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Thursday, 9 May 1957

Mr BEALE - The laboratories of the Department of Supply are concerned primarily with matters of direct defence significance, although a good deal of work done there has an industrial and a developmental significance, too. The pulverization of brown coal for use in turbine engines is a matter that occurs to me in this respect. We have, I think, done some work on desalination, although not much, but elsewhere in the department, the honorable member may be interested to know, there is a specific piece of work which, I think, has a great deal of national significance. It is, so to speak, one of the byproducts or bonuses arising out of Australia's agreement to establish the Maralinga testing ground. Those honorable members who saw one of the Maralinga tests probably also saw the machine to which I am about to refer. There has been brought to Australia and set up at Maralinga a new type of desalination plant which pumps up, from some hundreds of feet below, the very salt and mineralized waters of the sub-artesian basin of Central Australia. I am told that those waters are more salt than the Dead Sea. Approximately 120,000 gallons a day are pumped up and turned into sweet, potable water to the order of 60,000 gallons. This new type of plant is operated by the waste gases of the diesel turbine plant with which we generate our power, and therefore, in one sense, we obtain our fresh water free. We are hoping to develop and improve this type of plant, which offers numerous possibilities for Australia's arid areas, especially if, a little later on, we manage to develop small nuclear plants. The prospects of being able to use the waste gases from small nuclear plants to desalinate either sea water or sub-artesian water are very encouraging.

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