<<返回上一页

Plane deceit

发布时间:2019-03-08 04:06:01来源:未知点击:

By Rob Edwards THE Royal Air Force deliberately concealed the fact that its aircraft may have exposed Fijians to dangerous radioactivity during the nuclear test era of the 1950s. A military memo passed to New Scientist reveals that crews of RAF bombers landing on the South Pacific island in 1957 were ordered not to tell the authorities that their engines were radioactive. The revelation has angered Fijian environmentalists and comes as more than 200 Fijian servicemen who took part in the nuclear testing programme prepare to take the British government to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg later this year. The veterans claim that radiation from the tests gave them skin diseases, anaemia and leukaemia. The Fijians joined more than 21 000 members of the British armed forces who watched 46 atmospheric nuclear explosions set off by Britain and the US in Australia and the Pacific between 1952 and 1962. In October 1957, after Britain had completed the last of its major tests at Maralinga in South Australia, which were codenamed “Antler”, support aircraft had to fly across the Pacific to Christmas Island for the next series of tests. En route, they landed at Nandi Airport on Fiji and on Kanton, for maintenance and refuelling. Five Canberra aircraft from 76 Squadron had been heavily contaminated while flying through mushroom clouds in Australia collecting samples. Although they had been cleaned on the outside, their engines were still coated with radioactive material. This posed a delicate diplomatic problem for Britain’s relations with its Pacific colonies. “There appear to be no regulations in force governing the transit of radioactive aircraft through international civil airports such as Nandi and Canton,” wrote Air Commodore W. P. Sutcliffe in a memorandum to his commanders on 13 October 1957. “The fact that an engine may be `hot’ should be concealed from the Nandi authorities unless they ask.” If the Fijian authorities did ask, Sutcliffe told aircrews to say that the contamination posed no danger to islanders. There are no figures on radiation levels in the engines but official records show that the Canberra aircrews suffered radiation doses up to six times as high as the current international safety limit for nuclear workers. The memo, marked “CONFIDENTIAL—UK EYES ONLY”, was passed to New Scientist by a researcher who discovered it in the Public Record Office in London. “This is an abuse of the trust and loyalty of a colonised people. It makes me very angry,” says Lopeti Senitula, the director of the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre,