18 Jan 2012

French Senate to debate restitution of Pacific nuclear test sites

2:12 pm on 18 January 2012

French Polynesia's Richard Tuheiava is about to present a bill in the French Senate seeking the return of the two atolls used by France for its nuclear weapons tests.

The two atolls Moruroa and Fangataufa were ceded to France at no cost in 1964 to allow its military to begin atmospheric and then underground nuclear tests.

Mr Tuheiava proposes that they be returned in 2014 while France retains responsibility for the former test site's facilities.

He says this will allow for an independent assessment of the tests' impact.

France's government has already prepared seven amendments to Mr Tuheiava's bill, claiming there's a safety issue surrounding radioactive substances and a need to prevent the dissemination of confidential information.

The nuclear test veterans say the compensation law passed two years ago is inadequate, in part because it failed to acknowledge the tests' environmental impact.

A veteran representative says for Polynesians it appears strange to consider the tests' impact on health without taking into account the effect on nature.