Thursday the 8th of February saw the formal launch of the Centre for Health Effects of Radiological and Chemical Agents (CHRC) at Brunel University London.

CHRC Dr Rhona Anderson

©BH Associates – Dr Rhona Anderson

Over 80 visitors from across the academic and veteran communities gathered within the University’s Hamilton Centre for the launch of the CHRC. Guests were welcomed by Professor Geoff Rodgers, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation).

Professor Christina Victor, Vice Dean for Research (College of Health & Life Sciences), hosted the first session of the meeting focused on the Nuclear Community Charity Fund (NCCF).

Jeff Liddiatt, NCCF Chairman, recounted his experiences from the Maralinga test site, through to the development of the BNTVA and launch of the NCCF. 

Nigel Heaps MBE, NCCF Portfolio Manager, gave a presentation on the different NCCF projects supported by both Phases I and II of the Aged Veterans Fund. He explained how the idea for a Centre evolved from the Miles and Green Health Audit to the reality being launched today. Nigel finished his presentation by illustrating how all the different projects within the NCCF Portfolio and the CHRC interrelate, greatly enhancing individual project synergy and impact.

Dr Rhona Anderson, Director of the CHRC, detailed the structure and function of the new Centre and outlined the future plans. Starting with activities firmly grounded in the British Nuclear community, the Centre will carry out new research, analyse and describe previously conducted research and also, identify knowledge gaps that could be filled by future research projects. Rhona also illustrated how the knowledge garnered through the CHRC would be disseminated to reach a range of different beneficiaries including through the Centre’s new website and Brunel’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) Centre which aims to get children of all ages excited about science and technology.

During the first break, visitors took the opportunity to network and learnt more about the Centre’s multidisciplinary research from the selection of posters presented.

Professor Susan Jobling (Director of the Institute of Environment, Health and Societies) chaired the second session focussed on CHRC projects, where the project leaders introduced the current strands of research being conducted by the Centre.

Dr Rhona Anderson introduced the Genetic and Cytogenetic Assessment of British Nuclear Veterans and their families, aiming to answer whether there is any evidence of genetic change in veterans of nuclear weapons testing and their children, when compared to a control population. Rhona described the scientific basis of searching for cytogenetic markers induced by ionising radiation followed by the rationale behind sequencing their genomes and, the evidence to date for radiation-induced transgenerational effects. Rhona also summarised the complicated approvals process.

Dr Louise Mansfield is a Senior Lecturer in Sport, Health and Social Science. Her research focuses on the relationship between sport, physical activity, health and wellbeing. Louise described how the “Intervention for Wellbeing” study aims to explore how cultural and sport-related activities may help and contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of nuclear test veterans and their families. Louise assured the veterans that the ‘sport’ referenced in the project was based on the Council of Europe definition: “all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels.” The study team are actively recruiting participants, and Louise urged the veteran community to become involved by contacting Amy Prescott at the CHRC on 01895 266018 or through the website:

Professor Mary Gilhooly is Professor of Gerontology and Health Studies, and introduced the “Exposure Worry, Ageing and Cognitive Functioning” project. Mary considered how exposure to radiation and other factors could have impacted upon the cognitive functioning of veterans during the ageing process. She stressed how nuclear veterans represent a very unique group of people who had all experienced a singular large impact event in their lives. Mary focused on the need for research into the impact of exposure worry upon the health of nuclear veterans.

Mr Martin Scholze is a Research Fellow working alongside Professor Andreas Kortenkamp. Martin introduced the concept of studying the effects of mixing chemical contaminants together at commonly accepted ‘safe levels’. He explained how some combinations of chemicals can damage DNA more than the sum of their parts, with exponentially adverse health effects, especially in combination with radiation. The project team will be looking at the biological effects of chemical mixture effects combined with radiation, and consider the implications for veterans potentially exposed to radiological contamination and other chemical agents they may have encountered.

Professor Susan Jobling brought the presentations to an end and thanked all the speakers and the visitors for attending. Visitors and research teams then took the opportunity for further networking over refreshments around the poster displays.

The CHRC is now officially open and we look forward to some exciting developments over the coming three years.

Read our article on the work building to this launch day – Establishing the CHRC