Verena von Derschau / Associated Press Writer – 2004-09-30 23:49:26
PARIS (September 29, 2004) — The Paris prosecutor’s office said Wednesday it has opened an investigation into France’s controversial nuclear weapons testing program that lasted through 1995.
The investigation is based on a civil suit filed in November by 11 people who say they were victims of nuclear testing in Algeria, a former French colony, and in French Polynesia.
Between 1975 and 1996, France detonated at least 123 nuclear weapons in the volcanic rock beneath Mururoa Atoll, about 750 miles southeast of Tahiti. The French exploded another eight under nearby Fangataufa Atoll.
France tested its first atomic bomb on Feb. 13, 1960, in the Algerian Sahara.
The two judges handling the case will have to determine if there is a link between the nuclear testing and their illnesses.
The suit was filed by 11 former soldiers and civilians, or their relatives, who took part in nuclear tests or claim they were exposed to radioactive fallout. Six of them suffer medical problems they claim were caused by radiation. The five others are family members of two people who died.
The civil suit does not target specific officials but alleges that French authorities “in charge of nuclear tests were not unaware of the risks to which they exposed civilian and military personnel charged with carrying out these tests (and) populations living close by.”
On a visit to Tahiti in July 2003, French President Jacques Chirac said tests have shown there were no ill effects to health from France’s nuclear detonations in Polynesia.
©2004 Associated Press
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