The Centre for Health Effects of Radiological and Chemical Agents (CHRC) was established in September 2017, funded by the Nuclear Community Charity Fund (NCCF) through funds received by the Armed Forces Covenant Aged Veterans Fund and Brunel University London.
Our purpose is the generation, promotion and integration of new, multi-disciplinary research that is particular to the British nuclear test veteran community, their genomic health and the impact of uncertainty on health more broadly. Our ambitions are to extend this scope to also include health effects of other radiological and chemical exposures that may be seen in other settings and to make the findings of this research accessible for all.
Our aim is to build to become a credible, independent, evidence-based source of information for the test veteran, scientific, health professional and political communities.
British Nuclear Testing Programme
The British Government undertook a series of atmospheric nuclear weapons tests at various sites in Australia and the South Pacific between 1952 and 1958. Associated with these tests was an experimental programme in which radioactivity was dispersed into the environment, this programme ended in 1963 although operations continued through to 1967. Additionally, UK personnel participated in a series of American tests based at Christmas Island in 1962. It is estimated that over 20,000 UK servicemen participated in at least one of these British and American tests.
An ongoing concern within the British nuclear test community has been whether veterans of these programmes could have received sufficient radiation exposure to cause genetic damage (changes to the DNA) in them. Genetic damage can increase the risk of developing various diseases. This concern extends to whether they might also have passed on genetic alterations to their children, thereby potentially affecting their family’s health.