Queensland gold coast
Authorities were preparing to be hit by a nuclear satelliteCC

A large piece of nuclear satellite was once on a collision course with Queensland, Australia, leading to a secret emergency plan being developed by world leaders at the time, including then US President Bill Clinton.

Russia's Mars 96 Orbiter, fuelled with 200g of plutonium, had failed on launch and instead fired itself back towards Earth and the millions of people living in the Australian state, the Gold Coast Bulletin reports.

The event, which occurred over 20 years ago, was revealed by former premier of Queensland Rob Borbidge and former Australian prime minister John Howard.

Borbridge said he was meeting with the patriarch of the Greek Orthodox church when he was summoned to activate a full-scale emergency response.

While citizens of Queensland remained unaware of their impending doom, Borbidge was taking calls from Clinton and notifying emergency agencies. Had the satellite struck, damage would have been catastrophic.

"There was an out-of-control satellite, which was basically going to re-enter over southern Queensland and could have caused very considerable damage," he said.

"It was one of those things you don't want to make an announcement over something and scare people in regards to something that may not happen — and you can't do anything about anyway," he added.

"The PM had just had a call from the US president. It was Bill Clinton at that stage. It was a coordinated disaster plan, which involves everyone in the event of something going wrong. Just as we started notify other agencies, we were told that it wasn't a problem anymore."

However, it emerged the US had miscalculated where the satellite was going to fall and instead it ended up falling into the Pacific Ocean off South America, with some small parts landing in southern Chile and Bolivia.

"Fortunately, the Americans had made a serious miscalculation. The trajectory was correct, but obviously the distance was out because it went over the top of Queensland," Borbidge said.

"To be told that there's a very large piece of space junk, that had big bits left in it after re-entry, and was on a path for southern Queensland — it sends a nasty feeling through you, you don't expect it."