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Thursday, 9 May 1968

Mr FAIRBAIRN (FARRER, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for National Development) - The Australian Atomic Energy Commission keeps a very close eye on what is happening in Operation Plowshare and it is because of this close liaison that at the present moment Mr Kelly, the head of Operation Plowshare, and Dr Werth are in Australia. They have been invited here by the Commission. It appears that the peaceful uses of nuclear explosions are limited to underground explosions, to cratering, and perhaps to building harbours and channels. Explosions on the surface are, of course, limited by the nuclear test ban treaty which states that a country may not produce atomic explosions which result in radioactivity outside its own territorial shores. This limits very considerably the use of cratering. There are other problems associated with cratering and undoubtedly much more experimentation is necessary before its use for water storage and water conservation can be assessed. Firstly, no experiments have yet been done to show what the likely effect of radioactivity will be on the water stored in a crater. Then there are mechanical difficulties related to the depth at which the explosion should occur in different types of soil to get the right type of crater. There is also the problem that this water is likely to be expensive. Not only is it expensive to make a crater but it is expensive to pump the water out of it. Consequently, all I can say is that much more experimentation will be necessary before any country will know whether the peaceful uses of nuclear explosions can be extended to water conservation.

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