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France

Nuclear compensation bill falls short of expectations

Video by FRANCE 2 , Yuka ROYER

Text by Clea CAULCUTT

Latest update : 2009-05-28

France’s council of ministers has discussed a compensation bill for the victims of French nuclear tests in Algeria and French Polynesia from 1960 to 1996. Associations representing sick veterans and civilians criticise the project.

France’s defence minister, Hervé Morin, presented a long-awaited bill on reparations for nuclear victims on Wednesday. Victims and their representatives were quick to condemn the eligibility criteria foreseen by the minister.

 

The bill provides for civilians or veterans who have suffered from radio-induced diseases after living or staying near test sites in Algeria or French Polynesia to be financially compensated.

 

But victims' associations are not convinced by the newly named committee charged with examining each application. None of the associations will be represented in the committee, whose members will be nominated by several French ministries.

 

“We completely disagree”, says Hélène Luc, a former senator and member of pressure group Vérité et justice (Truth and Justice) which demands reparations for test victims, speaking to FRANCE 24. “We will submit an amendment for associations to be represented in a national compensation oversight committee”.

 

'Restrictive' reparations criteria

 

Victims' associations have also criticised the list of radio-induced diseases (lung, breast, blood and thyroid cancer, etc) the defence ministry said it would base itself on to determine which victims receive compensation. According to Luc, the list drawn up by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), used as a basis for the bill, is too “restrictive”. “It doesn’t take into account new types of cancers and heart diseases that have appeared [among veterans]”, she explains.

 

John Doom, coordinator of the association Moruroa e Tatou, denounces “a fool’s bargain” given the compensation eligibility criteria. Doom maintains the bill does not take into account all French Polynesian zones affected by nuclear tests.

 

In Tahiti, for example, only local residents from the eastern peninsula of the island will be considered for damages. According to the French defence ministry, residents in the capital Papeete are excluded from the reparations plan. This, he said, is despite the fact that all of Tahiti suffered 23 nuclear fallouts from nearby tests.

 

'Several hundred' suspected victims

 

In March, Hervé Morin claimed that no more than “several hundred” people may have developed cancer after exposure to nuclear radiations during the tests. At the time, he said 10 million euros had been earmarked in 2009 for compensation. But aid associations say far more people have been badly affected by the tests.

 

The French government body in charge of following the health impact of the tests, the (CSSEN), estimates that nearly 150,000 civilian or military personnel participated in the 210 nuclear tests conducted by France in the Sahara Desert and in the Pacific Ocean between 1960 and 1996.

 

Anticipation for the new bill increased last Friday, when the Paris court of appeals rejected compensation requests submitted by twelve former soldiers suffering from skin, blood or kidney cancer. Only five are still alive, the others are now represented by their families.

 


 

Date created : 2009-05-27

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