France’s junior defense minister Genevieve Darrieussecq has denied her country engaged in a “state cover-up” to conceal the extent of the impact of nuclear tests conducted by the country in the Pacific between 1966 and 1996.
Speaking following the conclusion of a two-day roundtable meeting, Darrieussecq declared that “there was no state cover-up,” rejecting allegations France sought to conceal the extent of the fallout from the nuclear tests, and ruling out any official apology.
The event had been arranged by France’s President Emmanuel Macron to confront the legacy of the 193 nuclear tests at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in the Pacific Ocean, between 1966 and 1996. The sites remain inaccessible to this day and only 63 civilians have received compensation for being exposed to radiation from the tests.
Earlier this year, after examining thousands of declassified documents about the nuclear tests, an investigation by media outlet Disclose claimed that “French authorities have concealed the true impact of nuclear testing.”
Macron personally attended the meeting on Thursday but he did not issue a public statement about the event or the allegations around France’s actions.
Edouard Fritch, the president of French Polynesia, expressed disappointment at the reluctance of Paris officials to make amends for the nuclear tests or to acknowledge the full scale of the impact. “We felt that the president of the republic had a real desire to turn this painful page for all of us, with the resources that will need to be put in place in the future, so that Polynesians can rebuild the faith that we have always had in France,” Fritch said, after the two-day event.
Previously, France has accepted that the tests did have some “impact,” with then-president Francois Hollande recognizing the effect it had on the health of residents and the regional environment. However, he defended the decision to conduct the tests, claiming “France would not have nuclear weapons and therefore would not have a nuclear deterrent” without them.
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