President admits to lies about French nuclear testing danger

Leaders in France’s South Pacific islands lied about the dangers of nuclear testing, French Polynesia’s president Edouard Fritch says.

From 1960 to 1996, France carried out almost 200 nuclear tests in French Polynesia.

“I’m not surprised that I’ve been called a liar for 30 years. We lied to this population that the tests were clean. We lied,” Fritch says.

French Polynesia’s politics are contaminated by its nuclear legacy, he says.

Not everyone agrees with Fritch’s views, however.

Fritch may consider himself to be a liar, but French Polynesia’s opposition Tahoeraa Huiraatira party leader Gaston Flosse says he did not lie.

Furthermore, former French president Jacques Chirac, who oversaw the final phase of the testing regime, always told the truth, Flosse claims.

The fault lay with French scientists working on the weapons programme. They had misled him and Chirac, Flosse says.

In 2010 the French government offered millions of euros in compensation for the nuclear tests in the South Pacific and others it undertook in Algeria. Many have still not received compensation.

In 2013, French media reported that defence ministry documents showed the tests from the 1960s and 1970s were far more toxic than previously acknowledged. Media said Tahiti was exposed to 500 times the accepted radiation levels.

In 2016, then-President Francois Hollande acknowledged during a visit that nuclear weapons tests carried out in French territories in the South Pacific did have consequences for the environment and residents’ health.

Bruno Barrillot, who is investigating the impact of the Polynesian nuclear testing and who died last year, has raised awareness on the disproportionate rates of thyroid cancer and leukemia among Polynesia’s 280,000 residents.

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News category: World.

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