27 Jul 2006

US pays compensation to British nuclear test veteran

2:31 pm on 27 July 2006

The United States government has given 75,000 US dollars in compensation to a former British serviceman who worked for a year on nuclear weapons tests on Christmas Island.

Roy Prescott served with the Royal Corps of Engineers on attachment to the US testing unit in 1962.

Ben Lowings reports from London.

"Mr Prescott witnessed 25 tests on Kiritimati Island. He's now 66 years old and seriously ill with lung cancer. Speaking from his hospital ward in the English town of Burton on Trent, Mr Prescott said he wanted lasting recognition for his service. He said he automatically qualified for the American money because he'd been an on-site participant, and he had one of the 19 cancers the US says is linked to harmful radiation. British, New Zealand and Fijian servicemen tested nuclear bombs on Kiritimati Island in the late 1950s. Britain is contesting their joint compensation claim, saying there's no official studies to link the test radiation with cancers. A ministry spokesman said he was sorry that Mr Prescott was unwell, and the US compensation was entirely appropriate. The spokesman said UK veterans got free priority healthcare as part of their war pension, whereas the United States did not make such social security payment. Mr Prescott however says Britain has failed in its duty of care towards its nuclear test veterans."