Today in History: 3 October 1952 - Operation Hurricane

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Today in History: 3rd October, in 1952, the UK successfully conducted a nuclear weapon, becoming the world's third nuclear power.

OPERATION HURRICANE

Operation Hurricane was the first test of a British atomic device.

plutonium implosion device was detonated on 3 October 1952 in the lagoon in the Monte Bello Islands in Western Australia.

With the success of Operation Hurricane, Britain became the third nuclear power after the United States and the Soviet Union.

Implicit in the decision to develop atomic bombs was the need to test them.

Lacking open, thinly-populated areas, British officials considered locations overseas.

At the time Britain was still Australia's largest trading partner.

The two countries still had strong cultural ties, and Menzies was strongly pro-British.

Most Australians were of British descent, and Britain was still the largest source of immigrants to Australia, largely because British ex-servicemen and their families qualified for free passage, and other British migrants received subsidised passage.

On 26 February 1952, Churchill announced in the House of Commons that the first British atomic bomb test would occur in Australia before the end of the year.

The 1952 test was a powerful success.

The device used during 'Operation Hurricane' was not dropped from an aircraft.

The bomb was in fact exploded inside the hull of a frigate, HMS Plym, with the British keen to test the effects of a ship-smuggled atomic bomb on a port - a threat of great concern at the time.

After the test, which took place in the lagoon in the Montebello Islands in Western Australia, all that was left of Plym was a "gluey black substance" that washed up on shore.

The explosion, which took place 2.7 metres (8 ft 10 in) below the water line, left a 6 metre (20 ft) deep crater on the seabed, measuring 300 metres (980 ft) across.

It was clear that had the bomb exploded in a port, it would have been a disaster worse than the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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