Controversy over new compensation criteria for Polynesian victims of French nuclear tests


Fifty years ago this month, France began carrying out tests of its nuclear bombs in the Pacific Ocean territory of French Polynesia. These were the first of what would become decades of atmospheric and underground nuclear explosions in total disregard for the health of the local population and environment. After years of campaigning, victims of the fallout earlier this month obtained a revision of the rigorous criteria governing financial compensation paid to those who have developed serious illnesses following the tests, and which in effect bars most from receiving any indemnity. But, as Julien Sartre reports, the move has been slammed by victims’ rights associations as simply tinkering at the edges of a shameful legal refusal to recognise the lethal damage caused by the tests.     

Reading articles is for subscribers only. Subscribe now.

In July 1966, France carried out the first of what would be a long series of nuclear weapons tests in the south Pacific territory of French Polynesia with an explosion in the lagoon of the Mururoa Atoll. Dozens of atmospheric explosions were carried out there and on the neighbouring Fangataufa Atoll until the tests were moved underground during the 1970s.  The testing programme was finally ended in 1996.