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)
Part 1: Health
Part 2: Environment and
Part 3: Economy and
Part 4: Law and order
Part 5: Case studies
Part 6: Conclusion Preventing the
Reaching Critical Will,
February 2013
QuickTime™ and a
are needed to see this picture.
No possible medical response …
Sources: Tilman A, Ruff, "Impact on health", Unspeakable suffering – the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons on health, International
Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, 2012, p. 24, drawing on B.R.Buddemeier, J.E.Valentine, K.K.Millage and L.D.Brandt, National
Capital Region Key Response Factors for the Aftermath of Nuclear Terrorism (2011), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, US Department of
Energy (Contract No.: LLNL-TR-512111); and A.L.DiCarlo, C.Maher, J.L.Hick, D.Hanfling, N.Dainiak, N.Chao, J.L.Bader, C.N.Coleman and
D.M.Weinstock, Radiation Injury after a Nuclear Detonation:Medical Consequences and the Need for Scarce Resources Allocation (2011),
Disaster Med Public Health Prep 5, Suppl 1, pp. 32-44
There is no adequate international capacity to
respond to a nuclear disaster
“The evident lack of an international
capacity to help such victims underscores
the inescapable fact that to prevent the
use of nuclear, radiological, biological and
chemical weapons is an absolute
Loye, Coupland. Int Rev Red Cross 2007:89(866):329
2. A glance at the history of nuclear weapons in
• Mining uranium
• British nuclear tests
• The quest for an Australian nuclear weapon
• “We are not New Zealand”: nuclear-armed ship visits in
the 1980s
British major nuclear tests in Australia
Monte Bello
(off Trimouille Is)
3 October 1952
25 kt
Totem 1
Emu Field
15 October 1953
15 kt
Totem 2
Emu Field
27 October 1953
7 kt
Mosaic G1
Monte Bello
(off Trimouille Is)
16 May 1956
15 kt
Mosaic G2
Monte Bello
(off Alpha Is)
19 June 1956
60 kt
(actual yield 98 kt)
One Tree
27 Sept 1956
12.9 kt
4 October 1956
1 kt
11 October 1956
2.9 kt
22 October 1956
10.8 kt
14 Sept 1957
0.93 kt
25 Sept 1957
5.67 kt
9 October 1957
26.6 kt
Yalata and Oak
Communities with
Maralinga: The
Anangu Story, 2009.
Verbatim - Yami
Lester, Radio
National 10 January
Yami: The
Autobiography of
Yami Lester, (Alice
Springs, Jukurrpa Books,
It was early in the morning,
might be around about seven.
Explosion, big one. We feel the
ground shook and we heard the
bang and another smaller bang.
A lot of little ones between the
big ones," says Yami Lester.
Yami Lester was only 12 years
old when the first atomic tests to
happen on the Australian
mainland occurred at Emu Field
in northern South Australia on
the 15th of October, 1953.
[Youtube link]
Verbatim - Yami Lester, Radio
National 10 January 2011
Yami: The Autobiography of Yami
Lester, (Alice Springs, Jukurrpa
Books), 2000
The American veto of Australian nuclear weapons
- Secretary of State Dean Rusk: “I opened up all stops.”
In my talk with Prime Minister Gorton I ran into a full
battery of reservations about the Non-Proliferation
Treaty. ..Gorton is deeply concerned about giving up the
nuclear option for a period as long as twenty-five years
when he cannot know how the situation will develop in
the area. He sounded almost like De Gaulle in saying
that Australia could not rely upon the United States for
nuclear weapons under ANZUS in the event of nuclear
blackmail or attack on Australia.
I opened up all stops. One of the things which s getting in
the way is objections coming out of the Australian Atomic
Energy Commission and Defense on all sorts of picayune
problems on which we have been able to satisfy the
Germans and others.
Secretary of State, U.S. Embassy Canberra cable 4842 to
Department of State, 6 April 1968
Source: “Australia's Prime Minister Wanted ‘Nuclear Option’", 40th Anniversary of the Nuclear Nonproliferation
Treaty, National Security Archive, 1 July 2008. Document 16A.
But the policy continued until 1972:
Strategic Basis of Australian Defence Policy - 1971,
Department of Defence (cabinet paper)
192. Finally there is, in our opinion, no present strategic need for
Australia to develop or acquire nuclear weapons; but the
implications of China’s growing nuclear military capacity, and of
the growth of military technology in Japan and India, need
continuous review.
