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Nuclear weapons tests: Ministry of Defence admits it irradiated civilians in the Cold War via Mirror

Thousands of non-military staff suffered effects of the blasts and later had their health studied by government, with increased risk of cancer and heart disease

A newly uncovered government study details the death and cancer rates of 174,541 people who were exposed to radiation at nuclear facilities.

Of those, 64,909 were employed by the MoD in non-military roles such as maintaining nuclear submarines and weapons.

This is more than three times as many people as were affected by Britain’s nuclear bomb tests on Christmas Island in the 1950s – veterans who are also subject to government studies, and have had their NHS records flagged by the MoD.

The study of civilians shows higher doses increased the risk of thyroid, lung and rectal cancers, leukaemia and heart disease.

Yet while test veterans suffer the same cancers and have fathered children with 10 times the normal rate of birth defects, the Government spent millions fighting negligence claims.


The 2009 study was found by Steve Clifford, 52, of Fleckney, Leics, as he searched for evidence that his dad Graham, 76, was ­irradiated while serving as a cook on Christmas Island during 1957 bomb tests.

Steve, who survived an adult form of leukaemia when he was four and now has chronic pain with bony growths on his shoulders, said: “What’s truly eye-popping is their logic that ­civilians can be irradiated and get cancer but radiation just bounces off the armed forces without doing any damage.”

The obscure study he discovered was carried out by government statisticians in 2009.

It details 174,541 people who recorded a radiation dose at a number of organisations with nuclear facilities – power stations, scientific institutions, and the Atomic Weapons Establishment.

But by far the most – 64,909, or 37 per cent – were employed by the MoD.

They are thought to have been civilians supporting military work, such as operating and maintaining nuclear submarines and weapons, as well as a handful of military dentists and radiologists.

The tests saw 22,000 troops, many on National Service, were ordered to watch dozens of atomic and hydrogen blasts, and live among the toxic fallout for up to a year afterwards.

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