French Nuclear Testing in Polynesia French Nuclear Testing in Polynesia Nuclear weapons have the power to cause vast destruction, but this damage is not limited to the battlefield.
Within a second, the azure tropical sky flashed bright orange, and was ruptured by a towering radioactive cloud that mushroomed into the atmosphere; the placid lagoon was stirred into a tempestuous cauldron, while the coconut trees on the white sand islets were bent by the sheer force of the nuclear explosion.
But for French Polynesia and many of its people, the fallout from decades of nuclear weapons testing is still being dealt with 50 years after the first test.
The explosion from a French nuclear test at Mururoa in French Polynesia. France conducted tests between and AFP France first tested a nuclear weapon in what was then French Algeria inbut as that country gained independence, Paris looked to its remote ocean territory and sealed off two uninhabited atolls in the Tuamotu group, Mururoa and Fangataufa.
Winiki Sage, the president of the Economic, Social and Cultural Committee of French Polynesia, said that 20 years after it was humiliated in World War II, and as the Cold War was nearing its most dangerous heights, France sought the assurance of its own nuclear deterrence.
Mr Sage said that when the territory was proposed as a test site, there was some protest from within the French Polynesian assembly and members of the community, but that was overruled and many were convinced that the testing would be safe, and that a massive military build-up would bring economic benefits.
And, when Mr de Gaulle came here and said 'we're going to do some tests,' no one could imagine it was going to be so bad for us. We didn't really know that it was something bad for us. From that day, France would conduct regular tests on the atoll, where some of the explosions were times the strength of the bombs dropped by the United States on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in The French Polynesia atoll of Mururoa is still largely a no-go zone.
AFP But Mr Sage said the programme and its intentions was shrouded in secrecy, and little information was provided about the possible effects of radiation to the thousands of people who worked there, often with little more protection than shorts and t-shirts, on boats as little as 15 kilometres away from the test site.
The main island, Tahiti, more than 1,km away, is also thought to have experienced radiological impacts. All these people, some were living in remote islands, all left to work for the Army," said Mr Sage. Nobody understood that it was very, very bad.
The United States, Britain and the Soviet Union had abandoned nuclear testing inbut the French pushed on until the mids, when it moved to regular underground testing on the fragile atolls.
This was to the ire of environmental groups, and the atolls became the scene of regular protest flotillas.
Inthe New Zealand government deployed two naval frigates to the site in protest. France reacted strongly, sending commandos to board and seize protest ships. A moratorium was eventually placed on nuclear testing, but that was lifted by president Jacques Chirac in so France could try out a new warhead for submarines, a decision that was deplored by Australia, New Zealand, Japan, other Pacific countries, and many of France's European allies.
In French Polynesia, the decision angered many Tahitians, and riots in the capital, Papeete, caused millions of dollars worth of damage and saw the airport terminal burned down.
Mr Chirac ended nuclear testing in the Pacific in Inthe announcement by France that it would resume nuclear testing in French Polynesia sparked the Tahiti riots. They caused millions of dollars worth of damage. AFP For years, the French Defence Ministry insisted that the tests caused no environmental damage and that the health of workers was not put at risk.
Most of the diseases are a result of the nuclear testing," he said.France's Nuclear Testing Programme Taourirt Tan Afella, Algeria, which was the location of the In-Ekker nuclear test site. (Photo courtesy of Couchot, heartoftexashop.com). I believed nuclear testing in the Pacific was a contradiction of the French credo of liberté, egalité and fraternité.
[chapter break] The atolls of Moruroa and Fangataufa lie in the south-eastern sector of the Tuamotu Archipelago of French Polynesia. France undertook nuclear weapon tests between and at Moruroa and Fangataufa, causing international protests, notably in and The number of tests performed have been variously reported as and Testing was suspended in but resumed in , when, amid widespread opposition from the French public and within the territory itself, France exploded a bomb under Mururoa.
The test was followed by rioting in Tahiti and pressure from a mounting antinuclear movement. After Moruroa: France in the South Pacific, and: Moruroa and Us: Polynesians' Experiences during Thirty Years of Nuclear Testing in the French Pacific (review) David A Chappell The Contemporary Pacific, Volume 12, Number 1, Spring , pp.
the Tuamotu atolls of Moruroa and Fangataufa. When France finally ceased its last round of. French Nuclear Testing in Polynesia Nuclear weapons have the power to cause vast destruction, but this damage is not limited to the battlefield. Nuclear testing is a difficult and dangerous undertaking that can have long-term environmental effects and cause irreversible damage to local peoples.