Nuclear veterans win access to records that ‘didn’t exist’
A SCOTTISH veteran of 1950s nuclear tests has won a legal victory to force the Ministry of Defence to release radiation exposure records.
David Whyte witnessed five nuclear blasts in the Pacific and says the radiation robbed him of the chance of ever starting a family.
As well as becoming sterile, the 75-year-old from Kirkcaldy, Fife, has been plagued by other health problems, which he attributes to exposure to radiation.
But he was told for years by the MoD that they did not have information on the radiation levels he was exposed to when he served in the army on Christmas Island.
Now a ruling by the Information Tribunal court in London has forced the MoD to release radiation exposure records to a “delighted” Mr Whyte.
The move opens the door for him and up to 1,000 other veterans to win substantial sums in compensation.
Lawyers acting for the former Royal Engineers soldier have now sent the records to experts to assess his exposure.
Mr Whyte’s MP, Lindsay Roy, welcomed the decision and said it raised even more questions for the MoD. He said that in a March 2011 meeting with Andrew Robathan, the minister for veterans, and civil servants, they denied that the radiation records existed.
Mr Whyte was part of Operation Grapple Z, one of the MoD’s early tests on nuclear weapons during the Cold War.
The former soldier says he was given protective clothing for just one of the five blasts, which started in August 1958.
Mr Whyte was never further than 10 to 15 miles from the blasts.
He said: “You felt the blast coming up. You could feel the heat going straight through you and then a blinding flash. You could see palm trees bending, it was rushing towards you.”
Asked if he was scared at the time, he said: “We were trained in explosives so it was fascinating.
“When the blast went off you could see the bones in your hands. It was just a red glow.”
He added: “I get aches and pains, which at my age now is understandable, but not from 22.”
The legal decision means Mr Whyte and his team now have a “dose rate graph” which reveals levels of Gamma radiation at ground zero.
He said: “I am delighted. Some of the guys died there on Christmas Island. I just think everyone tried to cover it up. I think they are more afraid now that it’s been proven.”
Mr Whyte’s medical records from the time have been lost by the MoD. Also missing is his personal “film badge” which recorded precisely how much radiation he absorbed at the time.
The US government has paid $100,000 (£64,000) compensation to nuclear test veterans.
But the MoD continues to resist cases, winning a ruling at the Supreme Court in March against Mr Whyte’s compensation bid. That decision is being appealed.
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