The French nuclear tests caused far more damage than previously thought

The French nuclear tests caused far more damage than previously thought

If you were 50, you likely had a poster in your room when you were a teen: the famous mushroom cloud from a French nuclear test on the island of Moruroa in the South Pacific. Half a century later, the French investigative journalism group Disclose launched Amazing new numbers have been revealed On the damage that the nuclear tests caused to the people of French Polynesia for thirty years. In one nuclear test in 1974, up to 110,000 people were exposed to dangerous radiation radiation – the entire population of Tahiti at the time.

“There are secrets, such as cesium and plutonium, which have a very long life, as well as with the effects of the French nuclear tests in the South Pacific.” He writes the newspaper the world In discussion ToxicSebastian Philip, the book of the scholar and journalist Thomas Statius, published on March 9.

There was something else this year that hinted at the legacy of the French nuclear tests. In mid-February, the Khamaseen winds swept across southwestern France, turning the sky over Lyon and the snow in the Alps yellow-orange. The Khamaseen wind carries sand grains from the desert. But when scientists at the Acro Institute examined the snow, they found traces of cesium-137 from the nuclear tests that France conducted in southern Algeria in the 1960s when it was in a brutal war with the independence fighters in France. Even after Algeria’s independence in 1962, these nuclear tests continued for some time: in the Evian Accords that ended the war, France provided for the possibility of using the N-acer, Ragan and Columbus facilities for another five years. .

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‘Great progress’

Meanwhile, France began to transfer its nuclear tests to safer Polynesia, where President Charles de Gaulle personally attended the first nuclear test at Moruroa Atoll on September 12, 1966. A journalist reported with hidden admiration from a French battle cruiser that “great progress” had been made since Hiroshima , And that the French bomb was six or seven times more powerful. Describes how de Gaulle got up at 6:30 in the morning and wore the outfit described: rubber boots, a pilot suit, and special black glasses.

“At the time of the explosion, the head of state turned his back on Morroa Atoll. Even the head of state was advised to close his eyes and protect them with his hands.” But de Gaulle is not a snowflake. “Four seconds later, General de Gaulle turns around and notices a mushroom cloud forming, followed by a cloud of radioactive particles.”

After that, de Gaulle was informed of the planes and ships that entered and entered the cloud to measure the radiative fall. One of what Disclose revealed was that 2,000 of the 6,000 soldiers and civilians who participated in surface nuclear tests in Mururoa and Fangataufa between 1966 and 1974 developed or will develop cancer, and that damage could be as much as 100 million euros.

The first French nuclear tests were conducted in the climate of the Cold War and the doctrine of “mutual assured destruction” between the West and the Soviet Union. But for de Gaulle, he also played a role that France wanted to be a world military power not inferior to the United States and Great Britain. France is said to have conducted a total of 17 nuclear tests in Algeria and 193 in French Polynesia. From 1975 these operations were carried out underground.

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Throughout this time, protests escalated against the nuclear tests in general and those of France in particular. In 1985, the environmental organization Greenpeace sent the Rainbow Warrior to Mururoa to protest against a new nuclear test there. Two French state security officers blew up the ship in the port of Auckland, New Zealand, killing a Dutch photographer.


Also read: Radio Devil Island. Mururoa mon amour

Only in 1992, after the fall of the Soviet Union, did President Francois Mitterrand proclaim Stay turning off. But in 1995 his successor, Jacques Chirac, ordered new nuclear tests. The last event was on January 27, 1996 in Vangatova; Two days later, Chirac announced the end of the French nuclear tests.

23 types of cancer

Along the way, France grudgingly acknowledged that the nuclear tests had caused casualties among the local population. In 2010, a committee, Civen, was formed to handle compensation claims.

In principle, it suffices to prove that you have lived in French Polynesia during the said period, and that you have one of 23 types of cancer that have been shown to be related to nuclear testing. However, only 506 claims have been approved in the past decade, 63 of which are residents of French Polynesia. More than 80 percent of the claims were denied.

Disclose research might change that. Civen bases its compensation claims on a 2006 study by the French Atomic Energy Agency, but Disclose examined documents released by the government in 2013 and made new calculations based on them.

This indicates that some areas of French Polynesia are exposed to two to three times more radiation than previously thought. Disclose mainly researched the last above-ground nuclear test, in 1974. The cloud was supposed to drift northward at an altitude of 9,000 meters. Instead, it flew 5,200 meters and drifted into Tahiti, where the entire population was exposed to dangerous values. The report stated that “the army sees what is happening but they decided not to do anything to warn the residents.” “After 48 hours, the cloud reaches Tahiti, where it infects the population en masse.”

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Disclosure concludes That anyone who was in Tahiti or the Leeward Islands in 1974 would be exposed to values ​​above the limit that Civen applies for making claims. That’s about 110,000 people. Knowing that the average benefit in 2018 was 76,448 euros, which will cost the French state about 8.4 billion euros.

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