Number 1. The irradiation of ships of the “Special Squadron"
This is number 1 of a 15 part blog series, created by Mr Roy Sefton, Chair of the New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association.
The British Government has always denied that servicemen were not subjected to any exposure to radiation at the British Nuclear Weapons Testing Programme.
However, NZNTVA has a wealth of official documents relating to the British nuclear tests. Some documents clearly reveal that servicemen were exposed, on occasion deliberately. One such document details the irradiation of ships of the Special Squadron which was tasked with hazardous duties during the British nuclear testing at Monte Bello in Australia.
The document claims that the level of the contamination was low and not a threat, but then states it will constitute a potential inhalation or ingestion hazard. It is clear that ships were tasked with entering contaminated areas. If there had been genuine British Government concern about the safety of the ships crews, then measures would have been put in place to ensure that ships did not enter contaminated areas.
Because the document is difficult to read, a full transcript is provided below.
Roy Sefton QSM Chair New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
BEGINS> At Fremantle 8th November 1952.
The Secretary of the Admiralty. Whitehall LONDON S.W.1
Radio-active Contamination of ships of the Special Squadron.
Be pleased to inform Their Lordships that it was necessary, for the successful execution of Operation “Hurricane”, for ships of the Special Squadron to enter water containing radioactive contamination. In the case of HMS Trecker this was necessitated by her special duties and, in the case of other ships, by the large area over which mild contamination eventually spread. These conditions were envisaged in the planning stage of the operation and entry into contaminated water was properly controlled to ensure complete safety.
2. Nevertheless, small local concentrations of radio-active contamination were built up in such places as under water inlets, condensers, evaporators, cable lockers etc. Certain items of ships gear and equipment such as boats, anchors and cables have also been contaminated and decontamination of these items is continuing where possible.
3. Although the radiation from this contamination is so small that it is of no consequence, the contamination itself will be present for many months during which time it will constitute a potential inhalation or ingestion hazard.
4. It is therefore proposed that future repair or maintenance work on any contaminated fittings or equipment in ships of the Special Squadron should be carried out by service personnel under properly controlled conditions. Alternatively, Their Lordships may desire to give H.M. Dockyards experience in this type of work, but again some form of safety control would be required.
5. A full report on the nature, degree and extent of contamination in all ships of the Special Squadron will be submitted in due course. This report will include proposals for the custody and safe handling of movable gear or equipment together with proposals for the safety precautions to be observed when working on this equipment or on contaminated ships fittings.
(Signature unintelligible) Rear Admiral.