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Parliament approves compensation bill for nuclear test victims

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-12-22

The French parliament voted Tuesday to pay compensation to victims of nuclear tests France carried out in Algeria and French Polynesia over the course of more than three decades.

The French parliament on Tuesday approved a compromise bill offering compensation to the victims of nuclear tests carried out by France between 1960 and 1996, overturning decades of official failure to accept general liability for health problems suffered by those present at or near the test sites.

The bill was approved by the French Senate on Tuesday hours after the lower house, the National Assembly, passed the measure.

Under the provisions of the bill the new compensation scheme will apply to former soldiers and civilians that developed cancers and other illnesses after exposure to radiation from nuclear tests carried out in Algeria and French Polynesia.

The French Ministry of Defence says some 150,000 civil and military workers took part in the tests. Residents living near the test sites will also be eligible to apply for compensation.

A special compensation committee will examine complaints on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the plaintiffs’ symptoms are indeed related to the 18 ailments identified by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, which include leukaemia, thyroid cancer and other diseases.

Back in March, Defence Minister Hervé Morin had earmarked an initial 10 million euros as part of a compensation scheme for victims of radiation, many of whom have been campaigning for years for recognition from the State.

France carried out a total of 210 nuclear tests over a 36-year period. The first tests took place deep in the Sahara desert in Algeria, then a French colony, but most were carried out on French possessions in the Pacific Ocean.

Date created : 2009-12-22