They talk of picking up radioactive debris with their bare hands, of sluicing down bombers that had flown through mushroom clouds, of soldiers dying before their time of strange and rare diseases, and children born with mysterious cancers.
These were the men and women of Unit 8023, a special detachment charged with conducting atomic tests at Lop Nur in Xinjiang province, a place of utter desolation and – until now – complete secrecy.
[…] New research suggests the Chinese nuclear tests from 1964 to 1996 claimed more lives than those of any other nation. Professor Jun Takada, a Japanese physicist, has calculated that up to 1.48m people were exposed to fallout and 190,000 of them may have died from diseases linked to radiation.
“Nuclear sands” – a mixture of dust and fission products – were blown by prevailing winds from Lop Nur towards towns and villages along the ancient Silk Road from China to the West.
The victims included Chinese, Uighur Muslims and Tibetans, who lived in these remote regions. Takada found deformed children as far away as Kazakhstan. No independent scientific study has ever been published inside China.