France will compensate victims of nuclear tests
After decades of rejecting ties between its nuclear-weapons tests and health problems among personnel carrying them out, France said Tuesday...
The New York Times
Nuclear victimsUnited States: The only nation that now compensates nuclear-test victims. More than $1.38 billion has been approved since the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was enacted in 1990 for people who took part in the tests, notably at the Nevada Test Site.
France: The government offered Tuesday to compensate victims for the first time with payments to those who suffered health problems related to nuclear-weapons testing, including Algerians, whose country was part of France when the French started nuclear testing in the Sahara in 1960.
Britain: No formal British government compensation program exists. Nearly 1,000 veterans of Christmas Island nuclear tests in the 1950s say they suffered health problems.
Russia: Decades later, Russia offered compensation to veterans who were part of the 1954 Totsk test, in which a Hiroshima-yield bomb was set off and soldiers were sent in to test how fighting would proceed in a post-blast environment.
The Associated Press
PARIS — After decades of rejecting ties between its nuclear-weapons tests and health problems among personnel carrying them out, France said Tuesday it would "be true to its conscience" and pay compensation to those suffering illnesses linked to radiation.
Defense Minister Herve Morin told the newspaper Le Figaro that France believed for a long time that "opening the door to compensation would pose a threat to the very significant efforts made by France to have a credible nuclear deterrent."
Between 1960 and 1996, France carried out more than 200 nuclear tests, first in Algeria, then in French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean. Up to 150,000 civilian and military people who worked on the program "theoretically" were affected, Morin said.
However, the scale of compensation may be limited. Morin said the government had set aside about $13.5 million to pay claims adjudicated by a panel of physicians and a magistrate.
Since 1990, the United States has paid compensation to people who suffered health problems as a result of exposure to fallout from nuclear-weapons development and testing. According to the Justice Department, as of March, nearly $1.4 billion has been paid to 20,761 victims and their families in states like Nevada, Utah and Arizona. More than half of the payments have gone to "downwinders" who were exposed to radiation through bomb tests. Others who have received payments include workers who took part in aboveground tests, uranium miners and ore transporters.
In Britain, about 1,000 ex-servicemen and their families have been fighting the British government for compensation related to skin defects, cancer and other conditions the servicemen say they incurred as a result of exposure to fallout from nuclear tests in the South Pacific. The Defense Ministry has mostly resisted, saying the service members failed to make their claims within the proper window of time.
France went to extremes to protect its nuclear-testing secrecy. In 1985, France sent undercover agents to New Zealand to sink the Rainbow Warrior, a vessel from the Greenpeace environmental group, to prevent it from disrupting nuclear tests.
Morin said French authorities had now agreed to publish archives explaining how nuclear tests were conducted. The moves followed many court cases in which testing personnel and residents living near nuclear test sites complained of cancer.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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