France ‘hid impact’ of French Polynesian nuclear radiation: Report

France faces renewed fallout over its nuclear testing programme in the South Pacific.

Video Transcript


- France carried out its first nuclear test in Algeria in 1960.


But six years later the operation moved to the South Pacific. 193 tests took place in French Polynesia over three decades up until 1996. A new study claims France has concealed its true impact.

RICHARD TUHEIAVA: We are now reaching such a turning point in our history, in terms of the openness of the information.

- Researchers along with the French news site, Disclose, used declassified military documents and testimonies to recreate the impact of a number of the tests, calculating around 110,000 people in the overseas territory, including in Tahiti, were contaminated. Almost the entire population.

NICHOLAS MACLELLAN: There is a compensation mechanism now, but it's not very good, and that pressure will continue on the French government to open up its archives, provide more evidence of what happened during the nuclear testing period, and to allow greater access to compensation.

- The tests have been controversial since they began, sparking violent protests in French Polynesia, and in 1985 French secret agents attacked an environmental activist ship on its way to the region, sinking it in New Zealand. There are calls for France to fund a study into potential intergenerational illnesses, the environmental impact, and for it to formally apologize.

FRANCOIS PIHAATAE: It's like the genocide. Silently people are dying. Silently our people is dying with the radiation of the nuclear testing through the [INAUDIBLE].

RICHARD TUHEIAVA: This is not something that it's over, and I'm happy that the international community start to really understand our story.

- France has previously assured French Polynesians of its continued financial support following a dark chapter in the region's history. Nikola Gage, Al Jazeera.