MoD admits 40 years of radiation experiments


THE British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted that it was wrong to deny a report by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) that government scientists had carried out a 40 year programme of radiation experiments on humans, writes Rachel Donnelly, in London.

The research, according to CND, involved large numbers of male and female volunteers being fed, injected and asked to inhale a range of radioactive substances including "mock plutonium," niobium and barium.

The MoD has confirmed the experiments, which were carried out at government laboratories in Harwell and Aldermaston between 1957 and 1990, but insisted they were "ethical".

A spokesman for the MoD said: "These experiments started in the 1950s and continued until the 1980s and were used to estimate the effects of absorbing nuclear material. The amount of radioactive substances administered was negligible."

However, CND's report, Nuclear Guinea Pigs, which is a collection of more than 50 MoD documents that were released to the organisation by the American - government, reveals that not all the volunteers would have had detailed knowledge of the implications of the experiments.

The report rejects the MoD's assertion that the amount of radioactive material used was "negligible," saying it would have been "pointless" for scientists to conduct experiments with such small quantities.

The author of the report, Mr Eddie Goncalves, said: "One of the issues is to what extent these guinea pigs really were volunteers and to what extent they had the risks properly explained to them."

An estimated 200 people took part in the experiments. Mr William Peten of CND said: "It is clear that parliament and the public have been misled over the Frankenstein-esque nature of the experiments."

A former Royal Navy sailor, Mr Paul Brownett (46), said yesterday he was referred to the nuclear medicine institute in Hampshire when he complained of severe headaches in 1970. He described an operation whereby a large metal machine was lowered above his head and radium dye was then injected into his neck. Mr Brownett said: "I ended up going back to London where they prescribed me glasses a few weeks later and the headaches went away. I'm suspicious that it was a human radiation experiment and would like to know why they injected me with the dye, but I have had no ill effects."

A spokesman for the MoD said he doubted whether Mr Brownett had been subjected to radiation experiments without his consent.