France asked to pay for Tahiti nuke victims ahead of Paris summit

Moruroa and the bomb
For a half century, the French nuclear bomb tests and their consequences have cast a shadow over Tahiti. Image: Bruno Barrilo/Heinui Le Caill

RNZ Pacific

The chair of the board of French Polynesia’s social security agency CPS has called on the French state to pay for the medical costs caused by its nuclear weapons tests.

Patrick Galenon, who is also a leading trade unionist, has written to the French Overseas Minister Sebastien Lecornu as France plans a high-level roundtable in Paris next month on the legacy of the nuclear weapons tests in the South Pacific.

Galenon said that since 1995 the CPS had paid out US$800 million to treat a total of 10,000 people suffering from any of the 23 cancers recognised by law as being the result of radiation.

He said France needed to reimburse these expenses if it wanted to restore trust.

CPS board chair Patrick Galenon.
Patrick Galenon, chair of the board of French Polynesia’s social security agency CPS … France’s liability needs to be anchored in law. Image: Tahiti Infos

A 2010 French law recognised for the first time that the nuclear tests were not clean but compensation to successful claimants was only made on the basis of national solidarity, not because the French state recognised any liability.

Galenon said France’s liability had to be anchored in law as the rest was just sentimentality and politics.

He said France should also assume paying for ongoing oncology services, which cost the CPS more than US$50 million a year.

Between 1966 and 1996, France carried out 193 nuclear weapons tests in French Polynesia.

The test sites of Moruroa and Fangataufa remain excised from French Polynesia and are French no-go zones.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

  • More than 2000 nuclear tests have been conducted since the first American test, Trinity, in 1945, according to the Swedish Physicians against Nuclear Weapons. More than 500 tests have been done in the atmosphere, under water or in space. The rest have been tested underground.The US is responsible for around 1000 of these tests, the Soviet Union conducted about 700, France 210 (including 17 in Algeria), China 35 and the UK about 30 tests. India has conducted six tests, Pakistan five and North Korea one nuclear test.
Nuclear testing
Major global nuclear testing nations. Graphic: Laromkarnvapen
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