Compensation for French Nuclear Test Victims: Undermining of the Law

The first French nuclear test took place in Algeria February 13, 1960.  Some fifty years later France  passed a law to recognize and compensate the victims of French nuclear testing.  The Morin Law was published in the Journal Officiel January 5, 2010.

Now a draft decree implementing the law have been drawn up and has been sent to the  Conseil d’Etat for approval.  Organizations representing civilian and military victims of the testing charge that the decree as written would emasculate the law.  “ One feels that the decree has been drawn up in such a way as to block any escape from the ‘mathematical’ logic that would lead to the exclusion of the majority of the victims from the compensation system,” Me. Jean-Paul Teissonnière, lawyer for the Polynesian Association Moruroa e tatou” says.

The decree draws narrowly-determined geographic lines that will be used to decide whether an alleged victim was in a location that was subject to radiation.  To be eligible for compensation claimants  must suffer from one or more of eighteen types of cancer, although the United States recognizes thirty-four types of cancer as radiation induced and the Japanese in a law of June 2009 list all cancers and pathologies of the thyroid.

Whether or not an individual applyicant is eligible will also be subject to a mathematical formula drawn up by the International Atomic Energy Agency and based on the dose of irradiation, the time since the irradiation, and other human factors.  The formula is intended to apply to a group, not to individuals and its use for individuals is not justified, according to cancer expert Claude Parmentier.

“What [the state] had to give with one hand, it is trying to take back with the other,” an editorial in Damoclès, the periodical of the Observatoire d’armements/CDRPC, remarks.  The organization published, February 10, the first volume of a “Rapport sur les essais nucléaires français (1960-1966),” classified as “confidential, defense.”  The report has caused a stir in the French press, in particular because it states that French military personnel were sent into radioactive zones shortly after two of the tests to learn how the soldiers would react to intense radiation.

In late February the Algerian government is hosting a colloquium on the tests, which includes a visit to a test site.  French journalists are invited. Therefore, will presumably be heard on the subject.  The decree implementing the compensation law is expected to be published in March.

Readers can obtain access to French copies of the law, the decree, the confidential report, and a statement by Moruroa e tatou through the web site .

–Mary Byrd Davis

copyright© 2010 by EcoPerspectives


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