Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 10, November 1996
Polynesia study of France test siteOn 22 October, the Protestant Church of Polynesia announced the commencement of a study to investigate the health, environmental and social impact of French nuclear testing at its Muroroa and Fangataufa atoll sites, scene of 181 atmospheric and underground tests between 1966 and 1996. According to the Church's Secretary General, Ralf Teinaore, a team of 14 researchers will conduct extensive interviews with around 1,000 Polynesians employed at the sites. The investigation is expected to last a month.
On 24 October, a report in the British New Scientist magazine claimed that the Muroroa site could be "dangerously contaminated." According to the author of the report, geologist Roger Clark, France employed "cavalier" methods of disposing of the radioactive debris generated by the tests.
On 25 October, a spokesperson for the French Foreign Ministry, Jacques Rummelhardt, claimed that work of making the test sites safe would be completed next year next year. Rummelhardt revealed: "All the buildings and abandoned installations...have been dismantled or will be, especially if they are likely to present a danger involving the responsibility of the State."
Editor's note: On 9 November, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report claiming that the former US atmospheric test site at Bikini atoll, scene of 23 explosions, could now be safely and speedily resettled. According to the head of the Bikinian government's clean-up programme, Jack Niedenthal: "The IAEA is the fifth scientific group to reach the same conclusion about Bikini... There's a lot on the table now for the Bikinians to discuss." Many exiled Bikinians argue that the entire top surface of the island should be removed, but the IAEA argued that selective removal, combined with other measures, would be sufficient.
Reports: Polynesia launches post-nuclear testing survey, Agence France-Presse International News, 22 October; Muroroa test site could be 'dangerously contaminated' - magazine, Agence France-Presse International News, 24 October; France will have cleaned up South Pacific test site by 1997, Agence France-Presse International News, 25 October; Cleaning up Bikini should be inexpensive, easy and quick - IAEA, Agence France-Presse International News, 9 November.
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