Navy veteran wishes Pacific nuclear protest in 1973 didn't happen after suffering rare cancer

It was described as a radical move for New Zealand, two war ships deployed to Mururoa Atoll to protest atmospheric nuclear testing by the French.

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New research shows cancer is prevalent among veterans who witnessed the nuclear explosions in 1973 while many of their children have fertility problems. Source: 1 NEWS

Fifty years on, veteran Tony Cox wishes it never happened.

“It's a part of life that I hope that no one ever has to go through themselves,” he said.

Mr Cox was one of the 500 men on board the HMNZS Canterbury and Otago.

He's now taken part in a University of Otago study looking at the effects, which found 37 per cent of vets have a variety of cancers.

Mr Cox is one of them.

He has an extremely rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a result of exposure to harmful ionising radiation.

Study finds cancer prevalent among NZ veterans who witnessed French nuclear explosions in 1973

“The morning we left Auckland, (then Prime Minister) Norm Kirk was onboard at the time. He spoke to me and he said 'don’t worry son, you'll be okay but if anything does go wrong we will look after you'. Well Norm, it's been a long time, and it's been a long journey,” Mr Cox said.

“I do not want any more hassles I want some sort of results for our kids and our grandchildren. I’ve been advocating for veterans for 30 odd years now.”

Forty per cent of children linked to the veterans also suffer from fertility issues and while veterans are covered for medical care due to their nuclear exposure, their descendants aren't.

“The Government has a duty of care do they not? And the duty of care is to take care of the problem that they sent us to a place where we knew nothing about what was going on and as it turns out they didn’t either,” he said.

“Our children and grandchildren are not responsible for whatever takes place in their lives health wise.”

Mr Cox hopes the findings will help give his family the care that they deserve, while he’s still around to see it.