Brecon and Radnorshire MP Fay Jones has welcomed the UK Government’s decision to award medals to veterans of Britain’s nuclear testing programme.

The announcement was made last week as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to mark 70 years since the first test of a British nuclear weapon in Montebello Islands, Australia.

The veterans and civilians who participated in the United Kingdom’s nuclear test programme, the first of which was known as Operation Hurricane, made the UK the third nuclear power. This work contributed to achieving the nuclear deterrent - the ultimate guarantee of UK sovereignty which continues to keep us safe today, and helps guarantee international security.

The Nuclear Test Medal will be a commemorative medal that can be worn by recipients. All service personnel and civilians under UK command, including close partners from the Commonwealth and Pacific region, who participated in, or were present at, the British or American nuclear tests at the Montebello Islands, Christmas Island, Malden Island and Maralinga & Emu Field, South Australia between 1952 and 1967 will be eligible for the medal. This also includes scientists and local employees. It is estimated that around 22,000 veterans will be eligible for medallic recognition.

The medal can be awarded posthumously. Veterans, their families and next of kin will need to apply for the medal, which will be free of charge. It is expected that the first awards of the medals will be made in 2023.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I am incredibly proud that we are able to mark the service and dedication of our nuclear test veterans with this new medal. Their commitment and service has preserved peace for the past 70 years, and it is only right their contribution to our safety, freedom and way of life is appropriately recognised with this honour.

“This medal is an enduring symbol of our country’s gratitude to each and every person who played a part in this effort and their loved ones who supported them.”

Fay Jones MP added: “This is hugely overdue but enormously welcome nonetheless. I added my voice to the campaign for medals for nuclear test veterans some time ago so I am delighted to see it succeed. Those who participated in Operation Hurricane, and successive operations, deserve medallic recognition for their immense skill and incredible bravery.

“I want to pay tribute to those veterans and campaigners in Brecon and Radnorshire who have added their weight to the campaign. While it will come too late for some, it is right that families will be able to have their loved one’s service recognised.”

To further recognise the contribution of veterans of Britain’s nuclear tests, the government is investing £450,000 into projects which will commemorate and build further understanding of the experiences of veterans who were deployed to Australia and the Pacific.

As part of that funding, the Office for Veterans’ Affairs is launching an oral history project to chronicle the experiences of those who supported the UK’s effort to develop a nuclear deterrent.

Due to start in April 2023 the project will run for two years, giving nuclear test veterans the opportunity to be interviewed, and contribute to an accessible digital archive of testimonies about their time working on the tests.