Accidents at Emu Field, Woomera, Australia


In an accident report dated September 1953, obtained by Nuclear Veterans Worldwide, Mr L G Knight recalls his exposure to radiation.


Mr Knight died from cancer in 1983, we believe it was as a result of the accident.


Mr Knight was asked to collect test samples from the affected area. He would need protective clothing and respirators. 10 hours after the firing, armed with a personal film badge, two total dose meters and a radiation monitor, they set off for the affected area.


No instructions were given on how to read the meters or their significance, he assumed that Ieuan Maddock (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ieuan_Maddock) would provide the guidance.


His task was a simple one, carry the instruments and relay the reading at regular intervals.


After driving to within one mile of the centre of the explosion, they stopped and then put on their respirators. He then drove for another half a mile before walking towards the centre of the explosion. The driver stayed with the vehicle and Titterton walked in the opposite direction.

On collecting the samples, the radiation reading was lower than expected, and Maddock found that the 'Multiply by 10' scale had been incorrectly set by whoever issued the instrument. The actual readings that he had read out were 10 times higher than indicated.


On realising the readings were at higher levels, they then returned immediately to the vehicle, and went straight to the decontamination centre. After repeated washing, the level was reduced to an acceptable safe level.


Mr Knight never received any written confirmation that he did not receive an increased dose and no statement was ever made as to how much he did actually receive.


Not only did he receive the original exposure, but during the washing, he was not wearing any respirator and could have inhaled further contaminates.


Conclusion


This is another example of how the incompetence of the officials led to Mr Knight being exposed to dangerously high levels of radiation, then receiving no official confirmation of the readings, no statement concerning his safety. Effectively he was a 'guinea pig' who unfortunately paid the ultimate sacrifice and died in 1983 from cancer.


We will not know how much the exposure led to his cancer diagnosis, the records of the accident do not seem to exist, his life cut short by the Nuclear tests.


In this case his exposure was far from "satisfactory"

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