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Friday, 11 May, 2001, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
Australia probes nuclear test claims
Servicemen at the tests
Servicemen witnessed the nuclear tests
The Australian Government has said it intends to investigate allegations that soldiers were deliberately exposed to radioactive fallout after British nuclear tests in the 1950s and 60s.

Research into Australian archive documents at Scotland's Dundee University indicated that 24 Australian servicemen tested different types of clothing to find out what protection they offered against radiation.

The British Government lied on the issue of whether service personnel had been used deliberately for human experiments during nuclear weapons tests in Australia

Professor Sue Rabbitt Roff
Senior research fellow Professor Sue Rabbitt Roff said that the document contradicted statements by the UK Government that no humans were used in experiments in nuclear weapons tests.

Britain conducted a series of tests at Monte Bello Island off Western Australia and at Maralinga in the southern Australian desert.

Mark Croxford, spokesman for Australian Veteran Affairs Minister Bruce Scott, said the minister had asked officials to contact Professor Roff for copies of the documents.

Canberra is compiling a register of people who worked on the tests, to be used for a study into cancer rates among participants.

Ground zero

Professor Roff told Australian ABC radio that the documents showed the British Government had lied over whether servicemen had been used deliberately for human experiments.

Servicemen were made to walk through ground zero
She said the servicemen were asked to wear particular types of clothing as they walked and crawled in the area hours and days after the detonation at Maralinga.

Morris May, a lawyer representing a group of 30 Australian veterans seeking compensation for exposure to radiation during nuclear testing, told the radio his clients had long claimed they were used as guinea pigs.

He said one veteran, a driver, had described how he had been instructed to walk through a contaminated area wearing army issue woollen clothing. No one believed him.

Soldiers crouching before a detonation
Servicemen were told to crouch moments before a detonation
Two British ex-servicemen recently claimed compensation in the European Court of Human Rights for health problems suffered as a result of witnessing nuclear tests on Christmas Island.

Their case was rejected in 1998 after they failed to prove that the Ministry of Defence had concealed relevant documents. An attempt to re-open the case last year also failed.

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See also:

28 Jan 00 | UK
The nuclear 'guinea pigs'
09 Jun 98 | UK
A-test veterans' court hope
29 May 98 | Despatches
Britain's nuclear legacy buried
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