France underestimated the harmful effects of its nuclear tests in French Polynesia, conducted in the 1960s and the 1970s, new research has revealed.
The study was jointly carried out by the investigative journalism website Disclose and Princeton University, with the research concluding that the impact of the Aldébaran, Encelade, and Centaure tests carried out in 1966, 1971, and 1974, respectively, was much more serious than officially acknowledged.
Le Taha'a Island, French Polynesia 🇵🇫 pic.twitter.com/7i0soRzgJz— Let's Travel 🌍 (@LetsTravelEarth) March 3, 2021
The conclusions were compiled in the so-called The Mururoa Files, in which researchers scrupulously reconstructed the three tests and their fallout on the basis of key data from 2,000 pages of declassified French Defence Ministry documents, maps, photos, and other records.
"The state has tried hard to bury the toxic heritage of these tests. This is the first truly independent scientific attempt to measure the scale of the damage and to acknowledge the thousands of victims of France's nuclear experiment in the Pacific", Geoffrey Livolsi, Disclose's editor-in-chief, pointed out.
The researchers calculated that the entire population of Tahiti and the Polynesian Leeward Islands, or about 110,000 people, was exposed to a radiation dose of more than 1mSv due to the Centaure test.
According to the survey, France underestimated the contamination on Tahiti by at least 40%, potentially enabling tens of thousands more people to be officially recognised as test victims who can claim compensation.
The study also asserted that the actual radiation doses experienced by the residents of some districts of French Polynesia's capital Papeete were two or three times higher than those recorded in a 2006 study released by France's Atomic Energy Commission (CEA).
Between 1966 and 1996, France conducted 193 nuclear tests on the Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in French Polynesia, including 46 atmospheric blasts. It wasn't until May 2019, however, that the French parliament acknowledged the health consequences of the nuclear testing in the area.