Nuclear Test Veterans – Atomic Weapons Establishment Records

Ministry of Defence written statement – made at on 21 May 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

On 28 November 2023, I made a commitment during the debate on Nuclear Test Veterans: Medical Records (Official Report, column 245WH) to personally review records held by the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) relating to nuclear test veterans. Having reviewed 151 records, I am today publishing those papers on gov.uk and also placing them in the Library of the House.

The titles of 151 records were promulgated in responses provided by the AWE to Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) requests on 5 July and 12 September 2023, following a search for records using the terms ‘Blood’ and ‘Urine’ within a database named “Merlin”.

The Merlin database contains over 28,000 records relating to historical technical and scientific documentation on the UK’s nuclear testing programme. It is held and maintained by AWE and was developed to store relevant factual documentary evidence considered during nuclear test veterans’ legal action for compensation.

The Merlin database does not contain, and AWE does not hold, any medical records for any former Service personnel. Any medical records taken either before, during or after participation in the UK nuclear weapon tests should be held in individual military medical records in the Government’s archives, which can be accessed on request. A veteran, or representative acting on their behalf, can make a Subject Access Request (SAR) to gain access to records held on them. The records of deceased veterans can be requested by surviving family members through an FOI request. Guidance is set out on gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/requests-for-personal-data-and-service-records.

AWE does hold, and routinely responds to requests for, the dosimetry data of nuclear test veterans and will continue to do so. Further information on submitting a SAR or FOI to AWE for this data can be found here: https://www.awe.co.uk/freedom-of-information-act/.

Concurrently, the Ministry of Defence is also conducting a review of around 74,000 historic files in the ES and AB series relating to the UK’s nuclear weapons programme. This work has been speculated to relate to the concerns of nuclear test veterans, which is not the case. The files were withdrawn from the National Archives to be reviewed due to emerging national security considerations. To date, approximately 68,000 files have been released back to public access. As this security review has progressed, those records which may relate to historic testing have been, and will continue to be, prioritised.

I would like to make clear that the Ministry of Defence, including its agencies and arm’s length bodies, does not withhold any personal data or medical records from nuclear test veterans.