Nuclear Families: Understanding the Experiences of the Test Veteran Community

Project Organisation: The University of Southampton
Project Cost: £150,000

Dr Becky Alexis-Martin
Dr Becky Alexis-Martin, Principle researcher Nuclear Families

Project Activities
The psychosocial experiences of the families of nuclear test veterans are still academically unexplored, despite arguable anecdotal evidence. Nuclear Families will apply a cross-disciplinary approach to understand and describe this unique cohort.

Nuclear Families consists of four phases. Phase 1 will review literature on the veteran community experience within other challenging scenarios, to provide background context to the project. Phase 2 will quantitatively assess the past and present health and wellbeing of participants by interview and statistical analysis, to provide direction to the main body of work. Phase 3 will give insight into the lived experiences of participants through a large-scale targeted cross-disciplinary and collaborative academic study. Family, home, perception of risk, and life experience will all be included. Phase 4 will publicise the study through conferences, national media and feedback groups. This work will be of significant value, by providing hope and insight for both academic and veteran communities.


The nuclear test veterans, their families, friends and the academic community will all gain immediate benefit from this work. Work will be shared directly with these groups by scientist-veteran community workshops and group events.

Nuclear Families will produce newsletters updating the 100 participants and their families as research progresses. Nuclear Families will help to improve everyone’s understanding of the nuclear test veteran’s family experiences, and start to pave the way for better help for
these people. 

However, the results of this project will be also disseminated across the international academic community and national media, by publication of papers and journalism. This will raise awareness of the challenges faced by nuclear veteran communities, benefiting thousands of families of all types of veteran, and the academic community; whilst creating a significant new field of research.


The principle researcher Dr Becky Alexis-Martin, progressed the research and reporting for the project. A project website was constructed and along with other articles in the nuclear community media began to raise awareness of the work. The ethical applications for the research necessary to deliver the project were written and obtained approval.

The project recruited a cohort of nuclear test veteran families and undertook phased research across the community. Topics that were explored included: wellbeing, mental health, physical health, perceptions of risk, hidden care, and memorialisation and death. The qualitative methodology for this study included questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and oral histories, workshops, and participant observation. It also included the collection and analysis of secondary data, including academic literature, veteran biographies, material from the National Archives, and artifacts from personal collections.

Project Outcomes
In February 2019 the final project report titled “Nuclear Families: A Social Study of British Nuclear Test Veteran Community Families” by Dr Becky Alexis-Martin, Dr Emma Waight and Dr Mwenza Blell was published for review by the NCCF prior to undergoing formal peer review.

Further Activities
Once peer review has been completed copies of the report will be placed in notable resource collections like the House of Commons Library and the CHRC. The report makes a number of recommendations and these will be taken onboard by the NCCF and considered shape future policy and planning to address the needs of the beneficiary community. Additionally the examples NHS Health Cards will be presented to Public Health England and the Department of Health to inform and increase awareness of our beneficiary community amongst health care delivery professionals. The identified problems of somatic and mental health issues amongst descendents will be taken on board by the NCCF with a view to further examination to try to provide additional resource to address this type of suffering.

Read the next part of the report