France has concealed the levels of radioactivity that French Polynesia was exposed to during French nuclear tests in the Pacific from 1966 to 1996, during which almost the “entire population” of the overseas territory was exposed, according to a report.
Online investigation site Disclose said on Tuesday that it had analysed some 2,000 pages of French military documents declassified in 2013 by the defence ministry concerning nuclear tests on the archipelago.
Disclose said it worked for more than two years alongside British modelling and documentation firm Interprt as well as the science and global security programme of the University of Princeton in the US.
It said the investigation was able to reassess the thyroid exposure to radioactive doses of the inhabitants of the Gambier Islands, Tureia and Tahiti during the six nuclear tests considered to be the most contaminating in the history of French tests in the Pacific.
Disclose said its interpretation of existing data resulted in estimates “between two and 10 times higher” than those by the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in 2006.
For example, when analysing a 1966 aerial nuclear test called Aldebaran on the Mururoa Atoll, CEA scientists assumed the inhabitants “only drank riverwater but not rainwater”.
However, many inhabitants of this archipelago drank rainwater, according to Disclose’s investigation.
For the Centaur test carried out in July 1974, “according to our calculations, based on a scientific reassessment of the doses received, approximately 110,000 people were infected, almost the entire Polynesian population at the time,” it said.
Using modelling of toxic clouds to back up the findings, Disclose said it also showed how “French authorities have concealed the true impact of nuclear testing on the health of Polynesians for more than 50 years”.
It added that examination of the data also showed that CEA estimates of radioactive soil deposits were under-estimated by more than 40 percent.
This CEA study served as the reference for the Compensation Committee for Victims of Nuclear Tests (CIVEN) for studying the files of victims of nuclear tests.
Up until now only 63 Polynesian civilians, excluding soldiers and contractors, have received compensation, according to the investigative media.