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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Aug. 2) – The political bomb that French Polynesia President Oscar Temaru dropped during a budgetary debate on Friday was still producing fallout four days later in Papeete and Paris.

Picking up where Tahiti's independence party leader left off Friday, Temaru's majority coalition staged a controversial minute of silence in the French Polynesia Assembly Monday on behalf of the alleged victims of France's atmospheric nuclear tests 30 years ago.

There were other reactions Monday, both in Papeete and Paris, due to the controversial subject as well as the controversial findings from the study. Politicians, governments and associations defending former French testing site employees have taken sides.

The subject is a controversial attempt by the Temaru government and the French state to determine the consequences on the civilian population from France's 41 atmospheric nuclear tests conducted between 1966 and 1974 on the Tuamotu atolls of Moruroa and Fangataufa, 1,200 km (720 miles) southeast of Papeete.

The findings from the French public health institute study conducted over the past nearly five years appear to mark the first time a French state study has officially established a cause and effect relationship between thyroid cancer in French Polynesia and the nuclear tests.

In Paris, the French Defense Ministry announced Monday it would have no immediate comment to make on a French public health institute study linking the nuclear tests to thyroid cancer cases in French Polynesia. The ministry said it was withholding comment until the study is published in an accepted scientific journal and until it received advice from an inter-ministerial committee coordinating a health follow up on the nuclear tests.

Meanwhile, the French cancer epidemiology specialist who made the study told French daily newspaper La Dépêche de Tahiti during an interview published Tuesday that the study would probably be published in a specialized review within the next 15 days.

Temaru exploded his political bomb Friday by reading during the Assembly's special budgetary session a letter sent by the specialist, Florent de Vathaire, to Jurien de la Gravière, who works for a French Defense Ministry delegation on nuclear safety.

De Vathaire, who sent a copy of his letter to Temaru, told La Dépêche during the interview that he was aware his letter and findings were being politically exploited. However, de Vathaire claimed that the exploitation involved anti-nuclear followers as well as those who are pro-nuclear.

De Vathaire, the head of cancer epidemiology at the Gustave-Roussy Institute in the Paris suburb of Villejuif, works for the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, known by the initials of its name in French as INSERM.

He first presented the results of his study of the relationship between the French atmospheric nuclear tests and civilian thyroid cancer cases at the end of June during a June 29-30 public conference held at the French Polynesia presidential offices on the consequences of France's N-tests.

French daily newspaper published Saturday a detailed verbatim account of de Vathaire's report during the conference. His conclusion a month ago was:

"Our study shows that the nuclear tests carried out by France most probably increased the number of thyroid cancer cases, but in a very limited way. According to our current estimate, among all the thyroid cancer (cases that) have occurred in French Polynesia between 1984 and 2002, approximately 10 were due to the nuclear tests."

However, during the interview published in La Dépêche Tuesday, de Vathaire was quoted as saying that a final analysis of the nearly five-year study showed that "in at least 20 cases, thyroid cancer was linked to the consequences of the atmospheric tests. That astonished us, taking into account the very low level of radiation doses, and taking into account the small volume of the population affected."

August 3, 2006


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