Thirteen years after the definitive abandoning of nuclear tests in the Pacific, France is ready to pay compensation to the victims, both military and civilian, of fallout. In April 1998 France ratifed the Global Test Ban Treaty.
But that was only after 210 tests conducted over a 36 year period. 17 blasts were in the Algerian desert, between 1960 & 1966, the rest were in French Polynesia, ending in 1996.
France’s Defence Minister, Hervé Morin, confirmed initial compensation of 10 million euros will be available this year.
He said: “Eligible will be civilian and military personnel, members of the Atomic Energy Commission, contractors present at the test sites, and the affected civilian populations.”
150,000 French civil and military personnel worked at the Algerian and Polynesian test sites. While in Algeria the number of locals affected is difficult to estimate, owing to their nomadic way of life. 2000 Polynesian islanders lived in the Pacific test zone.
The compensation law being presented to the French parliament aims to compensate anyone suffering from the 18 illnesses linked to exposure to radiation recognised by the United Nations.
In the Algerian desert the first four tests were atmospheric, the rest were underground. The French say four produced radioactive fallout.
For many years the local population has been demanding compensation.
“Our environement is not healthy any more. A lot of animals have died, our health is deteriorating, and we have to be compensated for that,” said one Touareg herdsman.
In French Polynesia, where the vast majority of the tests were conducted, there were loud protests in 1995 when Jacques Chirac resumed testing after Francois Mitterrand declared a moratorium in 1992.