Moulton nuclear test veteran backs university research project

British nuclear test veteran Doug Hern, of Moulton, has welcomed new research which aims to finds out whether there are any lasting health and genetic effects from their experiences in the Pacific during the 1950s. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG190616-105TW.
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Moulton nuclear test veteran Doug Hern (82) has backed a new study which could prove that he and others suffered life-changing and generational health problems.

A team from Brunel University London is conduction a three-year, £450,000 cytogenetic (chromosomes and their relation to disease) study to see if there is any evidence of genetic change in nuclear test veterans and their families.

The study, led by radiation biology expert Dr Rhona Anderson, will take blood samples from 100 military veterans, their wives and children, half of whom took part in the British nuclear test programme in the South Pacific during the 1950s.

Mr Hern, who witness five nuclear detonations while stationed on Christmas Island, south of Indonesia, from November 1957 to November 1958, said: “I’m very pleased that this study is occurring now and it’s something I would have thought that the Government would have wanted done 30 years ago.

“This study is being done under the auspices of the Nuclear Community Charity Fund (NCCF) so, in effect, we’ve had to pay for it ourselves when people like me have carried a huge burden since we came back from Christmas Island.

“But the research isn’t just to do with the genetics of veterans, it’s also research on the wellbeing of their families and the way they have handled this situation without help from anybody.”

I’m very pleased that this study is occurring now and it’s something I would have thought that the Government would have wanted done 30 years ago

Doug Hern, British nuclear test veteran from Moulton

The NCCF, whose trustees includes members of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association (BNTVA) that both Mr Hern and his wife Sandie are members of, managed to secure access to £25million from the Government to support an Aged Veterans Fund to alleviate suffering and increase wellbeing.

One of the five project to be funded by it was the university study and Mr Hern said: “It’s only been through BNTVA members coming together after it was formed in 1983, and members talking to each other over the following five or six years, that we’ve realised that all our stories are similar.

“We appreciate that the UK had to become a nuclear power, but the Government had all the evidence from the first nuclear tests in the USA to know that we would have health and family problems.

“Unfortunately, we as veterans face the fact that we may not be here when the outcome of this research is made known.”

In a statement from Brunel University London, Dr Anderson said: “This will be the first comprehensive cytogenetic exploration for possible differences between nuclear and control (non-nuclear test veteran) family groups to take place in the UK.

“The project will identify and recruit nuclear test veteran family trios (father, mother, child) to provide samples for cytogenetic analysis by a number of techniques to ascertain whether there is any evidence of elevated frequencies of chromosomal aberrations in the veterans and/or their children when compared to control families.

“The findings of this three-year project will address ongoing uncertainties in the veteran community, with participation in the study by invitation from the scientific team and based on established methodology.”

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