Radioactive Sheep, an Anomalous Flash, and a Nuclear Mystery

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By Brett Tingley

With as many nuclear weapons as there are out there in the world, it’s amazing there haven’t been more mishaps, accidents, or rogue detonations. While there have been a few close calls like the 1961 Goldsboro B-52 crash in my home state of North Carolina, so far we’ve been lucky not to have any major incidents. That we know of, that is.

Although it’s kind of hard to hide a mushroom cloud. Unless it’s underground or underwater…

While a nuclear weapon detonation would be pretty difficult to conceal, unexplained clouds of radiation circling the globe over the last year or two might suggest that someone is testing weapons on the sly. While in this most recent case there’s little to go on other than anomalous radiation detection, a still unexplained incident from 1979 came complete with an unidentified double flash of bright light. The American-operated Vela Hotel satellite detected two anomalous bright flashes of light near the Prince Edward Islands off the coast of Antarctica. It was determined at the time that the flashes likely came from a secret nuclear detonation – yet the perpetrator remained unknown.

Now, new research conducted by scientists at the Otago University at Wellington add to the suspicion that the Vela incident was indeed a nuclear detonation. The researchers examined previously unpublished studies of sheep thyroid glands conducted by U.S. military researchers in Australia following the incident and discovered abnormally high levels of iodine-131, a byproduct of nuclear weapons. According to their publication, these findings support the theory that the Vela anomaly was indeed the result of a clandestine nuclear test:

Iodine-131 found in the thyroids of some Australian sheep would be consistent with them having grazed in the path of a potential radioactive fallout plume from a 22 September low-yield nuclear test in the Southern Indian Ocean. Further, several declassified letters and reports which describe aspects of still classified hydroacoustic reports and data favor the test scenario.

Based on intelligence gathered by American spy agencies, it was assumed in the wake of the incident that Israel and South Africa likely conducted a joint nuclear test. That intelligence was then likely buried in order to preserve the United States’ strategic alliance with Israel. Even so, Otago University’s Nick Wilson told the New Zealand Herald that this study of sheep thyroids “adds to the evidence base that this was an illegal nuclear weapons test, very likely to have been conducted by Israel with assistance from the apartheid regime in South Africa,” a test which would have been in violation with the Limited Test Ban Treaty.

Who knew sheep thyroids could help solve one of the world’s nuclear mystery?

This incident really has to make you wonder: how many nuclear detonations or tests have gone undetected or have been assumed to be something else entirely? Even if the answer is “one,” it’s a pretty chilling thought.

This article (Radioactive Sheep, an Anomalous Flash, and a Nuclear Mystery) was originally published on Mysterious Universe and syndicated by The Event Chronicle

Continued from the Daily Mail…

Radioactive sheep found in Australia bolster claims that Israel conducted illegal nuclear weapon test over the Indian Ocean four decades ago

  • Study sheds new light on the mysterious September 22, 1979 Vela Incident
  • Double flash was detected over the southern Indian Ocean by US satellite
  • Security experts long suspected Israeli nuclear test with South African help
  • Now researchers reveal radioactive isotope found in Australia sheep thyroid 
  • The also analyze hydroacoustic signal detected by undersea US listening net
  • Israel remains mum and dismisses claim as ‘simply a ridiculous assumption’

By Keith Griffith

Radioactive isotopes found in Australian sheep have added credence to the theory that Israel conducted an illegal nuclear test over the Indian Ocean 39 years ago.

The findings, published in a new study for Science and Global Security, shed intriguing new light on the mysterious Vela Incident, as it is known, of September 22, 1979.

At 12.53am GMT on the date, the US satellite Vela 6911 detected the ‘double flash’ characteristic of a nuclear explosion in the southern Indian Ocean, near the Prince Edward Islands about halfway between Africa and Antarctica.

Advisors to then-President Jimmy Carter rushed to brief him on the incident, and security officials immediately speculated that the event was an Israeli nuclear test conducted in cooperation with apartheid South Africa, Carter wrote in his memoirs.

This map published with the new study extrapolates the likely nuclear plume from a detonation near the Prince Edward Island. The areas in purple show rainfall that could have carried fallout

However, an official US government panel convened to study the matter delivered an equivocal finding that downplayed the likelihood of a nuclear explosion.

Israel, whose presumed nuclear arsenal is considered an open secret by many, has steadfastly refuse to confirm or deny whether it has a nuclear program.

Now, the new study by Christopher Wright of the Australian Defence Force Academy and retired Swedish Defence Research Agency nuclear physicist Lars-Erik De Geer, offers new clues.

The researchers reveal the discovery of iodine-131 in the thyroids of some Australian sheep in October and November of 1979. The thyroids were sent to the US for analysis at the time, but the results were never made public.

The researchers write that the isotope levels ‘would be consistent with them having grazed in the path of a potential radioactive fallout plume from a 22 September low-yield nuclear test in the Southern Indian Ocean.’

The study reveals that the isotope iodine-131 in the thyroids of some Australian sheep in October and November of 1979. Pictured: Sheep in New South Wales earlier this month

The findings include analysis of weather patterns that suggest the fallout plume from a nuclear explosion would have looped over parts of Australia.

As well, the study analyzes declassified descriptions of an underwater sound wave detected by US listening posts that correlated with the double flash near the Prince Edward Islands, which are uninhabited except for a South African government research station.

The new study ‘removes virtually all doubt that the ‘flash’ was a nuclear explosion,’ Leonard Weiss wrote for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

‘This strengthens previous analyses concluding that Israel likely carried out a nuclear test in violation of US law and the Limited Test Ban Treaty,’ the nuclear nonproliferation expert wrote.

‘Israel was the only country that had the technical ability and policy motivation to carry out such a clandestine test, which, according to some sources, was the last of several and was detected by the Vela satellite because of a sudden change in cloud cover,’ Weiss wrote.

Israel for its part maintains a strategic silence on the question of a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Asked if Israel was responsible for the Vela Incident, Israel’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Itzhak Gerberg, told the New Zealand Herald: ‘Simply a ridiculous assumption that does not hold water.’

The Limited Test Ban Treaty went into force in 1963 and bans nuclear explosions in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water, rendering legal only those nuclear tests performed underground.

Israel signed the treaty in 1963 and ratified it in 1964.

This article (Radioactive sheep in Australia bolster claim of Israeli nuke test) was originally published on Daily Mail and syndicated by The Event Chronicle.

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