03 July 2013

French nuclear fallout far worse than previously admitted, United Nations Committee calls for study of effects of nuclear testing


Radio New Zealand International

French Polynesia’s nuclear test veterans say a declassified French document shows Tahiti was strongly affected by fallout, contrary to assurances by the authorities.

Following court action in France, just over 2,000 documents were released, but citing defence secrets 114 pages were left blank, prompting concern that many pertinent facts keep being withheld.

The documents confirm that fallout from the atmospheric tests of between 1966 and 1974 affected all islands and not only the 21 atolls listed by the defence ministry three years ago.

The head of Moruroa e tatou, Roland Oldham, says a total of 26 navy vessels were also contaminated, as was Tahiti.

“There is one document that says in Tahiti, the fallout of plutonium is 500 times higher than the maximum dose that human beings can have. This is a big worry for us.

Roland Oldham says the group will consult its lawyers for the next step in getting full disclosure from the French military.

The group will tomorrow (3rd July) mark the 57th anniversary of the first French nuclear weapons test in the South Pacific.

Nuclear test veterans in French Polynesia are asking France to come clean at last about the effects of the tests of the 1960s and 1970s.

The call comes after declassified French defence documents show that one test alone hit Tahiti with a plutonium concentration 500 times the safety limit.

The head of the Moruroa e tatou veterans group, Roland Oldham, says the new information will be used in efforts to get compensation for the victims.

ROLAND OLDHAM: Where it is a big worry for us is that there is one document that’s saying that in Tahiti there has been 37 fall-outs. But in Tahiti there is also a fall-out of plutonium 500 times higher than the maximum dose that a human being can have. So this is a big worry for us, this information. And the other news is about 26 boats of the navy, according to this document, have been contaminated by the fall-out. And those 26 boats of the navy, all the people are doing the army time on it and all the military. So thats a new element for us. So for us those are the elements that we’re going to be using in court very soon.

WALTER ZWEIFEL: How do you feel about having been in negotiations with France for all these years when apparently the figures that you were working on were wrong and France knew that the information that you negotiated on was insufficient?

RO: Of course it is a violation of our rights. And I say today, I keep saying I believe that the truth has to be the whole truth. Because even today it’s part of the truth that we have been given. Also, we are not here to beg. We are not beggars trying to get the truth of France. Truth is non-negotiable truth. It’s got to be the whole truth. And we do think this is a matter of dignity and also a matter of the right of our people to know what has happened. 

And it’s also the right for our future generation to know what has happened in this country after 30 years of nuclear tests. I do believe that there’s still 148 documents to come out. And I do hope that we’re going to get those documents because the attitude of the French government is to delay, delay, delay as much as they can. If the French government had been honest with their dealings with us, with the victims, these affairs should be solved a long time ago. But we know, and everybody knows, they keep on lying or they keep on hiding some information from us, so that makes this battle longer.

WZ: You were saying that you took court action to get access to these documents. Now you’ve been given 114 blank pages. Will you pursue the courts to try to get these outstanding documents, as well?

RO: Yeah, I think we’re going to talk to our lawyers in Paris it is a matter that we have to put in court.