The government has announced it will spend almost half a million pounds to commemorate the “incredible service” of veterans of Britain’s nuclear testing programme.

It’s the 70th anniversary of Operation Hurricane, the detonation of a plutonium bomb in Australia that made the UK the world’s third-largest nuclear power.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said those who took part in the nuclear tests had ensured the “safety of Britain and our NATO allies” and “have this nation’s gratitude forever”.

From April next year, academic and cultural institutions can receive funding from a £250,000 pot, which has been earmarked for an oral history project marking the contributions of veterans.

The scheme was announced in September by Boris Johnson, the first prime minister to meet veterans of the nuclear programme, in one of his last acts in office.

The Weapons Engineering Officers Tactical Trigger, which would be used in the final stage of a nuclear missile launch (Danny Lawson/PA)

He wrote in a letter posted on Twitter, “Hearing your stories first hand, I am determined that your accomplishments will never be forgotten.”

Charities will be able to bid for a separate £200,000, earmarked to support the activities of test survivors and to educate the public about the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

“The veterans who supported the creation of our nuclear deterrent played a crucial role in the security of Britain and our NATO allies,” Mr Heappey said.

“Their sacrifice helped achieve the ultimate guarantee of UK sovereignty and they forever have this nation’s gratitude.

“In this 70th anniversary year of Operation Hurricane, I look forward to commemorating the incredible service and efforts of our veterans.”

Around 20,000 British soldiers witnessed hundreds of atomic tests and were exposed to radiation between 1952 and 1967, of whom around 1,500 are believed to have survived today, although their efforts have never been officially recognised.

While running for Conservative leadership in August, Prime Minister Liz Truss suggested awarding medals to those who participated in the nuclear program.

The move was also backed last month by Mr Johnson, who said he “strongly believes” veterans deserve to be honoured.

According to the Cabinet Office, the matter is under review and a decision is expected shortly.