We consider that the opportunities for decision open to the
Australian Government in future would be enlarged if the lead
time for the acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability could be
We recommend regard to this, without undue claims upon
resources, in the future development of Australia’s nuclear
capacity for peaceful purposes, in the Defence research and
development programme, and in other relevant ways.
3. Australia and extended nuclear
absurd, obscene and dangerous
“As long as nuclear weapons exist, we rely on the
nuclear forces of the United States to deter nuclear
attack on Australia.
Australia is confident in the continuing viability of
extended nuclear deterrence under the Alliance, while
strongly supporting ongoing efforts towards global
nuclear disarmament.”
2013 Defence White Paper, para 3.41
The Australian model of extended nuclear
• lack of public presence and awareness
• a lack of certainty about its standing and character in
American eyes
• offshore location of potential deterrent force
• lack of an identifiable direct nuclear threat
• hosting of United States targeting-related intelligence
facilities justified as Australian contribution to
maintenance of global nuclear stability
• concomitant government secret acceptance of certain
targetting of those facilities in the event of nuclear war
Evaluating claims for the need for nuclear defence
or nuclear deterrence for Australia
what are the actual threats to Australia against which extended nuclear deterrence
is invoked?
what are the probabilities attached to such threats?
where threats are deemed to be actionable with nuclear response, what alternative
responses or means of addressing the issue exist or could be generated?
No government has addressed these questions in a systematic and open manner.
Question: why are Australians so accepting of their government’s 50-year history
of commitment to defence by nuclear weapons?
Pine Gap functions today
Two systems, primary and secondary
– two separate space-based intelligence systems downlinked through Pine
Primary systems: signals intelligence (SIGINT)
• One of three primary control and command stations
• Advanced Orion satellites detecting radio transmissions
• Massive downlink of intercepted data, then processed
• Processed data used in Iraq, Afghanistan, and counter-terrorism
operations (incl. drone killings), as well as strategic planning
Secondary system: Missile launch detection by infra-red imagery
• Remote Ground Station
• Defence Support Program (DSP) legacy satellites
• successor SBIRS [Space-Based Infra-Red Satellite] systems
• information facilitates US second strike targetting
• Missile defence system cueing role
Pine Gap aerial - Here-com mid-late 2012
Pine Gap from Mt Gillen, January 2013
Pine Gap Defence Base, as viewed from Mount Gillen, Alice Springs, Mark Marathon, 22 September 2013, at
Pine Gap - from the east (AFP)
DSP and SBIRS Remote Ground Station
Remote Ground Station
Note two
small radomes
Pine Gap, signals intelligence
and drone assassinations
A US Air Force Predator on patrol
Source: (US Air Force Photo/Lt Col Leslie Pratt).
CIA Drone Strikes in Pakistan 2004–2013
Total US strikes: 371
Obama strikes: 320
Total reported killed: 2,505-3,584
Civilians reported killed: 407-926
Children reported killed: 168-200
Total reported injured: 1,111-1,493
Bureau of Investigative Journalism,
July 2013 Update: US covert actions in
Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia
US Covert Action in Yemen 2002–2013
Confirmed US drone strikes: 54-64
Total reported killed: 268-393
Civilians reported killed: 21-58
Children reported killed: 5
Reported injured: 65-147
Possible extra US drone strikes: 81-100
Total reported killed: 285-461
Civilians reported killed: 23-48
Children reported killed: 6-9
Reported injured: 83-109
Bureau of Investigative
July 2013 Update: US covert
actions in Pakistan, Yemen and
Minimum number confirmed killed by drones in Yemen (to
Australian nukes on the agenda again?
Lowy Institute Poll May 2010 attitudes to
Australian nuclear weapons development
A) Now a question about nuclear weapons. Are you personally in favour or
against Australia developing nuclear weapons?
If some of Australia’s near neighbours were to begin to develop nuclear
weapons, would you then be personally in favour or against Australia
also developing nuclear weapons?
Source: Lowy Institute Poll May 2010, Figure 19: Nuclear weapons in Australia, p. 13
Nuclear target Australia?
Bases map
North West Cape
Pine Gap
The alliance bargain - US bases as the price of
“nuclear protection”
Part 1: Australian security depends on US maintenance of a stable
world nuclear order.
Part 2: “We accepted that the joint facilities were probably targets, but
we accepted the risk of that for what we saw as the benefits of global
– Kim Beazley, presentation to Seminar on the ANZUS alliance, Joint Standing
Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Parliament of Australia, 11
August 1997.
