The Guardian 1 February, 2006
Ten years on and still a long way to go!
Lest we Forget — 1996-2006
Friday, January 27 was the 10th anniversary of the end of 30 years of French nuclear testing in the Pacific. 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.
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.
In 2001 they formed the Moruroa e tatou (Moruroa and Us) Association to collectively struggle for truth and justice, its 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;
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.
France still pursuing nuclear deterrence
Equally worrying is that France is still clearly sticking to the old, obsolete position of nuclear deterrence. On January 19 this year, 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 France’s growing arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.
The military base in L’Ile Longue hosts 288 nuclear heads — roughly 2,000 times the destructive power of Hiroshima!
France is currently expanding its arsenal including the development of new M 51 missiles and new nuclear heads. 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 President’s speech raises a few questions about the meaning and consequences of such a stance:
Whether France’s 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?
What does this say to other countries pursuing or thinking of undertaking a nuclear weapons program?
It certainly diverts resources, research and attention from tackling serious global issues that impact on the security of people across the globe, 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).
The French Government was forced by the many struggles of the people in the Pacific and peace forces around the world to halt nuclear testing in the Pacific. That is only a first step in the long struggle to abolish nuclear weapons and have the French government acknowledge its crimes and provide the victims of the testing with the support they and their families need.
The Pacific Concerns Resource Centre, on behalf of the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific, are calling on the people of 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.
For more information contact Marie Pierre Hazera or Ema Tagicakibau
of the Peace and Disarmanent Desk, Pacific Concerns Resource Centre
email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org