Oral Answers to Questions — Hydrogen Bomb Tests

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th December 1957.

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Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton 12:00 am, 12th December 1957

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the recently discovered fact that the explosion of even clean hydrogen bombs releases large quantities of radio-manganese, which remains alive for several months, and that the official estimates of the safe minimum of radioactive impregnation of human cells are at least three times too high, he will reconsider his refusal to suspend hydrogen bomb tests unilaterally, and will propose an agreement to ban tests internationally, with inspection posts, as a first step toward general disarmament.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

Radioactive manganese is not invariably released in nuclear tests. Where this has occurred the amount and effects are riot such as to change Her Majesty's Government's policy on testing.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton

Is the Prime Minister aware that American Navy scientists recently investigated explosions of the so-called "clean" bombs, and that the results were reported in the journal The Scientist and so were the biological researches referred to in my Question? The picture given was far more alarming than in the Prime Minister's reply. Will he not investigate this matter a little more closely?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I do not think that is really quite the case. Radio-manganese is not a fission product. Where it has been found to be released it has come not from the fission but from some equipment associated with the device. The physical half-life of radio-manganese is only 291 days compared to 28 years for strontium 90. Its life is very small, and therefore I would have said, in considering this Question, that there are almost minimal risks.