Number 9 - Dr Karl Morgan American adviser to the British Nuclear Weapons Testing Programme.
This is number 9 of a 15 part blog series, created by Mr Roy Sefton, Chair of the New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association.
The late Physicist, Dr Karl Morgan of the US Oak Ridge laboratory, was the US adviser to the British during the setting up of the British nuclear test programme. Dr Morgan had previously been scientifically involved in the earlier American atomic bomb tests in the Pacific. He was concerned that only Gamma radiation was being monitored at those tests and Beta was not.
Morgan toured the ships involved, and tested them for Beta contamination and found high levels of Beta which had not been recorded. Morgan was greatly concerned for the ships crews.
Dr Morgan frequently went against the opinion of the establishment. In particular he voiced concerns about failings in the American testing programme and in particular the American Handbook on the Effects of Atomic Weapons. In the minutes of a meeting (reproduced below) he advised the British nuclear specialists
“He hoped that we would not follow too closely what they (Americans) had done and would profit from the mistakes they had made. He also stated that the American Handbook on the Effects of Atomic Weapons contained so many inaccuracies that it would be wise not to follow this handbook”.
The Minutes also State
“He (Morgan) also stressed the importance of selective absorption by different materials , when there is no indication of any gamma ray dosage the hazard from the beta ray dosage could still be high. On the decks of ships there was selective absorption by rope, resins, paint, rust and other materials and after the ship has been hosed down, in spite of the reduction of the gamma dose, the beta dose still remained high. He said that in view of what had been found he considered that men sleeping on deck might receive a very high beta ray dosage when there is no indication from gamma ray measurements of any hazard”.
The indicators are that the British leaned heavily on the procedures used by the Americans. In particular using the levels of gamma radiation as a mean indicator of other types of radiation levels including beta, and often monitoring gamma only. This in spite of some trials having found that the beta radiation to gamma was x 100.
In earlier years Dr Morgan and myself exchanged information frequently. Morgan was particularly interested in the New Zealand Grapple frigates. Apart from radiation monitoring at detonations, he considered that the NZ frigates extended periods of patrolling the exclusion zone without monitoring their environment, and their frequent encounters with contaminated rain storms, had put the RNZN crews at high risk from exposure to fallout. (see his comment in the documentary (“The Truth of Christmas Island).
Dr Morgan passed away before the 2007 New Zealand Massey University study on 50 Operation Grapple veterans had found significantly high levels of genetic damage in the veterans that could only be attributed to their nuclear test site service. Such research would have justified his concerns.
Roy Sefton QSM Chair NZ Nuclear Test Veterans Association.