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Veterans: Radiation Exposure

Question for Ministry of Defence

UIN 184480, tabled on 20 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, when the results will be published of the fourth follow up study carried out by the National Radiological Protection Board (Public Health England) considering overall mortality and cancer incidence in Nuclear Testing Veterans, comparing veterans present at the tests with a control group of age matched veterans serving at the same time but who were not nuclear test veterans, and with the UK general population.

Answered on

26 April 2021

The position of this, and previous Governments, is that there is no published peer-reviewed evidence of excess illness or mortality among Nuclear Test Veterans (NTVs) as a group that could be linked to participation in the tests or to exposure to radiation as a result of that participation. Formal and well-documented procedures were in place to ensure the health and safety of those participating in the testing programme.

In response to health concerns of some NTVs in the 1980s, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) commissioned epidemiological studies into the mortality and cancer incidence among nuclear test participants. These were conducted by the independent National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), now part of Public Health England (PHE). Three analyses were carried out, of which the latest report published in 2003 concluded that overall levels of mortality and cancer incidence in NTVs have continued to be similar to those in a matched Service control group and lower than in the general population. That report is available from the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mortality-and-cancer-incidence-1952-1998-uk-nuclear-weapons-tests

To provide further reassurance, the MOD commissioned a fourth study in the NRPB series in order to bring the evidence completely up to date. The study was carried out by PHE and commenced in December 2018. The study will extend the analysis by a further almost 20 years, again considering overall mortality and cancer incidence and mortality, and comparing veterans present at the tests with a control group of age matched veterans serving at the same time, but who were not NTVs, and with the UK general population. The Department's understanding is that the study has been completed and the researchers are preparing a paper for submission to a mainstream scientific/medical journal. This will then be peer reviewed. Further details about the study are available at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nuclear-weapons-test-participants-study/plan-for-the-fourth-analysis-of-the-nuclear-weapons-test-participants-study

Analysis of the international published peer-reviewed evidence to date provides no support for increased rates of congenital defects in children born to parents at risk of exposure to ionising radiation.