BEIJING, April 19 (UPI) -- As many as 190,000 people in China may have died as a result of the country's atomic weapons tests, sources say.
Now many of the survivors want the government to compensate them, The Sunday Times of London reported.
The nuclear tests were performed in the Gobi desert, where survivors said they picked up radioactive debris with their bare hands, saw soldiers die early deaths and children born with unusual cancers as China was pursuing development of an atomic bomb.
The workers were part of Unit 8023, a special detachment charged with conducting atomic tests at Lop Nur in Xinjiang province, the newspaper reported.
"My job was to go into the blast zone to retrieve test objects and monitoring equipment after the explosion," a former soldier told the newspaper. "When my daughter was born she was diagnosed with a huge tumor on her spinal cord. The doctors blame nuclear fallout."
The newspaper said Chinese nuclear tests from 1964 to 1996 claimed more lives than those of any other nation.
Jun Takada, a Japanese physicist, has calculated that up to 1.5 million people were exposed to fallout and 190,000 of them may have died from diseases linked to radiation.