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Nancekuke (1950-1980)

 

Nancekuke (1950)
Nancekuke, a site at the heart of Cornwall's mining history, comprises eight scattered farms and old quarries on the Cornish coast at Portreath. During the Second World War, Nancekuke was a strategic airfield used by RAF Portreath and had four runways. In May 1950, Nancekuke Common, as it was known, was acquired from the RAF by the Ministry of Supply and it became the United Kingdom's main chemical weapons and R&D facility.

Satellite facility of Porton Down (1954-1956)
Between
 1954 and 1956, Nancekuke was used to manufacture more than 20 tonnes of the nerve gas Sarin. Nancekuke, which was actually a satellite of the more well-known chemical weapons research facility at Porton Down, Wiltshire, was closed down in 1980 and returned to the RAF.

Nerve-gas-related illnesses (1955-1959)
Nancekuke's buildings and equipment, which are thought to have been contaminated by various toxic chemicals, were buried in various disused, local mine shafts after the site was closed in 1980. Nerve-gas leakages are thought to have been responsible for causing prolonged neurological and psychological problems among Nancekuke's employees and ex-employees. Between 1955 and 1959, there were 306 cases of respiratory disease during the height of nerve-gas production there. Furthermore, 41 employees out of an estimated 150 died during or after working at Nancekuke, a death rate that was far above the national average then, a fact that the MOD has always disputed.


Sources
1. Candy Atherton, MP for Falmouth and Camborne, Hansard 20 January 2000.
2. Nancekuke, The Remediation Project, MOD's website, 9 June 2010.