2002, 55 Minutes
Fortress Australia uncovers one of the most extraordinary chapters in Australia’s history - the brazen attempt by successive Australian governments to fortress their nation with atomic weapons. Recently released top secret documents finally allow this astonishing story to be told. They reveal a web of intrigue, in which Australia’s nuclear industry became inextricably linked to a quest for atomic weapons technology.
Set against a backdrop of cold war paranoia and fear of Asian aggression, Fortress Australia explores the motives of the politicians, defence chiefs and scientists who set out to buy, then ultimately build, a nuclear arsenal. From uranium exploration and guided weapons research to A-bomb tests on Australian soil, the film shows how Canberra aided both Britain and the United States in the hope of sharing their nuclear secrets. But it proved to be an extraordinary double-game in which both allies and enemies treated Australia with mistrust.
This groundbreaking film penetrates the murky world of atomic espionage and counter-espionage. It exposes KGB infiltration of crucial political offices, which almost thwarted Australia’s nuclear ambitions. It also brings to light the secret role of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission in the quest for nuclear weapons - in particular, the ill-fated Jervis Bay Nuclear Reactor Project, which could have enabled Australia to build as many as 30 nuclear weapons a year.
A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
© 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.