UK admits servicemen exposed to radiation
5:00AM Monday August 04, 2008
By Alanah May Eriksen
British Defence chiefs have admitted servicemen were exposed to dangerous
radiation levels during nuclear tests in Australia and the South Pacific in
But a New Zealand veterans advocate has dismissed the admission as a token
gesture, which goes nowhere towards satisfying a claim for compensation by
The Sunday Mirror reported yesterday that court papers show the British
Ministry of Defence (MoD) now believes - after years of denials - that
nuclear tests were responsible for the deaths of some British servicemen.
However, the MoD insists that only 159 men were affected out of the 20,000
who were present.
About 800 former servicemen from Britain, New Zealand and Fiji launched a
multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the MoD this year, claiming they had
been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation during tests at sites
including Maralinga in South Australia and Christmas Island.
The court documents show two Royal Air Force servicemen, Eric Denson and
John Brothers, were irradiated after being ordered to fly through the
mushroom clouds of nuclear bombs to collect samples.
Film badges worn by the men recorded the amount of radiation they were
exposed to. "Eric had a dose equivalent to 190 years of background
radiation," the newspaper said. "John's was 107. The MoD's maximum safe dose
was just 30."
About 550 New Zealand sailors on board the frigates HMNZS Pukaki and HMNZS
Rotoiti were at the series of nine aerial bomb explosions at Christmas
Island in the Pacific and Malden Island, part of Kiribati, beginning on May
There are thought to be about 160 left alive.
The sailors, banded together as the New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans
Association, are part of the class action lawsuit.
The chairman of the association, Roy Sefton, who suffers from muscle and
skeletal pain that he is certain is a result of being exposed to the
testing, said the admission was laughable.
"It's rubbish. I don't know how many, but there have been many thousands
exposed. It's not even within the realms of reality. It's a token gesture.
"You wouldn't have all these men 20 nautical miles from ground zero if it
wasn't for some sort of purpose, to see how they reacted."
Mr Sefton said British defence chiefs wanted to play the incident down
because Britain wanted to upgrade its nuclear power stations and build new