AUCKLAND, New Zealand (PINA, Feb. 16) - A ruling that a French serviceman died from cancer caused by nuclear testing at Moruroa, French Polynesia, has been hailed by New Zealand veterans, the New Zealand Herald reports.

The judgment was by a tribunal assessing claims for military invalid pensions. It marks the first serious crack in France’s assertions that the nearly 200 Moruroa blasts it conducted caused no harm, the newspaper said.

The French case concerned a naval serviceman, Francois Janas, and was brought on behalf of his daughters. Janas had died in 1999, eight years after he was diagnosed with a form of leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

He had joined the French Navy in 1961 and spent 18 months in two spells at the Moruroa test zone, the New Zealand Herald said.

New Zealand veteran Patrick Long said the ruling could open the way to claims against foreign governments. Long blames his skin cancer on exposure to Moruroa tests when he was on a New Zealand Navy frigate sent to the area in 1973.

He told the New Zealand Herald: "Suddenly a government or a legal body has acknowledged the cost of being exposed to nuclear radiation when up to now successive governments have ducked for cover."

The New Zealand Herald reported Janas was on a French navy supply ship serving Moruroa. He worked on its desalination plant, in which seawater is pumped into condensers and turned into drinking water.

In 1991, after learning that he had cancer, Janas demanded access to his medical records. But this was rejected — five years later — by the defense ministry.

In an unprecedented decision, a military pensions tribunal in the naval port city of Toulon not only rebuffed the ministry on this. It also declared the leukemia was "attributable to (Janas’) military service."

It ordered that his two daughters, his sole survivors, be paid a full invalid pension.

Jean-Michel Garry, the daughters’ lawyer, told the New Zealand Herald: "This is the first time that a link has been established between France’s nuclear activities and someone falling sick from them. We now have jurisprudence which could help servicemen in a similar situation. But nuclear radiation doesn’t discriminate between civilians (who worked at the test site) and the military."

Garry said that because many details about the test program remained classified, he could say very little about Janas’ military service.

Janas’ work in the desalination plant brought him in direct contact with water and mud that had been contaminated by fallout. So he had received higher doses of radiation than his colleagues on other parts of the ship, Garry said.

New Zealand strongly opposed the French tests at Moruroa, in 1973 sending a frigate to the area in protest.

Long said the New Zealand government had never acknowledged his illness was linked to serving at Moruroa on Canterbury. But it had paid all his medical bills, including six major operations on his face and almost weekly visits to his skin specialist.

"It’s surprising but they haven’t grizzled," he told the New Zealand Herald.

New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association chairman Roy Sefton said the French ruling meant it was possible other governments around the world could face legal action from test veterans.

The association is involved in a case against the British Government over testing at Christmas Island (Kiritimati) in Kiribati in the 1950s and 60s. Kiritimati was then part of the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony.

France conducted a total of 193 tests at Moruroa and a nearby atoll, Fangataufa, between 1966 and 1996. Forty-six were conducted above ground before the introduction of a ban on atmospheric blasts in 1975.

February 17, 2003

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment