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Action Alert - French Nuclear Test Sites
Peace Movement AotearoaPO Box 9314, Wellington. Tel (04) 382 8129, fax (04) 382 8173, email@example.com
Issued 26 February 1998
below the text of the Agence France Presse article re the new study on Moruroa and Fangataufa.
PUBLICATION Agence France Presse English
Independent commission says nuclear sites must be watched; (ADDS details, background)
PARIS, Feb 20 (AFP) - Sites used for French nuclear tests in the South Pacific for three decades are contaminated and should be watched closely, an independent French commission said in a report released Saturday that contradicts IAEA findings.
The examination by the Independent Research and Information Commission on Radioactivity (CRII-RAD) contests results published last June by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The 2,000-page IAEA report said the tests had had "no radiological health effects" and little significant environmental impact on the Fangataufa and Mururoa atolls.
But the CRII-RAD report said radioactivity was 94 and 371 times above the level required for the sites to be maintained under surveillance, adding that the radioactivity was leaking into the water table, lagoons and ocean.
The CRII-RAD's experts published scenerios based on plutonium contamination of the atolls' northern zones, warning that a danger existed of involuntary ingestion of contaminated soil, by children playing in sand for example, or of breathing microscopic particles.
These threats constituted "unacceptable risks and required at the least a controlled access," CRII-RAD said.
Over a 30-year period, from July 1966 to January 1996, France carried out 193 atmospheric and underground tests in the area. They were finally halted by President Jacques Chirac afer increasing protests by several Pacific and Asian countries, notably New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Indonesia.
According to the independent French laboratory, underground samples revealed radioactive levels of 3,482 Terabecquerels (TBq) on Fangataufa, and 13,729 TBq on Mururoa -- meaning both sites qualified as nuclear installations requiring continued surveillance.
French regulations on the use and stockage of radioactive materials identify five categories of sites depending on the level of radioactivity, and the figures put the two Polynesian atolls in the highest category.
But the Institute for Nuclear Safety and Protection (IPSN), which acts as an advisor to French nuclear authorities, also issued a communique recalling results of a study it published last June.
It had found levels of radioactive nuclides outside the two atolls were present "at very low levels, often almost undetectable."
Artificial radiation in 1997 was less than three percent of the natural exposure inhabitants of the region normally face, the IPSN said.
For more information on nuclear weapons testing, please see PMA's alert: Ongoing Nuclear Weapons Tests.