HAVING THE BIGGEST SINGLE DEPOSIT OF URANIUM IN THE WORLD at Olympic Dam is only part of South Australian nuclear story.
Douglas Mawson’s interest in radioactivity led him to identify and describe the mineral davidite, containing titanium and uranium, in specimens from the region now known as Radium Hill, at the start of the 20th Century. That deposit was the first major radioactive ore body discovered in Australia.
Adelaide philanthropist Robert Barr Smith financed radium bromide for William Bragg to continue experiments that would eventually lead him (and son Lawrence) to win the 1915 Nobel Prize for physics. Using the bromide, Bragg subsequently wrote “On the ionisation curves of radium” with one of his Adelaide University students Richard Kleeman.
While working for the CSIRO in 1944, Reg Spriggs was asked to take part in a top-secret geological survey for uranium. Without knowing it, Spriggs had become part of a worldwide search by Allied forces for uranium that could be used in atomic bombs.
Spriggs visited South Australia's uranium deposits at Radium Hill, near Broken Hill, and Mount Painter in the Flinders Ranges. Here he met another South Australian, Mark Oliphant, who was worked on the Manhattan Project to produce an atomic bomb.
The atomic bomb came to South Australia between 1956 and 1953 with British nuclear tests at Maralinga, The seven tests, including two major ones at Maralinga, had yields ranging from ranging from 1 to 27 kilotonnes of TNT.
The nuclear issue returned to the South Australian agenda in 2016 when the state government set up a royal commission and citizens jury into whether to set up nuclear fuel deposit in the outback.