“We judged, for example, that the SS-11 ICBM site at Svobodny in
Siberia was capable of inflicting one million instant deaths and
750,000 radiation deaths on Sydney. And you would not have wanted
to live in Alice Springs, Woomera or Exmouth -- or even Adelaide.”
– Paul Dibb, former deputy Secretary for Defence, “America has always
kept us in the loop”, The Australian, 10 September 2005.
Joint intelligence facilities as “the strategic
essence” (Desmond Ball)
• Pine Gap (and previously, Nurrungar and Northwest
Cape) = core utility of Australia for United States
• Despite the risks, hosting the intelligence facilities is
usually justified by three rationales for the Australia-US
alliance for Australian governments:
– Australia derives crucial intelligence from joint
– Australia gets access to higher levels of US military
equipment (unlike non-UKUSA partners)
– Australia gets a seat at the highest strategic
discussions in Washington
Strategic considerations: why Pine Gap is still a high
priority target in the event of major conflict
– recessed deterrence
US-China relations
– cooperation or conflict?
– “power transition” theory and its devotees
– unbalanced deterrence = unstable deterrence?
– US/Japan missile defence and the erosion of Chinese nuclear
deterrence capacity
– China, the US ‘pivot’ strategy, and Australia: why would China care
about Pine Gap:
• US nuclear targetting of Chinese ICBMs
• US/Japanese missile defence
• “blinding” US space assets
Chinese nuclear forces, 2011
Source: Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese nuclear forces 2011”, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2011 67: 81
Range of
at present
cannot reach
Pine Gap
Source: Military and
Security Developments
Involving the People's
Republic of China 2011,
Department of Defense
Ranges of Chinese nuclear missiles (2007)
Most likely missile
to be used on Pine
Older, less
DF-4, DF-5, DF-5A
(CEP = 1,500 m.
and 1,000 m.
CEP: circular
error probable:
the radius of the
area within which
50% of missiles
will fall
Source: "Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2007”, United States Department of Defense at
Ranges of
Source: Military and
Security Developments
Involving the People's
Republic of China
2011, Department of
We’ve been here before: Peter Tait booklet, 1985.
Medical Association for the Prevention of War (N.T.) and
Scientists Against Nuclear Arms (N.T.), April 1985
Author: Peter Tait
Source: Peter Tait, What will happen in Alice if the Bomb
goes off? (April 1985), drawing on Desmond Ball, “Limiting
nuclear attacks”, in D. Ball and J.O.Langtry, (eds. ) Civil
defence and Australia’s Security in the Nuclear Age, 1984
Source: Peter Tait, Effects of a 1 Mt airburst over Pine Gap (April 1985), drawing on
Desmond Ball, “Limiting nuclear attacks”, in D. Ball and J.O.Langtry, (eds. )
Civil defence and Australia’s Security in the Nuclear Age, 1984
What has changed in this picture since 1985?
• Pine Gap still a high priority target
• missile size probably still of the same order of magnitude, but
possibility of smaller missiles - but more destructive
• Growth of Alice Springs west and south
• in 1985 simultaneous attacks on Nurrungar and North West Cape
were highly likely:
• Nurrungar gone, absorbed into PG as remote ground station
• North West Cape becoming important (how much?) for US
space surveillance and anti-sattelite warfare
What now for Australia?
• Building resources for an informed democratic debate about security and
• Understanding Australian interests vs. US interests
• What are the consequences of our current and projected force structure
and basing arrangements?
• Thinking deeply about China and making genuinely realistic assessments
about China
• What actual security threats does Australia face?
• What intelligence and military force structure does Australia need for
actual threats?
• What are the alternatives, and what are the consequences for the bases?
4. Australia and the abolition of nuclear weapons
• Australian national
• the human interest?
• the foundations of
genuine security?
• Why has the Australian
government shown such
hostility to the Red Cross
initiative on the
humanitarian effects of
nuclear war?
• Evidence-based policy?
• Priority: delegitimating
Richard Tanter:
[email protected]
Australian Defence Facilities:
Extended nuclear deterrence
“Absurd, obscene and reckless - American nuclear weapons in the defence
of Australia“, Dissent (Australia), no. 42, Spring 2013.
Pine Gap:
The “Joint Facilities” revisited – Desmond Ball, democratic debate on
security, and the human interest, Special Report, Nautilus Institute for
Security and Sustainability, 12 December 2012:
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