Law amendment aims to facilitate compensation for nuclear test victims

57 years ago: France’s first nuclear test (February 13, 1960) (Press Release)

Graffiti by Otto Schade, Photo by Garry Knight via Flickr

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) welcomes a planned law amendment in France that is intended to facilitate compensation for nuclear test victims. A draft law presented by a parliamentary commission this week is to be adopted by the National Assembly and the Senate before the French presidential elections in April. “The reform of the Compensation Act was long overdue,” stated STP-representative Ulrich Delius in Göttingen on Thursday. “On the basis of the existing legal framework, hardly any compensations were paid to the survivors of the nuclear tests. Now, there is justified hope that the victims will receive justice.”

The current law states that the radiation exposure due to the atomic tests is “negligible”. Since the Compensation Act came into force in 2010, most of the claims for compensation had been rejected with reference to this controversial formulation. Between February 1960 and January 1996, France carried out 210 nuclear tests in the Algerian Sahara and in its overseas territory French Polynesia in the South Pacific.

Applications for compensation had mainly been submitted by indigenous Maohi who worked in the nuclear test center on the islands of Moruroa and Fangataufa, as well as by former French soldiers. Both groups had organized themselves in self-help groups to actively represent their concerns. Generally, Tuareg nomads in the Algerian Sahara would be entitled to apply for compensation as well, but they are not yet organized and can not apply as individuals.

“The number of rejected claims for compensation is frightening,” criticized Delius. So far, only 54 of 1060 cases have been approved. Of these, only 19 were decided on by a commission established under the law. The other 35 nuclear test victims were able to make their case in court, and most of the officially recognized victims are French soldiers. The indigenous Maohi and Tuareg have so far barely been able to be officially recognized as nuclear test victims, although many of them are suffering from cancer that can be attributed to radiation exposure.

In view of the Maohi’s bad experience with the way France is trying to come to terms with its nuclear colonialism, the spokesman of the self-help organization “Moruroa e Tatou” in Tahiti, Roland Oldham, is not exactly enthusiastic about the planned amendment.

“I know the French state, so I have my fears. So far, 90 to 95 percent of our claims have been rejected,” Oldham stated.

Header Photo: Graffiti by Otto Schade, Photo by Garry Knight via Flickr