The September 22, 1979 Mystery Flash: Did South Africa Detonate a Nuclear Bomb?

by Ronald Walters, Kenneth S. Zinn (editor), Washington Office on Africa Education Fund
Washington, DC, United States
May 21, 1985
Publisher: Washington Office on Africa Education Fund
31 pages
Contents: SOUTH AFRICA'S NUCLEAR BOMB • THE EVIDENCE THAT A NUCLEAR TEST OCCURRED • 1) Vela Satellite Reading • 2) Hydroacoustic and Acoustic Data • 3) Fallout • 4) Ionospheric Disturbances and Radar Detections • OTHER AGENCIES AGREE • WHY THE EQUIVOCATION? • IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. POLICY • NOTES • Appendix A: U.S. NUCLEAR ASSISTANCE TO SOUTH AFRICA UNDER REAGAN • Appendix B: CHRONOLOGY • Appendix C: SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL STATEMENTS ON NUCLEAR BOMB • Appendix D • Appendix E • The report was written by Dr. Ronald Walters, Professor of Political Science, Howard University and researched and edited by Kenneth S. Zinn, Associate Director, the Washington Office on Africa. Report was produced in cooperation with Congressman John Conyers, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), and the World Campaign Against Military and Nuclear Collaboration with South Africa. The report says at 3:00 AM (South African time) on September 22, 1979, a U.S. Air Force intelligence satellite, the Vela, recorded a double flash of light emanating from the South Atlantic-Indian Ocean area. The report says nearly 500 pages of previously unreleased documents from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) that were obtained by the Washington Office on Africa through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicate that the NRL firmly concluded that a nuclear explosion had occurred; satellite photographs also indicated that South Africa was preparing to detonate a nuclear device in the Kalahari desert; South Africa has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The report says South Africa has received nuclear assistance from the West including the U.S., France and Germany; the Reagan Administration's policy of "constructive engagement" has meant increased U.S. nuclear assistance to South Africa; the Reagan Administration allowed the export of a Control Data 170/750 computer to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa; the Commerce Department approved five export licenses for nuclear-related materials to South Africa including vibration test equipment; and the Department of Energy granted a license for U.S. companies to service the Koeberg nuclear power reactor. The report includes quotes by South African Minister of Information Connie Mulder, South African Prime Minister John Vorster, South African Minister of Finance Owen Horwood, Dr. A. Visser, and South African Prime Minister Hendrick Vorwoerd. The report discusses the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Carter Administration, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mirage III jets, Bucaneer and Canberra bombers, the Jericho missile, 155 mm howitzer cannons, the Maroin Island, photographs obtained from its Cosmos satellite, the Kalahari Desert, Dr. Frank Press, Dr. Jack Ruina, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), zoo events, the State Department, scientists at the Los Alamos Laboratory, a nuclear explosion, Dr. Alan Berman, the Air Force Technical Applications Center, evidence of fallout, New Zealand's National Radiation Laboratory, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Dr. L. Van Middlesworth, radiation in sheep thyroids, Australia, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Dr. John Marcum, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Arecibo Laboratory in Puerto Rico, James Walker, Lewis Duncan, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon, the National Security Council, Congress, South African warships, columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, John Fialka, ABC News, the Antarctica Treaty, a South African government delegation, Lancaster House agreement, Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, the Cape Town Anomaly, Senate Subcommittee on Nuclear Proliferation, the National Technical Information Service, South African Prime Minister P. W. Botha, military weapons, Dr. Lukas D. Barnard, the Department of National Security, Kenneth Adelman, the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Albion Knight, Dr. Refrew Christie, the Terrorism Act, the South African Atomic Energy Board, Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), nuclear exports, ultrasonic tracking equipment, radio navigation equipment, calibrating testing equipment, the U.S. Nuclear Nonproliferation Act, a U.S.-South Africa uranium enrichment contract, the  "Atoms for Peace" program, Allis-Chalmers, SAFARI I, Prime Minister Verwoerd, Pelindaba, SAFARI II, Uranium Enrichment Corporation (UCOR) , AEB President Roux, Foxboro Corp., Valindaba, the USSR, the UN arms embargo, Foreign Minister Pik Botha, Representative Charles Rangel, nuclear flashes, and the African National Congress (ANC).
Used by permission of Africa Action (successor to the Africa Policy Information Center).
Collection: Private collection of Richard Knight