Anti Nuclear Power Movements

During and after World War II Australia began supplying uranium for the US and UK’s weapons programs, and this is how Australia got involved. British weapons tests in South Australia and Western Australia 1952-63 left a long line of health problems for Aborigines and armed service personnel, as well as significant environmental damage.

Let’s face it. We don’t want safe nuclear power plants. We want NO nuclear power plants —A spokesman for the Government Accountability Project, an offshoot of the Institute for Policy Studies, The American Spectator, Vol 18, No.

11, Nov. 1965The Atomic Energy Commission which was created in 1953 wanted to initiate nuclear power, to push towards nuclear weapons and to make plans to use peaceful nuclear explosives for civil engineering projects.

Contesters of nuclear energy used the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty of 1968 to strengthen the associations between the international export and expansion of nuclear power technologies and the production of nuclear weapons.

Eventually the coalition between US and Australian imperialism developed into a stronger one.

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In 1951, The ANZUS treaty was signed and the building of military bases at North West Cape, Pine Gap and Nurrungar constricted Australia to the US nuclear war-fighting machine in the 1960s and ’70s.

During the 1960’s, due to the obvious weakening of the natural and inner-city environments the environmental movement grew. Some environmentalists saw nuclear energy as a way to decrease pollution even though the majority of the people who joined the movement by now had anti-nuclear attitudes, and all the way through that time the anti-nuclear movement was chosen within the environmental movement, although a huge portion of the people who identify themselves as environmentalists, favour nuclear energy.

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Since power production by nuclear plants was usually centralized and nuclear power has forever been a technology which occupies specialists, some individuals with slight or no scientific training see it as an elitist technology. The public out-look of nuclear power was based on popular political and social awareness rather than in-depth understanding of the technology and scientific specifics of nuclear power. Opponent to Australia’s nuclear industry and connections was weak and isolated until the 1970s, when the various threads of the peace and environmental movements coalesced into a mass movement.

Early opposition to nuclear power was articulated in relation to environmental grounds: thermal pollution known and assumed reactor accidents, possible release of radiation during deliveries, and ever-developing means for long term radioactive waste storage and disposal. The environmental movement made such fears well-known, whereas the opposition on these matters such as concentration of capital in major engineering endeavors rather than decentralized and less productive energy sources, and production of nuclear weapons, did not attract much attention.

According to anti-nuclear associations, rendering nuclear waste undamaging is not being done satisfactorily and it remains a danger for anywhere between a few years to several thousands of years, depending on the particular nature of the Isotopes. Part of the radioactive material produced in some types of nuclear reactors has the potential to be used to make Nuclear Weapons by countries equipped with the capability of chemical and isotope separation. Anti-nuclear activists claim that this makes nuclear power undesirable out of concern for nuclear proliferation.

In nationwide coordinated demonstrations, the anti-nuclear movement engrossed up to 50,000 protesters in the major cities by 1976-77. There were active oppositions from the trade union movement, and the state and federal ALP began to adopt anti-uranium policies. Nuclear accidents are often cited by anti-nuclear groups as evidence of the inherent danger of nuclear power. Most commonly cited by anti-nuclear people is the Chernobyl disaster, which resulted in massive amounts of radio-isotopes being released into the environment which are highly radio-active compounds that accumulate in the food chain.

Popular celebrities such as Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne recorded songs regarding nuclear or alternative power sources. As well as numerous documentary films, the Academy Award nominated The China Syndrome, 1979, and Silkwood movies exaggerated the fears of anti-nuclear activists.

In Victoria, more than 100 local groups resisted to the nuclear industry that had been set up by the end of 1977. The most well-known were the Friends of the Earth, Movement Against Uranium Mining, Campaign Against Nuclear Power, Campaign Against Nuclear Energy, and later, People for Nuclear Disarmament.

Some of the more established groups were also involved, such as the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and the Wilderness Society. Onlookers claimed to see a substantial overlap between opponents of nuclear power and supporters of the one-sided disarmament during the Cold War. Others link the anti-nuclear movement to currents within the environmentalist movement who want the West to stop using so much energy and reduce the size of its economy.

Many problems were taken up:

  • the connection between the uranium industry and weapons formation;
  • the environmental abominations of nuclear power;
  • the major effects of uranium mining on Aborigines and workers in the industry;
  • not to mention the Cold War nuclear arms spiral and Australia’s involvement to it through the hosting of US bases, culminating in US nuclear warships to use Australian ports and the ANZUS alliance.

By legislation of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, as well as the Arms Control Act 1987, all territorial land and sea of New Zealand was acknowledged as a nuclear free zone. The anti-nuclear movement stands against expanding nuclear energy to transfer fossil fuels. They challenge that capital resources would be spent more productively on renewable energy sources than nuclear plants. They argue further that the problem of intermittency can be overcome through storage, biofuels, and oversizing the electrical-distribution grid.

Some raised issues were weapons testing in the Pacific, and the secret history of the British weapons tests. The movement interrupted and put in danger some nuclear projects (uranium mines), and damaged the credibility as well as the authority of the nuclear business and state. In spite of the successes, however, the ’70s anti-nuclear movement did not really threaten Australia’s nuclear industry and the movement declined during the 1980s.



  1. Tiscali September 5, 2005, Antinuclear movement, viewed 19th October. < >
  2. Morron, Juame. 2005, WISE – Nuclear issues information service. Viewed 18th October <>
  3. Clinton, Michael. Dec 2004, Toward Nuclear Abolition Viewed 20th October Martin, Brian, 2005, The Australian anti-uranium movement Viewed 17th October


  1. Vest, Jason. “The army’s empire skeptics,” Nation (3/3/03): 27-30. Officers are raising serious questions about manpower, morale & technology.
  2. Wilsey, Sean. “Peace is a beautiful thing,” New Yorker (4/11/05):52-65. Commitments to world disarmament have come from some surprising places!
  3. Zinn, Howard. “A break-in for peace,” Progressive (7/02):14-16. Trial of Camden 28 in 1973.
  4. Alan Roberts, “The politics of nuclear power”, Arena (Melbourne), No. 41 (1976), pp. 22-47.
  5. Audio”From a Distance,” by Julie Gold. Nanci Griffith, One Fair Summer Evening, MCA Records MCAD-42255.

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Anti Nuclear Power Movements. (2021, Jul 18). Retrieved from

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