Study of French nuclear testing in S Pacific urged

11th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

PAGO PAGO, Feb 10 (AFP) - A US lawmaker from American Samoa has called on the UN's nuclear watchdog to conduct a comprehensive new study on the health and environmental effects of France's 30-year nuclear testing program in the South Pacific.

PAGO PAGO, Feb 10 (AFP) - A US lawmaker from American Samoa has called on the UN's nuclear watchdog to conduct a comprehensive new study on the health and environmental effects of France's 30-year nuclear testing program in the South Pacific.

Congressman Eni Faleomavaega said a 1995 survey by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) failed to look into the medical condition of French and French Polynesian workers contaminated by tests carried out from 1966 to 1996, and relied on suspect French data for many of its conclusions.

"Over a 30-year period, France exploded some 200 nuclear bombs at Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls in French Polynesia, severely exposing thousands of French military personnel and local Tahitians to nuclear radiation and contamination," Faleomavaega said in a letter to the IAEA.

"For some 10,000 native inhabitants of French Polynesia, the devastating effects of the French nuclear testing program in the region are critically important health and environmental concerns," he said in the letter, a copy of which was made available here Thursday.

"It is imperative that the IAEA should re-examine these issues given the serious problem of leakages of nuclear contamination from beneath the ocean and the dangers they pose for the marine environment not only in French Polynesia, but throughout the Pacific region," he said.

The lawmaker charged that France was withholding information on the health conditions of the thousands of Tahitian workers who were exposed to nuclear contamination.

Faleomaveaga also wants the IAEA to look into possible long-term environmental damage caused by the nuclear tests, which France resumed in 1995 after a three-year moratorium but ended definitively eight months later.

"Clearly significant environmental effects have occurred, including radiological fallout, ciguatera poisoning, leakage of fission products and damage to the structural integrity of Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls," he said.

Faleomavaega said the IAEA's 1995 study was "helpful (but) extremely limited in scope" - notably excluding a survey of the medical conditions of military and civilian workers in French Polynesia.

Much of the data used in the IAEA study also came from French authorities, "who obviously have a vested interest to minimise any negative reports," he said.

Faleomavaega commended the French government for providing more than USD 174 million (EUR 135 million) to a special compensation fund for the people of French Polynesia for damage caused by the nuclear tests, he said.

But he said leaders of community associations in Mururoa claim that none of the money had actually reached the former Tahitian workers affected by the testing.

The congressman, the 3rd-ranking Democrat on the House Committee on International Relations, sent copies of his letter to Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi and French Polynesian leaders, officials here said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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