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Nuclear Tests (Radiation Compensation)

Volume 35: debated on Wednesday 19 January 1983

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asked the Prime Minister if she will release the principal official material about the radiation effects of British nuclear test explosions above ground, particularly in causing leukaemia and related blood and lymphatic diseases, and above blast and radiation precautions involved (a) in general and (b) at Christmas Island from 1956 to 1958.

The normal working limit of radiation exposure for each British nuclear test series was set at 3 rem but, for a few special operations of vital importance, a higher integrated dose limit of 10 rem was authorised for a relatively small number of personnel. These limits were compatible with the then current recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection and were endorsed by the relevant committee of the Medical Research Council. Observation of these limits was enforced. The potential health consequences of radiation exposures are published by the ICRP.All personnel were stationed at a sufficient distance from the test explosions to ensure that they were not harmed either directly or indirectly by blast. There have been no claims of personnel blast damage which would have been apparent at the time had it occurred.

asked the Prime Minister if, when holding her investigation into the medical records of British military personnel involved in the nuclear test explosions above ground in Australia in the 1950s, she will extend that investigation to the service men involved in the test explosions at Christmas Island and also into possible genetic effects on the offspring of service men and aborigines subject to whole-body exposure: (a) in all locations and (b) at Christmas Island.

The health survey being commissioned by the Ministry of Defence will cover all British personnel, service men and civilians, who participated in any of the British atmospheric nuclear tests in the 1950s. Sufficient data to support an inquiry into possible genetic effects is not available and would be extremely difficult to collect. However, from what we know of the measured radiation doses it is highly unlikely that any significant genetic damage would have been caused.