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Lest we Forget -1996-2006

Friday, January 27th 2006 marks the 10th anniversary of the end of 30 years French nuclear testing in the Pacific.

From: Peace and Disarmanent Desk, Pacific Concerns Resouce Centre
Altogether from 1966 to 1996, France conducted 193 atmospheric and underground nuclear tests on the Polynesian atolls of Moruroa and Fangataufa.

For many outside the Pacific, the era of French nuclear testing became a thing of the past, a closed chapter. However for the former test site workers of Polynesia, it was only the beginning of a long struggle.

In the first place, it became a personal struggle to come to terms with serious health problems and diseases that had been so far unknown in the Pacific. In many cases, relatives and loved ones had to come to terms with the premature death of the veterans. And in the second place, they formed an association to collectively struggle for truth and justice.

The Association Moruroa e tatou (Moruroa and Us) was founded in 2001 with the main goals being :

The recognition by the French State of its responsibility regarding the health of the former workers and of the populations affected by the fallout.
· The opening of the French military archives in order to bring to light the truth about the so-called harmlessness of the tests.
· The passing of a law in the French Parliament on the health follow-up of the people affected by the nuclear tests.

A financial compensation from the French State for the victims and for their families.
Ten years since the tests ended, the Association is still confronted with the unyielding official French stance that the tests were clean and that there is no link between the tests and the current state of health of the former test site workers.

Equally worrying in a recent development is that, France is still clearly sticking to the old, obsolete position of nuclear deterrence. On 19th January this year, 2006, at l'Ile Longue (Long Island) near Brest, the French nuclear submarines base, President Jacques Chirac, in a very controversial speech, raised the threat of a nuclear strike on any state that would use terrorist means against France, thus justifying Frances growing arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.
The military base in LIle Longue hosts 288 nuclear heads, which make out roughly 2000 times the destructive power of Hiroshima !
France is currently expanding its arsenal including the development of new M 51 missiles and new nuclear heads(1). This happens in clear breach of Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, of which France is a signatory: Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and of a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

Inevitably, the French Presidents speech raises a few questions about the meaning and consequences of such a stance:

Whether Frances nuclear threat is the only appropriate means of deterring terrorists or rogue leaders?

Why should a preventive threat be the first option for deterrence rather than diplomacy to deal with international tensions?

In view of the recent international crisis with Iran, whether the Presidents speech will help defuse the tense situation by convincing Iran to give up its nuclear program or will be counterproductive by justifying a more hard-line response?

How the more serious global issues that are threatening mankind in the long term such as climate change and natural disasters, HIV/Aids, poverty, famine and water shortage, etc. cannot be solved by this French force de frappe (striking power).

Ten years on, it is obvious that the French government has hardly learnt any lessons.

Pacific Concerns Resource Centre, on behalf of the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific, thereby call on our friends and partners in the region and internationally, to continue to mount pressure on the French government to:

Take seriously its moral and financial responsibility to the health status of former veterans and civilians affected by the fallout of the nuclear tests on Moruroa and Fangataufa.

Be open and transparent by opening up the military archive if it is so sure about the harmlessness of the tests.

(1) Association Brest-Ouvert:Dissuasion nucléaire : Chirac à LIle Longue, le 19 janvier, pour réaffirmer le dogme! », 17.01.06

For more information please contact Marie Pierre Hazera or Ema Tagicakibau of the Peace and Disarmanent Desk, Pacific Concerns Resouce Centre on Telephone 3304 649 or email : or