Government urged to compensate survivors of atomic testing

By staff writers
July 26, 2011

Campaigners backed by MPs have called on the UK government to compensate veterans suffering the long-term effects of atomic nuclear testing which took place in the 1950s.

Many veterans have suffered medical problems such as cancer and skin defects as a direct result of their involvement in testing which took place in Australia, the Monte Bello islands and Christmas Island between 1952 and 1958.

In 2009, around 1,000 veterans brought evidence to the High Court which substantiated their case and showed a link between the exposure to ionising radiation and their conditions.

But the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) disputes their claim, arguing that too much time has passed for them to bring a case against the government. Many of the men are terminally ill and many have died since the hearing.

The US, France, Russia and China, which conducted similar trials, have each set up funds to award their atomic veterans.

On Thursday (28 July), the campaigners will go to the Supreme Court to challenge the MoD’s decision. They are asking the government to set up a compensation fund of £30 million that would give payments to eligible veterans or their dependants The MoD have already spent approximately £6.5 million defending compensation claims.

The campaigners have received backing from a number of politicians. Plaid Cymru yesterday (25 July) offered to support them "one hundred per cent". They described the situation as "an absolute disgrace".

“When the UK government conducted nuclear tests in the mid-Pacific in the 1950s and 1960s, service personnel were exposed to ionising radiation, which increases the risk of cancer," insisted Hywel Williams, Plaid MP for Arfon, "At the time, they were simply told to look away as the tests took place. Safety precautions were non-existent."

Williams insisted, "It is not about the money, these veterans should be recognised for their sacrifice".

He described the survivors of nuclear testing as "dignified veterans who do not deserve to be dragged through the courts to prove the legitimacy of their claims".


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