Some progress for victims of French nuclear testing: exposures to be dismissed no more as “negligible risk”

Tahiti Infos

A short history of French nuclear tests here, an interview with expert Bruno Barrillot recorded in October 2014. He explains the shortcomings of the Morin Law for compensating victims of nuclear testing:

February 9, 2017 Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Father August Carlson, president of Association 193, shared his “joy” at the prospect of the elimination of the notion of negligible risk from the Morin Law [which covers compensation for victims of nuclear testing]. Yet for his group, the struggle continues.

He said on Tuesday morning, “Since Monday, when we learned that the bipartisan commission had decided to go in this direction, we experienced a real joy. This joy was in another way confirmed by the vote in the National Assembly tonight. It’s a joy because here is a point which all the anti-nuclear groups agree on: purely and simply, we must get rid of this notion of the negligible risk judgments [that led to the rejection of most applications for compensation]. It’s a sticking point in the discussion and in the negotiations with the government.”

Today do you base a lot of your hope on this development of the law?

We have to be honest. We didn’t expect this at all. Last year, Marisol Touraine had met with us in Paris to discuss a plan to lower the percentage of probability of negligible risk to 0.3%. It was already written in advance. They invited us to hear that.

What do you hope will come from this development?

It’s a hope for the country and for all the victims, and a strong gesture toward those who are affected today. We have to take advantage of this surprise by redoubling efforts to find unity. But we can’t be naive. The amendment adopted on Tuesday foresees the creation of this commission to take up new cases. All depends on the future French government. We have to keep in mind that it is a government of the left that made this advance. We don’t know what the attitude of the new administration will be after the presidential elections [spring 2017].

We also know that the government always finds ways to delay this issue, in order to not be exposed to disruptions that could come from the elimination of negligible risk. We will be vigilant.

So for you this is an important step in the struggle?

For the time being, I want to applaud the efforts of Senator Lana Tetuanui and Deputy Maina Sage. I especially want to thank all the anti-nuclear groups who took part in these struggles over the years. It has been for decades by these groups: Pouvanaa’a Oopa, le Tavana Oscar Temaru, the protestant church, Moruroa e Tatou, Tamarii Moruroa. I want to thank also the 51,000 petitioners who signed our appeal. An entire people is united in this struggle. That was shown during the parliamentary debates. It is also without a doubt thanks to this initiative that we led. This example about negligible risk shows that the whole country should be united. We can no longer permit the politicization of this issue. I appeal to the elected representatives of this country. Their responsibility is to search for deep unity in the heart of the people. That can be done only by a local referendum. Negligible risk may be eliminated as a consideration now, but other matters in the nuclear file remain problematic: For example, the Morin Law has a limit for applications set at December 31, 1998. All the victims of the twenty-one recognized illnesses born after that date cannot be compensated. The list of recognized illnesses should evolve also. The Americans recognize thirty-five, and the Japanese even more. And when will the history of the nuclear tests be taught in school? That’s another point. The struggle must continue. 

Translation by Dennis Riches

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