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Sunday, 6 October, 2002, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Nuclear 'health threat' to generations
Maralinga
Maralinga: Australian site was base for weapons tests
Radiation exposure from nuclear bomb testing has left generations of servicemen and their families suffering from ill-health and disease, a newspaper has claimed.

The nuclear tests were carried out in the 1950s and witnessed by 15,000 servicemen in Australia and the Pacific.

The investigation, as a result, argues three generations of men, their children and grandchildren have suffered cancers, mental illness, deformity, infertility and long-term illness.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD), however, has discounted the alleged link as unproven.

The survey, undertaken by the Sunday Mirror, claims:

  • Leukaemia rates among servicemen's grandchildren are six times the national average
  • The number born with deformities and other crippling diseases is 10 times above average
  • Rates of Down's syndrome are seven times higher

The figures in the newspaper┐s investigation are based on a sample of 350 nuclear test veterans of who 115 reported health problems with their grandchildren.

Test programme

John Urqhuart, a government adviser on radiation exposure, called for a fresh review into possible links.

He told the BBC: "If we are not investigating it, we are not investigating a very important problem.

"We really need to know more about this."

Australia

Australia was a popular site for British nuclear testing in the 1950s and numerous servicemen were sent out to observe or witness the test programme.

Notable sites included twelve blasts at Maralinga near Adelaide on the south Australian coast and the first A-bomb test explosion on the Monte Bello islands in 1952.

Responding to the claims, the Ministry of Defence insisted that, so far, studies had failed to reveal any link between the nuclear tests and illness.

Tony Blair supported a private member's bill in 1990 calling for compensation for the veterans.

However, the government now believes there is insufficient evidence surrounding the claims.

A spokeswoman for the MoD said: "Comprehensive independent studies including some 42,000 individuals have shown no evidence of excess illness or mortality amongst the veterans that could be linked to participation in the nuclear test programme.

"The MoD has seen no evidence to contradict these findings.

"If there is any new evidence or data it should be put before the independent panel of experts."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Brain reports
"The Calendar family claim a nuclear timebomb is exploding"
See also:

12 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
03 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 May 98 | Despatches
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