France will open the archives of the nuclear tests it conducted over decades on the Pacific islands of Polynesia. This should provide clarity about what exactly happened and what health effects have occurred.
“The French government has been silent for a long time about this past, about those thirty years of tests,” President Macron said on the last day of his visit to Polynesia. “I want to break the silence. France has to pay its debts. I want the truth to come out and I want transparency.”
To this end, Paris will announce all existing information about nuclear tests. Macron said only documents containing sensitive information about France’s nuclear arsenal were still closed.
A total of 193 nuclear tests were conducted in French Polynesia between 1966 and 1999. They took place in the atmosphere for the first eight years. This allowed the radioactive radiation to spread freely over the ocean, islands, and French naval ships. “It is true that we did those tests in Polynesia, not in Brittany,” Macron said. “But we did it because we thought it was in the middle of the ocean, far from civilization.”
According to calculations by the research group Disclose, about 110,000 residents could have been exposed to radioactive radiation from nuclear tests. It was also exposed to French soldiers on the naval ships that conducted the tests.
Too many cases
On the islands, authorities have identified an excessively high incidence of thyroid cancer, especially among women. Now there is a compensation fund in France, but only 500 Polynesians received money from it.
This is not the first time Emmanuel Macron has promised openness to deal with the dark pages of French history. He previously commissioned an independent panel of scholars to investigate France’s involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. That commission came to harsh conclusions.
Macron also decided to open archives about the former colony of Algeria and the harsh way the French behaved militarily there in the 1950s. The president admitted in March of this year that France had tortured and killed an Algerian lawyer and freedom fighter in 1957.
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