Hollande acknowledges impact of nuclear testing in Pacific

PAPEETEL: French President Francois Hollande on Monday acknowledged that three decades of nuclear tests in French Polynesia had had “an impact” on health and the environment and promised to revamp the compensation process.

Hollande’s remarks, made on a visit to the French Polynesian capital, are the clearest admission yet of the damage caused by the French testing programme.

“I recognise that the nuclear tests between 1966 and 1996 in French Polynesia have had an environmental impact, causing health consequences,” Hollande said in Papeete during a tour of the Pacific.

France carried out the 193 nuclear tests on the atolls of Mururoa and Fangataufa until then-president Jacques Chirac called a halt to the programme in the 1990s. For decades, it denied its responsibility for fear the admission would weaken its nuclear programme during the Cold War.

Only around 20 people have received compensation for the spread of cancers allegedly linked to the tests from among some 1,000 plaintiffs, and Hollande said the process would now be reconsidered. “The processing of applications for compensation for victims of nuclear tests will be reviewed,” he said.