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France underestimated impact of nuclear tests in French Polynesia, study finds

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By Euronews
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The Mururoa Atoll bases, 1,200 km southeast of Tahiti, French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean, July 27, 1995
The Mururoa Atoll bases, 1,200 km southeast of Tahiti, French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean, July 27, 1995   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Francois Mori, file
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France has considerably underestimated the impact of the nuclear tests it carried out in French Polynesia in the 1960s and 70s, according to new research.

The findings, published by the investigative journalism newsroom Disclose, suggest that the radiation levels caused by the tests were far greater than officially acknowledged. The study also found that around 110,000 people – nearly the entire population of the islands at the time – had been exposed and should be able to claim compensation as a result.

"People can seek compensation if they develop certain kinds of cancers that are recognised under French law as being possibly linked to the nuclear tests. And whether they are not compensated depends on the exposure and contamination they received," said Sebastien Philippe, a scientist and lecturer at Princeton university’s Program on Science & Global Security.

He worked on the research with Disclose and the environmental justice research group Interprt.

"Our study re-evaluated the official French numbers by looking at historical archives of declassified documents. And we found that the exposure was sometimes two to 10 times greater and that 10 times more people should be able to claim compensation today," he explained.

"I think it's past time that we would take a fresh and more honest look at what happened in Polynesia in the 60s and 70s," he told Euronews.

Watch the interview in the video player above.