TEENAGERS AMONG FRENCH NUCLEAR TEST SITE WORKERS

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SUVA, Fiji (October 6, 1997 - PACNEWS)---A study released in Geneva says teenage children were among Polynesian workers employed at France's nuclear test site at Moruroa in French Polynesia during the nearly three decades it was in operation.

The study, issued by the World Council of Churches, also says health checks were insufficient for the 10,000 to 15,000 people employed there from 1963, when the site was opened, to early 1996, when testing was halted, The Sunday Times newspaper of Fiji reports.

According to the study, "Moruroa and Us," ten percent of the workers were under the age of 18 when they were recruited and 60 percent of these, or between 600 and 900 people, were under 16 when they were first employed.

The 213-page document, based on research by Dutch sociologists Pieter de Vries and Han Seur from the Agricultural University of Wageningen, says 91 percent of the 737 former test site workers questioned expressed no confidence in the health system.

It says although almost all employees had medical examinations before they arrived at Moruroa and 65 percent were also examined while working there, only 48 percent were checked at the end of their stay.

Construction of the Moruroa nuclear test site, which was the center of a long-running diplomatic row between Paris and Pacific Islands region countries, began in 1963. The first test took place in 1966.

Nuclear testing in French Polynesia was terminated by France last year. The test facilities now are being dismantled.

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