The enduring fallout of nuclear tests on French Polynesia


Over a period of three decades beginning in 1966, France detonated 193 nuclear bombs in atmospheric and undergound tests in its overseas territory of French Polynesia in the South Pacific. The vast fallout from the explosions caused tens of thousands of cancers among the local population according to victims’ associations, although the true, and possibly much larger, toll remains unknown. Meanwhile, the French and local authorities continue to dismiss evidence of the transmission of illnesses to the children of those directly exposed to the nuclear tests. Julien Sartre reports from French Polynesia.

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Made up of 118 islands and atolls spread over a region of the South Pacific Ocean larger than western Europe, French Polynesia, a semi-autonomous overseas territory of France, was the scene of 193 nuclear bomb tests ordered by Paris between 1966 and 1996, and which were exploded in the atmosphere and underground.