Vets to mark nuclear blasts protest

LIZ WILLIS
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2013
Navy Vets

TESTING TIMES: Navy veterans Fred Towler, left, and Rod Martin saw a French atmospheric test at Mururoa in 1973.

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Two Mururoa navy veterans can see the funny side of the 11 cents a day danger money they got to monitor French nuclear testing.

But Fred Towler and Rod Martin say the alarming rate of cancer and early deaths among veterans who saw the blasts is no laughing matter.

The Shore residents are among those who this month commemorate 40 years since two Kiwi navy frigates sailed to protest at nuclear testing in the Pacific.

Mr Martin says the 550 men on the Otago and Canterbury were fit 20 to 30-year-olds "with everything going" for them.

But now too many are dying early and their children and grandchildren can be affected also, he says.

Mr Towler says two of his children needed operations on their gullets and a specialist told him that

hadn't happened in New Zealand before.

He believes it could be related to his exposure to radiation.

Mr Towler says the anniversary is a time to share memories and he hopes it will focus efforts to collate statistics about illnesses. There was a sense of anticipation as the ships sailed to Mururoa because it was the closest to active service most had got.

"The government wanted to show the planet we were dead against French testing in the Pacific," Mr Towler says.

The men were on board the Otago that saw the main nuclear bomb go off. They're still amazed at what they witnessed but also recall being slightly disappointed. "You imagine this big mushroom but it was a puff of white on the horizon," Mr Martin says.

They urge Mururoa veterans to contact the Takapuna or Birkenhead RSAs or go to the Mururoa Veterans Association website mururoa vet.com.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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